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Ray Price Dead at 87

Ray Price
Frazer Harrison, Getty Images

Country Music Hall of Famer Ray Price has passed away.

The country music legend died at his home in Mt. Pleasant, Texas on Monday (Dec. 16) after a long battle with cancer. He was 87.

Longtime friend, deejay Bill Mack confirmed the news via Facebook after speaking with the singer’s wife.

JANIE JUST CALLED ME:
RAY PRICE LEFT FOR HEAVEN AT 4:43 PM CENTRAL TIME. HE WENT IN PERFECT PEACE. DETAILS LATER. JANIE AND THE FAMILY SO GRATEFUL FOR YOUR PRAYERS. RAY’S BODY WILL BE RECEIVED AT RESTLAND FUNERAL HOME IN DALLAS.

Born Noble Ray Price in Perryville, Texas on Jan. 12, 1926,  Price moved to Dallas with his mother after his parents split when he was four years old, and spent much of his childhood moving between their house in Dallas and his father’s farm.

After a stint in the Marines in WWII, he attended North Texas Agricultural College with the intent of becoming a veterinarian. It was there he began singing at a local cafe, which led to a small recording contract and a few unsuccessful singles. That led to signing with Columbia, and in 1951 Price toured with Hank Williams, with whom he wrote ‘Weary Blues (From Waiting),’ which became a minor hit for him.

Price moved to Nashville in 1952 to join the Grand Ole Opry. In Music City he roomed with Williams and worked with his band, the Drifting Cowboys. In 1956 he scored his breakthrough hit, ‘Crazy Arms,’ which reached No. 1 and helped to pioneer a new shuffle beat that became an important part of his signature sound.

Price went on to enjoy a string of hits that included ‘Release Me,’ ‘Heartaches by the Number,’ ‘You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me’ and ‘Danny Boy.’

Widely regarded as a musical innovator and possessed of one of country music’s signature voices, Price also played a pivotal role in helping a number of other country stars get their start. According to his biography at the Country Music Hall of Fame, Willie Nelson, Roger Miller and Johnny Paycheck were among the musicians who played in his band early on, while Nelson, Harlan Howard and Hank Cochran all wrote for a publishing company in which he was part owner. Price’s cut on ‘City Lights’ helped establish Bill Anderson, and his hit on Kris Kristofferson‘s ‘For the Good Times’ reached No. 1 and took Single of the Year honors at the 1970 ACM Awards.

Price’s hit run at Columbia ended in 1974, but he continued to record and release new music in the ensuing decades, as well as tour. In 1996 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, in recognition of his influence on country music.

Price continued to perform even into his 80s. In November of 2012 he revealed he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and despite a brief remission, he spent most of the last year of his life in and out of the hospital, undergoing treatment and dealing with the after-effects. On Dec. 12 his wife of 45 years, Janie, announced that the disease had spread to his liver, intestines and lungs. Price opted to cease treatment and spend the last days of his life at home in hospice care.

“I love my fans and have devoted my life to reaching out to them,” he said in a final statement to his fans. “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.”

Next: See the Top Ray Price Songs

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