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Passings: Ray Price (1926 - 2013)

One of the great gentlemen of country music has left us. Ray Price died on Monday afternoon from pancreatic cancer at his home in Texas.

DJ Bill Mack made the announcement at the behest of the family on Facebook:
JANIE JUST CALLED ME:
RAY PRICE LEFT FOR HEAVEN AT 4:43 PM CENTRAL TIME. HE WENT IN PERFECT PEACE. DETAILS LATER. JANIE AND THE FAMILY SO GRATEFUL FOR YOUR PRAYERS. RAY'S BODY WILL BE RECEIVED AT RESTLAND FUNERAL HOME IN DALLAS.
Price was one of the most admired of the singers from the days of classic country music. On a personal note, in the almost eight years that this site has been publishing, we have never seen such an outpouring of love and admiration for any artist, in any genre, as that for Mr. Price. Over the past year, with the singer's many advances and setbacks in his medical struggle, we have had a constant stream of comments and personal e-mails with memories and hopes for his recovery.  From what we've experienced, he was a truly remarkable man.

Price, who grew up in Texas, began his singing career after getting out of the Marines (1944-46). His first professional work was in 1948 on radio station KRBC in Abilene followed by appearing at the Big D Jamboree in Dallas.

After moving to Nashville in the early 50's, Price became roommates with Hank Williams and, after Hank's death, spent a time managing his band The Drifting Cowboys. In 1953, he started his own band, the Cherokee Cowboys whose members, at one time in its history, included Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck and Buddy Emmons.

Right from the start in Nashville, Price was recording for Columbia Records, having his first big country hits in 1952 with Talk To Your Heart (peaked at number 3) and Don't Let the Stars Get In Your Eyes (#4). In 1954, he had the double sided hit I'll Be Here (If You Ever Want Me) (#2) and Release Me (#6), the first big version of the song that would go on to be a major pop hit for Engelbert Humperdinck.

In 1956, he finally hit number 1 on the Country Singles with Crazy Arms, a perfect example of what was called the "Ray Price shuffle", honky tonk style music with a walking bassline. The record also used a drum background, something that had not been seen regularly in country music. It was after the success of Crazy Arms, which stayed number 1 for twenty weeks, that the Grand Ole Opry finally ended it's ban on percussion instruments.

Price followed with three more chart toppers during the 50's with My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You, City Lights and The Same Old Me.

Throughout the 60's, Price had hit after hit as he moved from honky tonk to the new Nashville Sound, smooth ballads with orchestral backgrounds. His long string of hits was starting to dry up during the later part of the decade, some felt due to his embracing of a more pop sound, when he came across a song by songwriter Kris Kristofferson.  For the Good Times became his first number 1 country single since 1959 and crossed over to the pop charts where it peaked at number 11.

Price's career resurgence lasted for five years, scoring him three additional chart toppers with I Won't Mention It Again (1971), She's Got to Be a Saint (1972) and You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me (1973), but country music moved on to the new outlaw movement by the middle of the decade and Price didn't have a top ten hit between 1975 and 1981 when he scored his final two, It Don't Hurt Me Half as Bad and Diamonds in the Stars.

Overall, Price had 39 top ten country hits along with 17 top ten country albums, the last of which was 2007's Last of a Breed with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson.

During the 90's, Price owned a theater in Branson, MO where he regularly performed. He later would continue to tour and, on occasion, record new material. An album of new material, recorded during his struggle with cancer, is expected to be released next year.

Price was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. He and his wife Janie had been married for 45 years.

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