Born in the small town of Peach, Texas in 1926, Price’s musical idols growing up were Western swing bands like Bob Willis and His Texas Playboys. He recorded his first song in 1949, and he got his first recording contract with Columbia in 1951. At age 25, Price befriended Hank Williams, who was impressed with Price’s rapidly growing talent as a songwriter. The two would remain friends until Williams’ death.
Throughout his career, Price introduced some innovative ideas that later became staples of country music. His first hit song “Crazy Arms” created what some would call the “Ray Price shuffle”: the song features a 4/4 drum beat with a walking bass line at a time when most country musicians weren’t using drums. As his career in Nashville progressed, he found more success with a mature “countrypolitan” sound, and he began fruitful collaborations with friends Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.
Even with his advancing age and health issues, Price kept busy releasing albums (including one that is set to be released next year) and touring for as long as he was allowed. After touring with Price in 2007, Merle Haggard remarked to Rolling Stone, “I told Willie [Nelson] when it was over, ‘That man gave us a goddamned singing lesson.'”