Ray Price is one of American music's truly great stars. He was inducted into Nashville's Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, but has long shown his genius in other genres as well. After more than a half-century in the business, Ray can still belt out a song with the best of them, whether it's honky-tonk, country, pop, blues, jazz, or anything in between. With his May 2000 Buddha Records release--"Prisoner of Love"--Ray has delightfully proven this once again with a big-band-backed medley in many moods and styles.
Audiences full of cheering fans still flock to his concerts whenever he's in town, and that's fairly often, for this vigorous Texan maintains a hefty tour schedule. On Inauguration Eve 2001, Ray was proud to be on stage in Washington, D.C., as one of the Texas performers who entertained enormous crowds at the Texas Black Tie and Boots Ball.
This dynamic artist can be proud also of his role in the history of country music. In fact, he has helped to write that history as well as live it. He was born Noble Ray Price on January 12, 1926, near Perryville, Texas, and his musical talents became evident at an early age. While in college, Ray became a regular on KRLD radio's "Big D Jamboree" show in Dallas.
On March 15, 1951, Ray signed with prestigious Columbia Records, and in 1952, moved to Nashville where his great friend and supporter was the legendary Hank Williams. Hank got Ray on the Grand Ole Opry and the two shared bachelor quarters during the last year of Hank's brief but memorable life.
Ray's band was initially formed from the remnants of Hank Williams' band, the Drifting Cowboys. The band would later become the Cherokee Cowboys, and Ray himself would become known as the Cherokee Cowboy. Ray has always had an uncanny talent for recognizing quality in both music and musicians. The careers of many country music superstars, such as Willie Nelson, Roger Miller, Johnny Paycheck, and Johnny Bush, began with Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys.
Ray Price became noted for his magnificent show-stopping voice and honky-tonk hits throughout the 1950's. On the way to the top, he also helped revolutionize more than a few changes in country music. In 1956, when rock and roll was threatening to drown out the sounds of traditional country music, it took Ray's rendition of "Crazy Arms" to knock Elvis off the charts. That recording's 45 weeks at the top of the charts got people listening to country music again and clearly established Ray Price as a leader in the field.
But Ray has never been so traditional that he didn't innovate. During the "Crazy Arms" recording session, he added drums and a 4-4 bass and shuffle rhythm that redefined the way country music was played for years to come.
Then, just when everyone else in country was turning to that sound, Ray, in 1967, went in a new direction and added a large string section and with his concert-calibre voice soared into a beautiful, show-stopping rendition of the classic, "Danny Boy."
Audiences were stunned by its beauty. His "Danny Boy" album made him new fans in sections of the country far beyond the Mason- Dixon line. But some in Nashville and the South thought he had deserted country music and didn't take it well.
Unperturbed, Ray went on to new heights with his early 1970's hits, "For the Good Times," and "I Won't Mention it Again." He refused to accept boundaries between country and pop. Music was music.
A lot of Ray's strong feeling about artificial boundaries in music goes back to his close association with his mentor and close friend, Hank Williams. Ray resented the fact that Hank's songs were eagerly accepted by the pop world but the country singer himself was not. At least in that day and age. A few year later he would have been, according to Ray. But not then.
Erasing the lines between country and pop became a vital issue for Ray Price. With his own brand of individualism, he continues to cross musical boundaries and create songs and sounds for everyone. His latest album, "Prisoner of Love," was recorded with a 50-piece orchestra. It combines old country standards with beautiful ballads from all eras, and includes a few new songs never before recorded.
This Country Music Hall of Fame legend is the soul of country music. He continues to be creative and expand conventional boundaries with his music, while never forgetting his roots. His timeless music and incredible commitment to performing has made him a bridge between the early days of country to today's contemporary country music.
The Los Angeles Times has declared Ray Price to be 'a national treasure.' Another newspaper has compared him to Frank Sinatra. Ask any Ray Price fan, however, if that's true. Most of them will tell you that Ray Price has no equal anywhere when it comes to delivering a song and pleasing an audience.
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