One to Grow On

The 11 best Houston records of 2013.

"He went in perfect peace," Mack wrote.

On October 8, Price was rushed to a Houston hospital, where he was diagnosed with sepsis in his blood, but responded to noted Houston physician Dr. Red Duke's treatment and returned home in November. After he spent Thanksgiving at home with his family, Price's condition worsened and he was admitted to Tyler's East Texas Medical Center on December 2. His wife, Janie, said on Facebook that Price returned home December 12 to enter hospice care; he had declined any experimental treatment. The day before Price passed, several news outlets, including Rolling Stone, CMT and USA Today, prematurely reported his death.

A consummate showman and song-picker, Price was born on January 12, 1926, in the northeast Texas hamlet of Perryville; he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. He set the standard for country dance bands for decades with the revolutionary 4/4 shuffle beat first heard on his iconic 1956 recording "Crazy Arms." That beat became known as the "Ray Price Shuffle," and he and his band filled dance floors to capacity from coast to coast with his classic buckle-polishers.

Ray Price at Stafford Centre in January 2013, his final performance in the Houston area.
Jason Wolter
Ray Price at Stafford Centre in January 2013, his final performance in the Houston area.

A member of the Glee Club at the former North Texas State in Denton, Price became one of country music's most recognizable vocal stylists as he evolved through several stages as a performer. He served a hitch in the Marines during World War II and began his singing career on the radio in Abilene; by 1949 he was appearing regularly on Dallas's Big D Jamboree, at the time the top country-music radio program in Texas.

By 1951, Price had moved to Nashville, where he roomed for a while with Hank Williams. Price and Williams toured together, and when Williams was too ill or drunk to perform, Price would fill in for him. When Williams died, his Drifting Cowboys became Price's band for a while. But Price sensed that he would never get out from under Williams's shadow unless he changed his sound, so he formed a new band, the Cherokee Cowboys, in 1953.

Between 1953 and the release of "Crazy Arms," Price had a handful of charting tunes, including another of his signature songs, "I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)," which hit No. 2 in 1954. After "Crazy Arms," Price almost never left the charts for an eight-year stretch that included "My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You," "City Lights," "Heartaches by the Number" and "I've Just Destroyed the World (I'm Living In)," one of the earliest recordings of a Willie Nelson song.

Overall, Price released 52 albums and scored nine No. 1 singles; arguably his biggest was 1970's "For the Good Times," which was released long after he had successfully crossed over to the easy-listening market. His voice had remained in good shape, and only this past January, Price performed at the Stafford Centre. By all accounts, he still had one of the greatest voices in the land.

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