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Ray Price Interview



Country Stars Central is pleased to speak with the iconic Ray Price!! Ray is a legendary country artist and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. His career has spanned over six decades and his numerous hits include “For The Good Times,” “Release Me,” “Night Life,” “City Lights,” and “Crazy Arms.” In 1956 when Rock and Roll threatened to drown out the sounds of “traditional” country music, Ray rescued country music with his rendition of “Crazy Arms” which topped the charts for 45 weeks knocking Elvis Presley off of them. Ray has successfully recorded other genres of music such as honky-tonk, pop, jazz, blues, and everything in between!! In 1996 he received the great honor of being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 2005 powerhouse vocalist Martina McBride released “Timeless” a tribute album of country tunes from the 50’s, 60’, and 70’s that featured a cover of Ray’s hit song “Heartaches By The Number.” Ray joined Martina on the Grand Ole Opry stage in 2005 to perform the song which resulted in a magical duet!! In 2007 Ray teamed up with legendary friends and musicians Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard backed by Asleep At The Wheel for the “Last Of The Breed” concert tour which received rave reviews alike!! Ray continues to play SELL-OUT shows and record music. He plans to launch a second leg of the “Last Of The Breed” tour sometime this summer!! What an honor to speak with Mr. Ray Price!

(CSC) 1. How have you been lately and what is going on with you these days?

 

(Ray Price)

I’ve been doing fine. The career and everything has broke wide open again. I’m doing just great! It’s kind of unreal! I ain’t looking a gift horse in the mouth, I’m just glad its happening!!


(CSC) 2. What inspired you to become a singer and when did you first take it seriously?

 

(Ray Price)

I was in college and I was studying under the G.I. bill. I had been in the Marines during World War II and I and a whole lot of other veterans were given the right to stay at a naval barracks, which was close to the college. There was a little group of musicians and one day one of the guitars players, Dick Gregory I believe his name was said “Would you mind going down and singing a couple of those country songs to our music publisher?” So, I said “Sure I’ll do it!” I didn’t know why, but that’s what he wanted. So, we went down to the first publisher and he wasn’t very interested. Maybe he was too successful at that point. So, I guess the second one wasn’t quite as successful, so he became interested!! When I got through singing, they asked us to come back the next morning. They were doing some radio shows and in between the shows we did it. When I went back the next morning, there was a guy there with a contract for me to go to work recording in Nashville and that’s how it all happened. I guess that’s what I really wanted to do because I’ve been singing all my life for some reason!! So, I decided that’s what I wanted, so I quit college like an idiot and went to work!!

 

(CSC) 3. Tell me about your good friend Hank Williams. What did you learn from him in the early years of your career?

 

(Ray Price)

Well Hank and I lived together the last year; except the time we went down to Shreveport. They didn’t go for him at the Opry because he was drinking, which I thought was a rotten deal. Everybody else drank, too, but that was Hank’s problem, he was an alcoholic. Whenever that happened, I just stayed with him. I observed how he was operating, what he was doing and began to learn. Because I hadn’t sang country songs like that before, ever in my life!! I had to learn all that. Of course, I had the top teacher I guess in Hank. Whenever he left Nashville without his band, the Drifting Cowboys, stayed with me. I used them for about three years until I found out I was trying to sing more like Hank than I was myself. We broke up all the boys. They knew why and they appreciated it. And what’s left of them we’re still great friends. That’s how it all started.

 

(CSC) 4. You’re very versatile when it comes to your musical styles. What genre of music do you enjoy performing most?

 

(Ray Price)

Well, I enjoy just a good love song not a drinking song a love song! I don’t know what the word would be, forte or what but that’s what I specialize in because I’m a ballad singer. I love great love songs, because I believe as long as two people are in love in this world, a great love song comes in handy!

 

(CSC) 5. Tell me about your latest record, “Last Of the Breed.” What was the process of recording this album?

 

(Ray Price)

Willie and I are up for the Grammy. Willie and I recorded a song without Merle, I don’t know why, called “Lost Highway.” Two years ago, Willie and I had another one nominated for the Grammy. We couldn’t win it because Johnny Cash died that same time and had out a great album just before he died. I think we’ll win it this time. If not, we’ve been nominated lots, it don’t matter!!

 

(CSC) 6. You’ve played the legendary Grand Ole Opry numerous times. What are some special memories that you cherish from the Opry?

 

(Ray Price)

Well, I was on the Opry for almost 60 years, from 1952 on. I have some great friends there who are great entertainers and we’re like a family really. You don’t realize it at the time, what’s going on, all your acquaintances, when they start passing away then you begin to discover hey, I’m losing my family. So that’s what happens in the music business for us. I knew Porter really well and Dolly and all of the others. Of course, it was a shame we lost Porter. We lost Hank Thompson, too. Every year takes a few more away. That Dolly is a real talent!!

