After a premature report of his death that swept the media on Sunday, country legend Ray Price passed away on Monday from pancreatic cancer, according to family spokesman Bill Mack. Price was 87.
Today, Ray Price is simply remembered by many as an old-school country star, but in his time, he was a groundbreaker who reshaped country music and was instrumental in launching the careers of other country legends. Early comparisons to the late Hank Williams in the 1950s drove Price to radically alter his honky-tonk sound by adding drums to a slow-but-steady bass line (something unheard of in country at the time)—a sound that came to be known as the “Ray Price beat” or “Ray Price shuffle.” That new sound served as the backbone behind his first (and signature) hit “Crazy Arms,” which shot to No. 1 on the country charts and stayed there for 20 weeks in 1956.
The list of notable musicians who got their start playing in Price’s band, the Cherokee Cowboys, reads like a Hall of Fame in itself, including names such as Johnny Paycheck, Roger Miller, Hank Cochran and Willie Nelson. Price himself continue to experiment with new sounds into the 1960s, adding lush orchestration to his country sound, which brought him some crossover success in the pop market. He went on to chart 109 hits during a career spanning seven decades, including “Heartaches By the Number,” “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,” and “For the Good Times,” which garnered Price his first of two Grammys in 1971. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996.
RIP, Ray Price. You will be missed.