Country music legend Ray Price has died at the age of 87 following a two year long battle with pancreatic cancer.
Price's exquisite phrasing made him not only one of the best singers in country music, but, as ardent fan Johnny Carson said, one of the best singers, period.
Born January 26, 1926 in Perryville, Texas, Price began singing professionally shortly after serving in the U.S. Marines. He moved to Nashville in the early 1950s, rooming with Hank Williams for a time.
A master of the honky-tonk style, he soon established his signature sound, dubbed the Ray Price Shuffle, a 4/4 beat with a walking bass line.
As time went on Price's voice developed into one of the silkiest baritones around, while his pitch placement, phrasing, and breath control, remained perfect. Here he is doing a medley of the two songs posted above. Some folks prefer his early, more nasal sound, some his later fuller sound. I love them both.
And he made it look so effortless.
In 1970 Ray Price released For The Good Times. Written by Kris Kristofferson, it was Price's biggest hit, and made him a successful crossover artist. While I've never personally cared for what I feel is an overly lush and syrupy production, there's no mistaking Price's extraordinary vocal prowess.
Surprisingly, Price didn't record Bob Wills' immortal Faded Love until 1980, in a duet with Willie Nelson. It became the most successful recording of the song ever.
A bit over a dozen years ago I was listening to NPR's Sunday morning show when they did a segment on Ray Price and his latest album. It was clear that after over fifty years, Ray still had a soft spot for the honky-tonks.
Despite ongoing cancer treatment, Ray Price continued to perform, appearing in concert as recently as this past May. By all accounts, even pushing ninety and in ill health, his singing remained impeccable.