Ray Price changed the face of country music. His groundbreaking career started in the 1940s and continued until he died in 2013. Price would have been 95 today. We’re taking a look back at his early successes, his contribution to country music, and his final album in celebration.
Ray Price’s Early Life
Ray Price was born and raised in a community called Peach, Texas. Peach isn’t around anymore but it was located in Wood County, Texas. His father was a rancher and, after his parents divorced, his mother became a fashion designer.
Ray Price started playing guitar and singing as a child but only did it as a hobby. His goal was to become a veterinarian. He was going to college for veterinary medicine when he was drafted into World War II in 1944.
Upon returning from the war, Price decided to give up his pursuit of vet medicine. While working on his father’s ranch, he started singing at different functions around the Abilene area. Pretty soon he was singing on the radio. The country was introduced to Ray Price when a show he was on, “Big D Jamboree,” got picked up for national broadcast by the CBS radio network. Not long after that, Price moved to Nashville.
The Cherokee Cowboys
Ray Price roomed with Hank Williams for a short time while living in Nashville. After Williams’ death, Price took over his band The Drifting Cowboys. He saw some success with them but decided he wanted to form his own band. The result of that decision was The Cherokee Cowboys.
This group might be one of the most important groups in the history of country music. For starters, The Cherokee Cowboys would be a starting point from some of the genre’s biggest names. Guys like Roger Miller, Buddy Emmons, Johnny Paycheck, and even Willie Nelson were in the band between the late fifties and early sixties.
Ray Price’s Game-Changing Number-One Hit Single
Ray Price is credited with moving country music from the 2/2 time signature to the 4/4 time signature. Most of the popular music today is in 4/4 and Price had a lot to do with that. The popular country shuffle that can be heard in hundreds of country and western songs from the past six decades can be traced back to Ray Price and The Cherokee Cowboys’ song “Crazy Arms.”
When you listen to Price’s first number-one single with modern ears, it just sounds like a well-crafted country song. However, at the time that sound was something new and audiences loved it.
This would come to be called the Ray Price Shuffle. About the creation of the beat, Price told Rolling Stone, I went to the drummer and said, ‘Can you give me a shuffle beat?’ And it just worked out. Everyone picked up on it. I didn’t have any idea what it would do, but it turned out. If there’s one thing you can’t take away from me, I’ve got that.”
Ray Price Never Stopped Making Music
Over the years, Ray Price released 51 studio albums and 115 singles. He had a total of nine number-one hit songs. When he passed away in 2013 he was still working on his final album. The album, “Beauty Is…” was released in April of 2014. It was the third most downloaded album on Amazon. The first single, “Beauty Lies in the Eyes of the Beholder,” received radio play around the world.
Before we wrap this up, I’ll leave you with my favorite Ray Price tune. His 1958 number-three hit “Invitation to the Blues.” If you’ve never heard it, do yourself a favor and check it out.