 

(CSC) 7. Speaking of the Opry, Martina McBride recorded your hit song “Heartaches By The Number” for her hit album “Timeless.” You also performed that song with her on the Opry in the fall of 2005. What was that like for you?

 

(Ray Price)

I thought it was great!! She’s a nice girl. She’s a pretty girl, and real sweet. She asked me if I would do it and I said sure, I’d be glad to do it!! It did great for her. I understand she did real well with it.

 

(CSC) 8. At one point in your career, you recorded popular music that was beyond what most country artists would consider conquering. How did you deal with the people in country music that didn’t take too well to it?

 

(Ray Price)

Well, I figured about how bad I had done, that I had blown my career. So, by doing that they’d all said I’d gone pop, I said they might be telling the truth. So, I got me a twenty-two-piece arch that runs over the road!!

 

(CSC) 9. You recently celebrated your 82nd birthday with a very special concert in Texas. Can you tell us about that evening?

 

(Ray Price)

It was great!! The audience was packed!! The big orchestra, the whole thing!! I did most of the songs that I had in my career. Can’t do them all, there’s too many of them. But I did what most people have shown me that they like better than others. It went great! Somebody asked me did I have a happy birthday and I said “Yeah, I sure did!! I was happy I had one!” Life’s been good to me. Been mean to me, too! I guess that’s just part of it.

 

(CSC) 10. Last year you toured with Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard backed by Asleep At The Wheel on the “Last Of The Breed” road show. What did you enjoy most about that tour and where did that idea come together?

 

(Ray Price)

I think the tour was Willie’s idea. It was my idea, of course, to do the record. Willie and I are close friends. He came up with the idea for the tour and it did fantastic!! In fact, we’re going to start again if everything’s right in July with it.

 

(CSC) 11. After years of constant touring, what is it that still keeps you performing?

 

(Ray Price)

Being in debt!! (Laughs) I love what I’m doing, I’m just kidding you! As long as it makes the fans happy, I like that. I’ve been blessed with that. I’ve got the greatest fans in the world!!

 

(CSC) 12. Out of all your great accomplishments what are you most proud of and why?

 

(Ray Price)

One of my accomplishments is having a son that’s working with me. He fronts the band. He’s a good singer. I’m like any father that likes to have family work with them. I enjoy what I’m doing and he enjoys it. It’s a great feeling!!

 

(CSC) 13. Do you have any regrets about your career and what’s one thing you would’ve done different if you had the chance to?

 

(Ray Price)

Well, that would take a lot of reflection. I know that there are a lot of things I shouldn’t have done, but I did. There are lots of things that I didn’t do that I should have done. So, it’s kind of a mixed bowl. Everything in my career has just been great. If I had to do it all over again, I think I would have done it with a little more finesse.

 

(CSC) 14. What do you enjoy doing when you aren’t on the road touring or recording music?

 

(Ray Price)

Well, I travel so much that I don’t like to travel but I enjoy being on the horse ranch. I enjoy working with the horses. I have a hobby of flying racing pigeons. I like that. And I like to fish. That’s about it.

 

(CSC) 15. What do you want to be remembered for?

 

(Ray Price)

Being the best damn singer, they ever heard!!


Enjoy Part II of our interview with Ray Price:


(CSC) 1. It is great to chat with you again. What’s the latest with you?

(Ray Price)

Not a whole lot. Just working on the ranch and doing some show dates. I’ve done some tour dates recently with my pal Willie Nelson and Billy Bob Thornton the movie star.

 

(CSC) 2. I’d like to talk to you about one of your good friends, Hank Williams. Can you recall how you two first met and became acquainted?

 

(Ray Price)

He was doing a show that was held on Friday nights called “Friday Night Frolics.” When the stars were in town (Nashville) they would all gather around to perform together. A friend of mine who was in the publishing business at that time named Troy Martin managed to get me as a guest on the show and then we met and became real fast friends. I stuck there with him right until he died.

 

(Country Stars Central)

Did you have the opportunity to perform with him on the road at all?

 

(Ray Price)

Somewhat; we did a tour together in January of 1952.

   

(CSC) 3. What did you admire most about Hank Williams as an artist in his time?

 

(Ray Price)

Just that he was a good person; a great blues singer. I lived with him for about six months before he died. Then he got married and shortly after he died on New Years Eve. I had seen him at Christmas in Dallas and he and I were supposed to have lunch on New Years Day. He was in Canton; Ohio and I was in Akron which is just about 35miles apart. We were going to have lunch together but he didn’t make it.

