When Ray Price passed away on December 13, 2013, one of the golden voices of country music died along with him. But today, that voice lives on through his many memorable songs and performances.
Price was born on January 12, 1926 in Wood County, Texas. He started singing and playing guitar during his teenage years, but originally went to college to pursue a career as a veterinarian. After being drafted into World War II and returning to finish college, Price decided not to continue on to vet school, choosing instead to pursue a career in music.
His decision led to a more successful career than he probably ever could have imagined. Price got started on a radio show called Hillbilly Circus before moving to Nashville, where he roomed with Hank Williams for a short time. Following William’s death, Price managed his band, The Drifting Cowboys, and experienced chart success with the song “Release Me.”
As Price continued on in his career, he became one of the champions of 1950’s honky tonk music, and also developed what became known as the “Ray Price Shuffle,” which is a 4/4 arrangement of honky tonk with a walking bass line.
Price was also known for his deep, baritone voice and wide range, oftentimes being praised as one of the best male singers in country music history.
In honor of what would have been Price’s 91st birthday, we’d like to pay tribute to this legend and Country Music Hall of Fame member with some of his many memorable songs.
“You’re The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me”
Written by songwriter Jim Weatherly, “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” experienced success at two different times in two different genres. The first time the song became a hit was when Price released it in July 1973.
After a three month climb up the charts, Price’s version of the song hit number one on the Billboard Hot Country Singles chart. The song was Price’s seventh number one hit, and was also the number one single on the debut program of the radio show “American Country Countdown.”
R&B artists Gladys Knight & the Pips went on to record their own version of the song a year later, which made its way to the third spot on the Billboard Top 100. A few other artists have gone on to release their own covers of the song in years since, but Price’s remains as the most recognizable version.
“Heartaches By The Number”
Although “Heartaches by the Number” is considered as one of Price’s signature songs today, it wasn’t a number one hit for him. But it was the next best thing! It peaked at the second spot on the Billboard Hot C&W Sides chart, and remained on the chart for a total of 40 weeks.
Price’s version of “Heartaches by the Number” was released in early 1959. Pop star Guy Mitchell also recorded the song, and released it a few months after Price’s. The success of Price’s version made fans receptive to Mitchell’s, and he managed to take it to the top of the Billboard pop chart for three weeks.
Due to the immense popularity of both Price and Mitchell’s versions, sheet music for “Heartaches by the Number” became a best-seller in the U.S. and Britain for the month of January 1960.
Shortly before he died, Price recorded a special duet version of “Heartaches by the Number” with rising country star and future Voice contestant, Mary Sarah. That duet was included on Mary Sarah’s debut album Bridges, which was released seven months after Price’s death.
“Crazy Arms” was the single that really fired up Price’s career. After a string of chart hits, Price aimed for a chart-topper when he recorded and released “Crazy Arms” in May 1956.
Price wasn’t the first artists to record the song though. Wynn Stewart had released a recording of the song in 1954, but it never caught on like Price’s.
Price got just what he was hopping for with “Crazy Arms”. It became the first number one hit of his career, and went on to be considered a honky tonk standard.
Since “Crazy Arms” was so popular, many other artists jumped at the chance to record it. Patsy Cline, Jerry Lee Lewis, Patty Loveless, and many others recorded their own versions of the song. One of the most meaningful covers was done by Barbara Mandrell, since Price appears in a small role in her recording.
“For The Good Times”
Originally written and recorded by Kris Kristofferson for his debut album in 1970, Price went on to release his rendition of “For the Good Times” later that same year.
The single was Price’s fifth number one, and crossed over to the Billboard Top 100, where it peaked at the 11th spot. Although Price had other songs cross over, “For the Good Times” was his only single that broke the Top 40.
In total, Price’s version of “For the Good Times” spent 19 weeks on the Billboard country chart. All of the song’s chart success led to it receiving the award for Song of the Year at the ACM Awards.
Following Price’s release of the song, dozens of artists from multiple genres have released their own versions. Some of the most notable country renditions of the song have been recorded by Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, and Crystal Gayle.
As more and more artists continue to record “For the Good Times,” it’s clear how much of an influence Price had not just in country music, but the music industry as a whole.
We’d like to thank Price for all of “the good times.” May he rest in peace.