Country Music Legend Ray Price Dies at Age 87

Ray Price, one of the greatest voices of country music, who revolutionized the genre with No. 1 hits like "Crazy Arms" and "City Lights," died at home in Mt. Pleasant, Texas Monday after a long battle with pancreatic cancer, his family said. He was 87.

"I just like what I've done and how it's worked out, and it's been great," Price told Rolling Stone earlier this month, in his final interview. "I haven't lost my voice, thank God for that."

Price’s mournful croon stayed with him even as he packed dance halls into his late eighties, impressing many of his peers. "The last time I worked with him, he walked up on that stage and sang hit after hit," says Loretta Lynn. "I looked at my friend and said, 'I didn't realize that many hits were there.' Forty something hits or more."

When Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard toured with Price on their "Last of the Breed" tour in 2007, they were blown away. "I told Willie when it was over, 'That old man gave us a goddamn singing lesson,'" Haggard told Rolling Stone recently. "He really did. He just sang so good. He sat there with the mic against his chest. And me and Willie are all over the microphone trying to find it, and he found it."

Price took his own approach to delivering a song. "For me, a song should be like a good book – it has to be read right, and they don't seem to do that anymore," he told Rolling Stone in a 2000 feature story. "There's no effort anymore to do anything different. It's all follow the leader."

Price was born on January 12, 1926 in a poor and tiny East Texas town called Peach, and grew up obsessed with the Western swing sounds of bands like Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. He joined the Marines at 17 before making his first record in 1949 and signing with Columbia in 1951 when he was 25. As he mentioned in his recent interview, that was the year Price befriended Hank Williams at a Nashville radio station. An impressed Williams invited Price to a show in Indiana the following day and soon wrote "Weary Blues (From Waiting)" for Price, and helped him get signed to the Grand Ole Opry. The two lived together in Nashville for the last year of Williams' life.

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