For the Good Times
Country music legend Ray Price, also known as The Cherokee Cowboy, has been active in the music industry since 1948. He has released numerous albums and countless singles and scored No. 1 country hits with “Crazy Arms” (1956), “My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You” (1957), “City Lights” (1958), “The Same Old Me” (1959), “For the Good Times” (1970), “I Won't Mention It Again” (1971), “She's Got to Be a Saint” (1972) and “You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” (1973). Price picked up Grammy Awards for the songs “For The Good Times” and “Lost Highway” (2008), the latter of which was in collaboration with Willie Nelson, and two Academy of Country Music Awards for the “For The Good Times” album and song. He also received a Country Music Association Award for the 1971 album “I Won't Mention It Again.” Price was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996.
Childhood and Family:
Noble Ray Price was born on January 12, 1926, in Perryville, Texas, but was primarily raised in Dallas. It was in Dallas that he began singing and playing the guitar. After graduating from high school, he attended North Texas Agricultural College in Abilene, where he majored in veterinary medicine. He left school to join the Marines in 1942 and served in World War II. After returning to Texas in 1946, he initially wanted to resume his education but instead began performing in local clubs and on a local radio called KRBC in Abilene. In 1951, he moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to further pursue his music career.
Starting out in Texas, Ray Price received the nickname The Cherokee Cowboy while performing on a local radio show. He next worked with “Big D Jamboree,” a radio program broadcasted by KRLD-AM in Dallas. Shortly after he joined the show, “The Big D Jamboree” began to be televised by CBS, which helped him launch a single called “Jealous Lies” (1950) through the independent Dallas label Bullet. With the hope of getting a major label record contract, Price made the move to Nashville in 1951 and after several rejections, was signed by Columbia Records.
As a struggling performer in Nashville, Price met his idol, Hank Williams, and they developed a close friendship and even shared a room for a brief time. It was Williams who gave him the song “Weary Blues” (1951) to record and helped him join the Grand Ole Opry. Price also became the permanent replacement for Williams whenever he could not perform. When Williams passed away in 1953, Price managed his band the Drifting Cowboys.
With Columbia, Price enjoyed his early success with his single “Talk to Your Heart” (1952), which rose to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. He gained additional attention with a cover of Slim Willet and the Brush Cutters' “Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes” (also 1952), which peaked at No. 4 on the Hot Country Songs. Price kept on recording several singles over the next year but did not score another hit until he launched “I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)” in 1954. The single peaked at No. 2 on the Hot Country Songs chart. That year Price also produce the top 10 hits “Release Me” (#6), “If You Don't Somebody Else Will” (#8) and “I'm Much too Young to Die” (#13).
Price spent most of 1955 focusing on developing The Cherokee Cowboys. Members of his band included Roger Miller, Johnny Paycheck, Buddy Emmons, Johnny Bush and Willie Nelson. Price returned to the charts with “Run Boy” (1955), which rose to No. 5 on the U.S. Country charts, and “Crazy Arms” (1956), a honky-tonk standard that became his first No. 1 hit. Written by Ralph Mooney and Charles Seals, “Crazy Arms” was released in May 1956 and peaked on the Billboard Hot Country Songs in June 1956, where it remained for 20 weeks. The song also charted on the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 27. 1956 also saw the release of the Top 10 hits “I've Got a New Heartache” (#2), “You Done Me Wrong” (#7) and “Wasted Words” (#4).
Price had his second No. 1 country hit single with “My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You” (1957), which also charted at No. 63 on the Pop charts. He followed it up with Bill Anderson's “City Lights,” which became a long running No. 1 hit in 1958, and his single “The Same Old Me,” which spent two weeks at the top of the country chart in December 1959. Price also released the hits “I'll Be There (When You Get Lonely),” “Curtain in the Window,” “That's What it's Like to Be Lonesome,” “Heartaches by the Number,” “Invitation to the Blues” and “Under Your Spell Again.”
In the early 1960s, Price produced a number of hit singles, such as “One More Time” ( #5), “Wish I Could Fall in Love Today” (#5), “Heart Over Mind” (#5), “Soft Rain” (#3), “Pride” (#5), “Make the World Go Away” (#2), “Burning Memories” (#2) and “The Other Woman (In My Life)” (#2). “She Wears My Ring” (#6, 1968) became his last Top 10 hit of the decade.
Price was put back on the top of the charts in 1970 when his cover of Kris Kristofferson's “For the Good Times” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and stayed on the chart for 19 weeks. It also rose to No. 11 and No. 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and the Adult Contemporary charts, respectively. The song won an Academy of Country Music for Single of the Year in 1970 and a Grammy for Best Male Country Vocal Performance in 1971. The “For the Good Times” album (1970) peaked at No. 1 on the Country Albums chart and No. 28 on the Billboard 200 and was eventually certified platinum by RIAA. It brought him an Academy of Country Music for Album of the Year.
Price had his next No. 1 hit single in 1971 with “I Won't Mention It Again.” An album of the same name was also released that year, which peaked at No. 1 on the Country Albums chart and No. 49 on the Billboard 200 and won a Country Music Association award in the category of Album of the Year.
After the No. 2 hits “I'd Rather Be Sorry” (1971) and “The Lonesomest Lonesome” (1972), Price released “She's Got to Be a Saint” in November 1972. The song rose to No. 1 on the Hot Country Singles and charted at No. 2 on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks. It also went to No. 93 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was followed by another No. 1 country hit single, “You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” (1973), which marked his last No. 1 hit to date. Although he continued producing many singles throughout the remainder of the 1970s, only two of his singles peaked at the top of the charts. “Like Old Times Again” (1974) and “Roses and Love Songs” (1975), peaked at No. 4 and No. 3, respectively, on the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart.
May 1980 saw the release of “San Antonio Rose,” a collaboration album with Willie Nelson through Columbia. The album peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Top Country Albums, No. 70 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on Canadian RPM Country Albums. It was certified gold by RIAA. The album spawned the country hit singles “Faded Love” (#3) and “Don't You Ever Get Tired (Of Hurting Me)” (#11). It became his last record with the label.
Price has recorded with various labels since his long running affiliation with Columbia ended. He released two albums with Dimension (“Town and Country,” 1981 and “Somewhere in Texas,” 1982), one album with Warner Bros. (“Master of the Art,” 1982) and about a dozen records with Step One. He scored his last charting single, “Love Me Down to Size,” in 1989 from the album “Hall of Fame Series” (1990). The song peaked at No. 79 on the Hot Country Songs chart.
After his contract with Step One ended, Price was signed to Justice and released the album “Prisoner of Love” in 2000. Two years later, he launched the album “Time” via Audium Records. On 2003, he worked on another project with Nelson called “Run That By Me One More Time.” Released through Lost Highway Records, the album charted at No. 62 on the Top Country Albums chart. Four years later, on March 20, 2007, Price released the album “Last of the Breed” with Nelson and Merle Haggard, on the same label. The album debuted at No. 64 on the U.S. Billboard 200 and rose to No. 7 on the U.S. Top Country Albums chart. The song “Lost Highway” brought Price and Nelson a 2008 Grammy for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals.
Grammy: Best Country Collaboration with Vocals with Willie Nelson, “Lost Highway,” 2008
Country Music Hall of Fame: 1996
Country Music Association: Album of the Year, “I Won't Mention It Again,” 1971
Grammy: Best Male Country Vocal Performance, “For The Good Times,” 1971
Academy of Country Music: Album of the Year, “For The Good Times,” 1970
Academy of Country Music: Single of the Year, “For The Good Times,” 1970