Sharity Productions presents “A Christmas Gift For You From Ray Price” Christmas Show, at the Cailloux Theater in Kerrville, Texas, on Sunday, November 25, 2012. The show includes actor Guich Koock as emcee, Billy Mata and the Texas Tradition, Casey Graham, Bobby Flores, and members of the Symphony of the Hills. For show tickets, theater information or directions to the theater, call (830) 896-9393 or go online to www.caillouxtheater.com or email: email@example.com.
Ray Price: Visit with a Legend
by Phil Houseal
Nov 14, 2012
[Listen to a 50-second audio clip of Ray Price talking about the "last chance" to hear him sing.]
So what do you ask a legend?
If you could interview country music superstar Ray Price, what would you say?
This gave me considerable pause when Gene Wolf of Sharity Productions arranged a phone interview in anticipation of Price’s Christmas concert at Cailloux Theater in Kerrville on Sunday, November 25.
After all, what question can you ask that he hasn’t answered a hundred times?
Turns out, you don’t have to ask him anything. You just visit with him.
When Ray Price came on the phone, it felt as if I was sitting at a small table in a small bar in a small town, and Mr. Price just happened to walk in.
That small-town tavern in my mind was real. It was the place where I was introduced to Ray Price through his music. When I was 19 years old, I played with Frankie Lee and the Swingmasters. Frankie Lee’s “go to” singer was Ray Price. I didn’t realize that during those cold, cold Saturday nights in Iowa I was playing a future catalog of country classic: Cold, Cold Heart; For the Good Times; Release Me; Crazy Arms; City Lights; and on and on.
When I finally got to talk to Price in person, I learned about the man behind those songs.
I asked how his singing voice at age 86 stays so clean and sincere. “I honestly think I sing better than ever,” he said with a laugh. “I might be fooling myself, but I have learned different things through the years about my voice. I have always studied my voice. It’s my instrument. I guess I was born with it. By age 5 or 6, I sang all the time on the farm. It was just a natural thing.”
I learned that while he always wanted to be a singer, he actually started off studying to be a veterinarian. His music career was practically an accident.
“For kicks I would get up to sing in an East Dallas cafe,” he recalled of his college years. “They would get people out of the audience to sing. I liked it, and would go out there.”
One day a guitar player asked Price to come with him to sing a couple of his songs for a music publisher. “I thought, well, I’ll go ahead. There’s nothing wrong with helping somebody out.”
During a break in the recording at the radio station, Price sang a couple of songs. They stopped him and asked if he could come back the next day. Price said, sure. The next day the owner of a Nashville record label signed him to a contract. “That’s when I discovered what I really like to do,” Price said with a chuckle. So long, vet school.
I learned that at age 86, Ray Price is having the time of his life.
“I’m enjoying it more than I did before,” he said. “Now that I can succeed in doing what I want to with my voice. Until I lose my vocal chords, I’m going to continue doing it.”
That’s probably not an issue. Because, while he has “a lot of older fans,” younger fans are discovering him. I know this first hand, because when I took my 15-year-old daughter to his spring concert, I expected her to be indifferent. Instead, she told me, “I really love that guy. I didn’t realize I would recognize all those songs.” She became a fan.
“Well, there are not hordes of them,” he said of his followers under age 30, “but they are coming more and more all the time. I like to think it’s because our music is just good music. It’s not like other music that claims it is country music. I think more needs to be done to expose the world to better classes of music than bunches of people screaming and jumping up and down.” He paused, then added, “Though I guess that would be all right if you were standing on a fire.”
NEXT WEEK: Shuffles and strings: Two more things I learned from my visit with Ray Price.