About Ray Price
American country and western singer/songwriter/guitarist.
DATE OF BIRTH: January 12, 1926
PLACE OF BIRTH: Perryville, Texas
DATE of INDUCTION into the Country Music Hall of Fame: 1996
When Ray Noble Price was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, many noted that the honor was long overdue. Such feelings weren’t based so much on the longevity of his career or on the number of major hits he has recorded, for in those regards Price was no different from many other deserving artists awaiting induction. More importantly, Price has been one of country’s great innovators. He changed the sound of country music from the late 1950s forward by developing a rhythmic brand of honky-tonk that has been hugely influential ever since. As steel guitarist Don Helms, a veteran of Hank Williams’s Drifting Cowboys once put it, “Ray Price created an era.”
Born near Perryville in East Texas, Price moved with his mother to Dallas after she and his father split up. He was four years old at the time and would spend most of his childhood moving between his mother’s house in Dallas and his father’s farm. He joined the U. S. Marines during World War II, then afterward enrolled at North Texas Agricultural College, intent on becoming a veterinarian. But while in school, he started singing at a place called Roy’s House Cafe. He eventually made his way to Jim Beck’s recording studio in Dallas, where Beck hooked him up with Bullet Records. Price recorded one single for Bullet in either late 1949 or early 1950.
The Bullet record wasn’t successful, but Price began singing on various Dallas-area programs, including the Big D Jamboree. He caught the attention of Troy Martin of the Peer-Southern music publishing firms, and behind Martin’s strong recommendation Price was signed to Columbia Records in March 1951. His first Columbia release was “If You’re Ever Lonely Darling,” written by Lefty Frizzell.
Price had little success on Columbia until a fortuitous introduction to Hank Williams in the fall of 1951 changed his fortunes. Williams took Price with him on the road and wrote a song, “Weary Blues (From Waiting),” which he gave to Price to record. Though not a major hit, the song did fairly well for Price, and in January 1952 he moved to Nashville to join the Grand Ole Opry. There he roomed with Williams and used the Drifting Cowboys as his backup band. Many of Price’s recordings from this period show him self-consciously adopting Williams’s style. This trend would lessen, though, as Price allowed his natural voice more sway on such early hits as the 1954 double-sider “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)” b/w “Release Me.”