Nation mourns loss of Country Music legend
The country music nation lost an icon this week, and I lost an influence. Ray Price, 87, succumbed to pancreatic cancer and passed away on Monday according to his agent in Nashville.
On November 6, 2012, Ray Price confirmed that he was fighting pancreatic cancer. Price told the San Antonio Express-News that he had been receiving chemotherapy for the past six months. An alternative to the chemo would have been surgery that involved removing the pancreas along with portions of the stomach and liver, which would have meant a long recovery and stay in a nursing home. Said Price, “That’s not very much an option for me. God knows I want to live as long as I can but I don’t want to live like that.”
The 87-year-old Country Music Hall of Fame member also told the newspaper, “The doctor said that every man will get cancer if he lives to be old enough. I don’t know why I got it‚ I ain’t old!” Price retained a positive outlook and hoped to play as many as a hundred concert dates in 2013.
Ray Price will forever hold a place in my musical arsenal as the inventor of what is known in country music as the “Ray Price beat” a staple in country music since debuted in 1956 with his chart topping hit of 20 weeks, “Crazy Arms.”
Hank Williams took Ray Price on tour in 1951, where Price began a lifelong journey through roadhouse and stadiums, all the way to the Grand Ole Opry. Price was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996.
Once Price hit the Country Music Charts with Crazy Arms the hits never stopped including 4 number 1’s in the 1970’s.
Ray Price also went on tow win two Grammy Awards. In 1971 he won Best Male Country Vocal Performance and in 2008 Best Country Collaboration with Vocals (Willie Nelson.)
Ray Price was from my grandmother’s (Granny) generation. Having been born and raised in Alabama she attended school with Hank Williams and often told me stories of a “wild boy” and how he could never “settle down” on the school bus. Granny was fond of listening to the grand Ole Opry on the radio and later watching on the old black and white Zenith television set.
When Ray Price debuted on the Opry, Granny was like a school girl again. Looking and a “handsome” young man that could sink like silk. She was hooked the first time she heard Price, and saw him on that old TV.
Somewhere around 1997, I gave my Granny a present, tickets to see Ray Price at the River Palace in Johnson City, Texas. I never saw the tear coming as she welled up and asked me if I was going with her; I did.
Granny and I had a special bond when it came to music. She took me as a child to see some real classic shows including Freddy Fender and Donna Fargo. But the night we saw Ray Price, I like to believe was one of her favorite nights.
Music for me has always been a field of study. I listen to just about anything on my ipod. But it is not often that a musical act will change the way a musical genre is presented, Ray Price did just that.
Ray Price was Frank Sinatra of Country music and he could captivate an audience with a twinkle in his eye and silk from his voice.
Country Music has had to say goodbye to quite a few “old timers” including Johnny Cash, George Jones and Slim Whitman, but none the likes of Ray Price.
Dennis Phillips / Publisher