Texas Country Legend Ray Price Dead at 87
Ray Price, one of the most beloved figures in Texas country music, died Monday afternoon of pancreatic cancer at his home in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. He left behind 109 songs that made it into the country charts between 1952 and 1989, which include 46 top 10s and eight number ones. Price scored 17 top 10 albums, including five number ones, won two Grammy Awards (Best Male Country Vocal Performance for “For the Good Times” in 1971 and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals for “Lost Highway,” his duet with Willie Nelson in 2008), two Academy of Country Music awards (Album and Single of the Year for For the Good Times and its title song), and one Country Music Association award for I Won’t Mention It Again (1970 Album of the Year). He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1996.
His last album was 2007’s Last of the Breed (a collaboration with Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard), but he kept on touring until 2013.
“I told Willie when [the Last of the Breed Tour] was over, ‘That old man gave us a goddamn singing lesson,’” Haggard told Rolling Stone this year.
“He was a professional,” Ray Sczepanic of the legendary Texas Top Hands told the Current on Monday. Sczepanic also used to book shows for Price in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. “He would enter a room and clap his hands to check the venue’s acoustics. He was classy, always well-dressed, a perfect gentleman and a great musician. He was old country, that old school 4/4 shuffle with fiddle and steel guitar. We don’t have that anymore.”
But Price was also an innovator, one of the first country artists to use drums, and also a lover of pop music. His late-career switch to a fully orchestrated, smooth format caused some controversy, but in the end it was clear he was a lover of both approaches and kept working until the end in front of new and old adoring fans. One of his last shows was at New Braunfels’ Gruene Hall in May.
In 1953 Price formed his band, the Cherokee Cowboys, one of its lineups having a fellow named Willie Nelson. Three years later, he scored his first—and biggest—hit, “Crazy Arms,” which stayed on top of the country charts for 20 weeks.
Go to the next page to see him perform his last number one song.