100 Greatest Men: #14. Ray Price

Ray Price100 Greatest Men: The Complete List

One of the few traditionalists who was able to successfully transition into the smoother Nashville Sound style, Ray Price was a defining artist in two completely different eras of country music history.

A small town Texas native, Price moved to Dallas as a child and learned how to play the guitar.   After a stint in the Marines, Price returned to Texas and became popular on local radio as the Cherokee Cowboy.   By the early fifties, he was ready to pursue a major label deal in Nashville, landing with Columbia and scoring his first hit in 1952 with “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes.”

Over the next few years, he slowly built a following until his major breakthrough in 1956 with the #1 smash “Crazy Arms.”  This record was representative of the first signature style that Price would be associated with, a driving honky-tonk that incorporated percussion elements that previous country acts had steadfastly avoided.  For the remainder of the fifties and into the early sixties, Price continued to chart massive hits with this approach, including such classics as “Heart Over Mind”, “Heartaches by the Number”, and “City Lights.”

As the Nashville Sound began to develop, Price’s hitmaking slowed down, a reflection on how tastes had changed.  Price adjusted by adopting this sound, his rich baritone a perfect fit for the smooth pop sound that was now dominating airwaves.   Crooning in front of lavish strings, he revitalized his career, scoring his biggest and top-selling hit with the crossover smash “For the Good Times” in 1970.   Price had several more huge hits in this vein throughout the seventies.

When his career began to slow down again, he collaborated with Willie Nelson, releasing the gold-selling duet album San Antonio Rose in 1980.   Like many artists of his stature, Price opened up a theatre in Branson, Missouri in the late eighties, and he remained a huge draw in town and on the road.  In 1996, he joined the Country Music Hall of Fame.

He collaborated with Nelson and Merle Haggard on the well-received Last of the Breed project in 2007, which the three legends supported with a popular tour.   At the time of his death in 2013, he had just put the finishing touches on his last album, a collection of love songs dedicated to his wife.

Essential Singles:

  • Crazy Arms, 1956
  • My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You, 1957
  • City Lights, 1958
  • Heartaches by the Number, 1959
  • Heart Over Mind, 1961
  • Burning Memories, 1964
  • Danny Boy, 1967
  • For the Good Times, 1970
  • I Won’t Mention it Again, 1971
  • Faded Love (with Willie Nelson), 1980

Essential Albums:

  • Sings Heart Songs, 1957
  • Talk to Your Heart, 1958
  • San Antonio Rose, 1962
  • Night Life, 1963
  • Another Bridge to Burn, 1966
  • For the Good Times, 1970
  • I Won’t Mention it Again, 1971
  • San Antonio Rose (with Willie Nelson), 1980
  • Last of the Breed (with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson), 2007

Next: #13. Bill Monroe

Previous: #15. Conway Twitty

100 Greatest Men: The Complete List


  1. It’s kind of shocking that it should have taken the Country Music Hall of Fame so unbelievably long to induct this man, whose line-up of hits gets covered by artists, both within and outside the genre, even to this day. “Crazy Arms”, for instance, got a good rendition from Linda Ronstadt in 1972.

    It’s also interesting to point out the way radio used to be, that when “For The Good Times” was a crossover hit on pop radio (it reached #11 on the Hot 100 in January 1971), it wasn’t hard to hear it get played alongside songs like George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord”, or Van Morrison’s “Domino”.

  2. Ray was in that small group of elite vocalists who could sing anything and sing it well. I don’t know how influential Ray was but like Jim Reeves, Marty Robbins, Gene Watson, and Eddy Arnold, his vocal excellence can not be doubted. I only got to see Ray in concert one time when he was a young buck of about 81 but he could still sing most singers under the table at that age. By then he had incorporated both of his streams of hits back into his set list

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