 

(CSC) 4. Your style of music is timeless. Why do you think after all these years people still gravitate towards your style of country music?

 

(Ray Price)

I don’t know. I hope it’s because they like it. (Laughs) It’s really great, I think. I’ve been here in the business sixty years and we’re still playing to full houses, still have great crowds, and have a great band. Some of our shows don’t sell out, but most of them do! (Laughs)  

 

(CSC) 5. Growing up as a young man, what and when was your first attraction to music?

 

(Ray Price)

I’m not sure what really did it but I used to sing all the time as a kid, I don’t know why. I never did have an idea of being a singer at that time in my life. I say that with some reservation because the way I got into the business was while studying veterinary medicine in college and staying in the naval barracks that the government let a bunch of us veterans have out of World War II.

 

They had a band and a guitar cat asked me if I would go with him to a music publisher and sing a couple of his songs so he could get them published. I agreed to it and we sang the songs. I was doing some radio work and they would listen to me on the break, they asked me if I could come back the next morning so I went back to help the guy out and there was a man there from Nashville that signed me to a record contract and that’s how I got into it.

 

(CSC) 6. What do you enjoy most about coming to Nashville and taking part in the events around town?

 

(Ray Price)

I like to come here and visit because I lived here for sixteen years. I have been invited to play at a tribute on Sunday to the late Don Helms and he was a real good close friend of mine. He was Hank Williams steel player too. He was a great cat and that is the reason why I’m doing it. I enjoy those kinds of things and I enjoy doing the Opry. It’s not like it was though, all my old friends are dead and gone; all except Jimmy Dickens and he’s a lovable little guy!

 

(CSC) 7. You were inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1996. What does it mean to you to be a part of it?

 

(Ray Price)

Well, it means I’ve done something right. I didn’t think they were going to let me in. I was nominated about eight or nine times and then they let me in. Of course, it makes me feel good and makes me feel like I was one of them.  I was on the front end of it and now I’m on the tail end of it.

 

(CSC) 8. You’ve played the Grand Ole Opry many times before in your career. What does the show mean to you personally?

 

(Ray Price)

Well, when I started it was a great showcase. If you went on the Grand Ole Opry you’d get booked out and get dates. That was how it operated at the time. If you had a slot on the Grand Ole Opry show, the crowds would come. It was a great deal; I was part of a family but the family’s gone. It means a whole lot to me and it helped me do it; I couldn’t have done it without it.

 

(CSC) 9. Are there any newer artists (male/female) in the business that you’re impressed with or that happen to play on the Opry?

 

(Ray Price)

No, I don’t hear them and they’re not singing the country music that I play. So, for that reason I really don’t like to listen to it. Too many of them sound exactly alike, it’s like a clone. I don’t know if they’re doing that because it’s done digitally because it wouldn’t sound that way normally, but electronically it’s not going to sound right.  


(CSC) 10. You embarked on a tour recently with music legends Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard titled, “Last Of The Breed.” Where did the idea for that tour come together?

 

(Ray Price)

I was thinking about it one night and I mentioned it to Willie. I told him that the three of us ought to get together to do a tour and then Willie took it and ran with it. It worked out great, we did a recording and we were out on the road about thirty dates or so. The crowds were fantastic to us. We were going to do it again this year but Merle had cancer in his lung so we had to pass on that unfortunately. We added Billy Bob Thornton to the tour for some of the dates instead. Willie and I are supposed to record with Bob Dylan and Leon Russell; shortly after we’d like to take that combination of talent out on tour. Billy Bob Thornton may be on that record but I’m not sure yet. They say he’s a pretty good singer. 

 

(CSC) 11. Do you have plans to release a new album anytime soon?

 

(Ray Price)

I’ve got a new one that is currently in the works. I hope to have it out real soon. It will be on my own record company. These are all not new songs that are on it, it’s actually a tribute record. I do twelve songs of all the big ones that have all passed like Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb, Conway Twitty, and Marty Robbins. I’m not trying to out sing em’ or anything like that, It’s just a tribute album. That will be the first one out and Willie will be with me on a few of the songs.

 

(CSC) 12. What’s ONE thing in your career you’re most proud of, and why?

 

(Ray Price)  

To get to be eighty-three, (Laughs) nah I’m just being facetious.  (Ray recently celebrated eighty-fourth birthday on January 12th!!) My career has been great, I’d like to see a whole lot better part of it but it’s getting late in the years so I’m not sure that will happen or not.

 

(Country Stars Central)

So, fans can look forward to catching you out on the road playing dates?

 

(Ray Price)

Yeah, I do. Everything’s fine but of course the economy’s got everybody pretty messed up now. We’re doing fine though, I can’t complain.





    


  

 



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