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Ray Price, Who Helped Domesticate Country Music, Dies at 87

Ray Price, who died last week at 87 years of age, is an important figure in what may be described as the domestication of country music. Here is the beginning of a nice appreciate at NPR:

Before there was Willie Nelson or Merle Haggard, there was Ray Price. The Country Music Hall of Famer who bridged Texas honky-tonk and country crooning has died after a yearlong battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 87.

Before Ray Price, honky-tonk tunes weren’t big sellers. But then “Crazy Arms” shot to No. 1 in 1956. Its shuffling beat became the hallmark of the golden age of Texas honky-tonk.

Price eventually tired of playing dance hall gigs for rough crowds. He told WHYY’s Fresh Air in 1999 that producers in Nashville had to come up with a way to broaden country’s audience.

“They had to do something to kind of fix it where the people that listened to the Tony Bennetts and the Frank Sinatras and those people would like the song or the music,” Price said. “And country music songs are great. I think they’re beautiful songs. And to put the strings with them, that’s my idea of how to make one really great song.”

Price became part of a second shift in country music. The single honky-tonk fiddle swelled into an entire string section. The polished production — which had its detractors — would become known as the “Nashville Sound.” (Continue Reading…)

CMT offers its take on Price’s top ten songs. Above and below are two of them. Above is “Invitation to the Blues” — featuring a very young Roger Miller — and below is “Crazy Arms.” Here is a piece on the link between Price and Hank Williams.