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The time is right for Ray Price

By Tom Netherland, September 2002

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Yet, by the early 1960s, his sound was adopted by a slew of other singers. So Price changed gradually. With 1967's "Danny Boy," the change was mostly complete. No longer a member of the Opry, Price gradually started turning up on such television programs as "The Tonight Show."

Gone, too, were his orange, Indian headdress-laden Nudie suits.

Still, perhaps unbeknownst to many country fans, Price really never ditched his earlier, groundbreaking style. Though his records featured strings and lush productions, Price featured the country shuffle sound during most of his concerts.

"I do it every night at my shows. We try to do exactly like we did all through the years when they said I wasn't country anymore, yet I was up there doing the same thing I was doing on records," Price says. "A lot of the disc jockeys got upset with me when I did 'Danny Boy,' and it's real strange because for about three years I always closed the Columbia show at the Disc Jockey Convention with 'Danny Boy,' and all of the disc jockeys were screaming to record it. So, I did, and they said I left country. It gave 'em somethin' to talk about anyway."

Following "Danny Boy," Price hit huge in 1970 with his rendition of Kris Kristofferson's "For the Good Times," yet only reached number 1 on Billboard's country singles chart 3 more times.

Columbia Records, his label of more than two decades, befuddled industry insiders when it dropped him in 1974 despite still decent album and singles sales.

Just as back then, Price looks about him and sees work yet to be done. Even though he's a Country Music Hall of Fame member, even though he's long been classified a legend, Price has some points to make.

"I still want to stir up somethin'. I think it's time somebody did something," he says. "Of course, I'm just tickled to death with (this album)."

In short, Price has not lost "it."

"Nooo. The only thing I've lost is when a fella at Columbia Records - and I'm not gonna mention his name - blacklisted me, and I couldn't get a record label for anything. They do do those things."

Yet, while the Nashville clueless deceives otherwise ignorant or indifferent fans with pop-plastered garbage can fodder, Price offers an alternative. He comes bearing the real thing. Though quite welcome, his music does not cater to pre-teens or soccer moms. Price's music's made for those who have lived and yet live to live some more.

However, all the talent from God's graces won't make music go without a song. Price sought the best from the best.

"I just started talkin' to my favorite writers and the people who knew how to write a country song," Price says. "Everything was set except for two songs when Max D. Barnes came into the studio while we was recordin', and he played 'Time' for me and the other song we got in there ("No One But You"), and I told him right on the spot that we'd take those. I think 'Time' is gonna be a terrific record."

With such lines as "time is life a thief in the jungle," how could he have said no? "That (song) accounts for all of us," Price says. "Whether you want to or not, you've got to admit that it's getting us. One of the fellas, a real good friend of mine that wrote that song 'If It's All the Same to You,' is one of the top horsemen in the thoroughbred business, Arthur Hancock. He's won the Derby four times. He was in the studio when I did 'Time.' A little later he said, 'Man, when you sang that it scared the hell out of me.'"

Friends, now that's country music for you. Food for souls hungry for substance, meaty matter such as Cindy Walker's three tunes on "Time" will fill the plates of even the most famished serious country connoisseur.

"She's got it. I did two new songs that she had, 'Ft. Worth, Texas' and 'Don't You Go Loving Nobody Else,' and then I did one that Hank Snow had years ago, 'Next Voice You Hear.'"

So goes the pull of the mighty. Just as words bear reverent tones when Hank Williams' name passes knowing lips, Price too commands attention.

"I'm trying to prove something," Price says.

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