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Merrimack Valley

December 18, 2013

Influential country singer Ray Price dead at 87

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At the time, his wife, Janie Price, relayed what she called her husband’s “final message” to his fans: “I love my fans and have devoted my life to reaching out to them. I appreciate their support all these years, and I hope I haven’t let them down. I am at peace. I love Jesus. I’m going to be just fine. Don’t worry about me. I’ll see you again one day.”

Perhaps best known for his version of the Kris Kristofferson song “For the Good Times,” a pop hit in 1970, the velvet-voiced Price was a giant among traditional country performers in the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, as likely to defy a trend as he was to defend one. He helped invent the genre’s honky-tonk sound early in his career, then took it in a more polished direction.

He reached the Billboard Hot 100 eight times from 1958-73 and had seven No. 1 hits and more than 100 titles on the Billboard country chart from 1952 to 1989. “For the Good Times” was his biggest crossover hit, reaching No. 11 on the Billboard pop music singles chart. His other country hits included “Crazy Arms,” ‘‘Release Me,” ‘‘The Same Old Me,” ‘‘Heartaches by the Number,” ‘‘City Lights” and “Too Young to Die.”

Price was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, long after he had become dissatisfied with Nashville and returned to his home state of Texas.

His importance went well beyond hit singles. He was among the pioneers who popularized electric instruments and drums in country music. After helping establish the 4/4 shuffle in country music, Price angered traditionalists by breaking away from country. He gave early breaks to Nelson, Roger Miller and other major performers.

His “Danny Boy” in the late 1960s was a heavily orchestrated version that crossed over to the pop charts. He then started touring with a string-laden 20-piece band that outraged his dancehall fans.

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