By now, everyone has heard the news that the legendary Ray Price has passed away. In deciding what to write about Ray, and there will be numerous articles written that will cover his career and achievements, I have decided that I would do something a little different. As many of you know, Ray was a former member of the Grand Ole Opry. He came to Nashville and the Grand Ole Opry 1951 and remained an Opry member until he was dismissed from the cast in December 1964 for failing to meet the required number of appearances. While never again becoming a member, Ray did maintain a close association with the show and would continue to make Opry appearances each year, right up until his final illness.
Instead of writing his biography, which can be read elsewhere, I am going to write what was written about Ray in the Grand Ole Opry History-Picture Book that was printed in 1957, which was about the mid-way point of Ray's Opry membership:
"Texas can add Ray Price to here host of native sons who have become country and western music stars, because the Leatherneck hero appears destined to be an all-time great. Born on a ranch near Perryville, Texas, 100 miles from Dallas, Price started in music early, picking up an older brother's guitar and singing a tune. he studied veterinary medicine at North Texas State Agricultural College for three and one-half years before enlisting in the U.S. Marines. He served overseas with the famed Second Division on Tarawa and other Pacific beachheads. On honorable discharge after five years of service he chose music as a career, organized a band and barnstormed all over Texas and Louisiana. In 1951 he joined the Grand Ole Opry and signed a recording contract with Columbia.
Part Cherokee Indian, Ray often wears a bright blue custom-tailored jacket. Its multi-hued Indian headdress on the back is a familiar sight to country music fans throughout the United States. He has been pictured and profiled in Life Magazine and other national periodicals. His 'Crazy Arms' record for Columbia won the triple-crown by leading all country music trade magazine charts, and earned him a 'Golden Guitar.' He also scored with 'I've Got a New Heartache' and 'Wasted Words.' Previously he rated high with 'You Done Me Wrong,' 'Run Boy,' 'Talk to Your Heart' and 'Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes' which he sang with Rosemary Clooney. In 1959 Ray Price captured top Dee Jay honors when he was selected Country Music's Favorite Male Artist, and his recording of 'Heart Aches By The Number' was named the favorite Country and Western single.
Price is an outdoorsman, a big game hunter of marksman caliber, and an expert fly-caster, who traveled with sport shows before his music career began. He collects guns and his trophy room includes several priceless antique weapons. Price's backyard is populated by three champion bird dogs."
We can all remember that in the later part of the 1960's, Ray moved to a more pop-oriented sound, not only changing his music, but his look. He was no longer the "Cherokee Cowboy" and the traditionalists wanted to kick him out of country music. They said he "sold-out". But for Ray, the move proved to be successful as "For the Good Times" became one of the biggest hits in the history of country music.
Ray was not one to keep his opinions to himself. When he was finally elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, his first words upon receiving the award were, "It's About Time." And many agreed with him, including Willie Nelson, who always considered Ray one of the greatest. Even well into his 80's, Ray kept up a heavy touring and recording schedule. Some will say that his later albums contained some of his best music. And even in declining heath, he was rushing to get another album out before he died.
After all the years, Ray still called Texas home and it was at his ranch that he passed away with his family at his side. Ray will be missed but we will always have his memory and that great music to look back upon.