Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music



(b 12 January 1926, Perryville TX; d 16 December 2013) Country music singer and songwriter, one of the biggest, with more than 50 top ten country hits startin in 1952, eleven crossing over to pop Hot 100. He grew up in Dallas, but favoured a rural way of life. He served in the U.S. Army; studied at North Texas Agricultural College '46-9 intending to be veterinarian, but made a radio debut as a guitarist/singer on KRBC's Hillbilly Circus in Abilene '48, and became a regular on Big D Jamboree on KRLD Dallas. He signed with Bullet, the first release his own song 'Jealous Lies' '50. He was a friend of Hank Williams, forming a band the Cherokee Cowboys '53 from Hank's Drifting Cowboys. By then he recorded for Columbia and was a member of Grand Ole Opry, big hits including 'Don't Let The Stars Get In Your Eyes' at no. 4 '52 (a huge pop hit by Perry Como, it was published by Acuff-Rose and had four hit versions in the country charts, including Red Foley at no. 8, Skeets McDonald and co-writer Slim Willet both at no. 2). Price's first no. 1 was 'Crazy Arms' '56, 45 weeks in the country chart and his first crossover; others included 'My Shoes Keep Walking Back To You' (no. 3, written by Bob Wills) and 'City Lights' (his second country no. 1) '57-8. This was his classic period, heavily steeped in honky tonk, including 'Under Your Spell Again', 'Make The World Go Away', many more.

He changed styles, performed in a dress suit, dropped fiddle and steel guitar for strings: 'Danny Boy' '67 was made with a 47-piece orchestra (top ten country, his only top 40 pop hit at no. 11), bringing criticism from purists, but hits included 'For The Good Times' and 'I Won't Mention It Again' both no. 1 '70-1. He provided breaks for Johnny Paycheck, Willie Nelson, others; was first to record a Roger Miller song ('Invitation To The Blues', top 20 '58). A peerless interpreter of good songs, he switched to gospel label Myrrh at his peak, but the country hits continued: 'Like Old Times Again' and 'Roses And Love Songs' '74; he switched again to ABC-Dot '75 but went into temporary retirement, more than happy to breed horses on his Texas ranch; still the hits kept coming: 'Farthest Thing From My Mind', 'A Mansion On The Hill', 'Born To Love Me', the last on both Columbia and ABC-Dot '77. He moved to Monument for top 20 hits 'Feet' and 'That's The Only Way To Say Good Morning' '78-9; teamed with Nelson for San Antonio Rose duet album including hit 'Faded Love' '80 (reissued on a Koch International CD); top ten on Dimension with 'It Don't Hurt Me Half So Bad' and 'Diamonds In The Stars' '81; to WB, then Viva and return to his old style, new records by Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys.

Despite a long and successful career he received only one CMA award for I Won't Mention It Again (Album of the Year '71), Grammy for album For The Good Times '70 (in charts nearly four years, sold a million). Other albums: Sings Heart Songs '57, Faith '60, Night Life '63, Burning Memories '64, Western Strings '66, Sweetheart Of The Year '68, Lonesomest Lonesome '72, Tribute To Willie And Kris, all on Columbia; This Time Lord '74 on Myrrh, Precious Memories '77 and How Great Thou Art on Word; Rainbows And Tears '76, Reunited '77, Hank'n'Me '78, all on ABC-Dot; Diamonds In The Stars '80 on Dimension; Portrait Of A Singer '85, The Heart Of Country Music '87, Just Enough Love '88, Hall Of Fame '92 on Step One; two-CD set Happens To The Best on Pair; compilations and reissues The Honky Tonk Years '51-6 on Rounder, Essential Ray Price 1951--62, American Originals, Greatest Hits, Sometimes A Rose on Columbia, a ten-CD boxed set The Honky Tonk Years 1950-66 '96 on Bear Family.