Our Top Ray Price Songs list presents the best Ray Price Songs including “For the Good Times,” “Crazy Arms” and many more. Texas-born and raised Ray Price spent most of his childhood traveling back and forth between his mother and father after they divorced when he was just three years old. His father lived on a ranch in Wood County while his mother and step-father resided in Dallas. Born as Noble Ray Price on January 12, 1926, long before the man became one of the most beloved country stars of all time, he originally aspired to become a veterinarian. This was a career path quite different from what his mother hoped he would pursue, which was fashion design since this was her line of work. Price even went as far as attending college to pursue this first career interest until it was decided he would be too small to effectively provide animal care to livestock and horses. This was a decision that came about when he returned home after serving in the United States Marine Corps during World War II.
From War Vet to Cowboy
Upon deciding a career in veterinary medicine may not be for him, Ray Price looked into embarking on a music career instead. As a teenager, he already took up singing and playing the guitar so he had enough skills to earn himself a spot on local radio stations as a performer. When KRLD-AM, a Dallas-based radio station he worked for had it’s Big D Jamboree picked up by CBS’s radio network, Ray Price’s popularity as a singer jumped from local fame to national. The year was 1949 when this happened and by 1953 he moved to Nashville, Tennessee. For a short while, he and Hank Williams were roommates before Williams died unexpectedly that year.
It was also in 1953 that Ray Price formed the band, Cherokee Cowboys. The membership roster included Johnny Bush, Buddy Emmons, Van Howard, Darrell McCall, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck, and Buddy Spicher. As a group, the men pioneered the sound of country music by revolutionizing the honky tonk scene with a series of hits, including “Invitation to the Blues.” Roger Miller was the songwriter of this classic while Ray Price was the lead singer. “Night Life,” written by Willie Nelson and performed by Ray Price, became one of the most influential 1950s honky tonk tunes after it was first released.
From Honky Tonk to Nashville Sound
Shortly after the start of the 1960s, Ray Price began to shift from his honky tonk style in favor of Nashville Sound. Throughout most of this decade, he performed a series of heavy-hearted ballads that would eventually lead him to what became his signature single, “For the Good Times,” in 1970. This was a sharp contrast from his pioneering honky tonk style but it worked for him as the 1970s saw a flurry of top ten hits, many of which became chart-toppers. 1982 marked the year Price would have his final top ten chart hit with “Diamonds In the Stars.” However, he continued to have hits on the US Billboard country charts until 1989 before shifting musical styles again. The 1990s witnessed Ray Price performing gospel music, which added an even broader spectrum to the man’s music career. In 1996, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Still a Cowboy
Despite the different styles of music Ray Price performed, he was still a Cherokee Cowboy to the end. In 2009, he appeared in Huckabee with its host, Mike Huckabee of Fox News. During the second performance, fellow Cowboy, Willie Nelson, performed two duets with Price, namely “Crazy” and “Faded Love.” Nelson and Price had just previously recorded what would be their third album together, Last of the Breed, which also featured fellow country star, Merle Haggard. The trio toured together, promoting the 2007 release of the album where Haggard found himself awestruck by Price’s vocal talent.
When Ray Price made it public news on November 6, 2012, he had been engaged in what was already a six-month battle against pancreatic cancer, it was revealed he opted to undergo chemotherapy instead of agreeing to surgery. For him, surgery was not an option as this would have resulted in the man remaining confined in a nursing home. In February 2013, when it appeared as if the cancer was in remission, there was hope Price had this horrible disease beat. Unfortunately, he lost that battle to cancer on December 16, 2013, when he died in his own home in Mt. Pleasant, Texas at the age of eighty-seven years young.
Although gone, Ray Price is by no means forgotten. With fifty-one studio albums to his credit, along with twenty compilation albums, and well over one hundred singles, the man’s legacy continues. From the impressive roster of hit singles, nine of them became chart-toppers, cementing Price as one of the most successful recording artists of all time. In 1970, For the Good Times was recognized by the Academy of Country Music as Album of the Year. In 1971, I Won’t Mention It Again earned this same award with the Country Music Association.
Top 10 Ray Price Songs
#10 – Lost Highway (featuring Willie Nelson)
“Lost Highway” was first recorded by Leon Payne in 1948 as a song reflecting upon his experience as a hitchhiker en route to visit his sick mother. It was later covered by Hank Williams in 1949 before Ray Price and Willie Nelson performed it as a duo in 2007. In 2008, it won a Grammy Award for Best Country Collaboration with Vocals. As solo artists, Ray Price and Willie Nelson are legends nobody has the right to discredit. They’ve earned their dues as artists, and as men, who are more than deserving to be considered country music icons. As a duo, there is a certain magic that beautifully illustrates why the Cherokee Cowboys became one of the greatest contributors to the music industry, regardless of genre.
#9 – Faded Love (featuring Willie Nelson)
“Faded Love” was a song of sentiment that revolved around the heartbreak of lost love. Originally designed as a swing number with country fiddle, it was a big hit for Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys when it was released as a single in 1950. For Ray Price and Willie Nelson, their collaborative 1980 version turned “Faded Love” into a number three hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and on the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. This was the most impressive chart performance for the song, further enhancing its appeal among country music fans for the incredible classic it is.
#8 – City Lights
First written, then recorded by Bill Anderson in 1957, “City Lights” became a number one hit for Ray Price when he covered it as a single in 1958. In addition to topping the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it also made a number seventy-one impression on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song was inspiring enough for Mickey Gilley to cover it as a country version, once again making “City Limits” a number one hit on the same chart in 1975. For Price, when “City Lights” was first released, the US Billboard had yet to form a category separate from its Most Played C&W by Disc Jockeys. At the time, “City Limits” was stuck in the number two spot until what we know now as the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart came to be.
#7 – Heartaches by the Number
“Heartaches by the Number” became an incredibly popular song after it was first published by Harlan Howard in 1959. When Ray Price recorded and released this as a single, it became a number two hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. The lyrical tale of a man waiting in vain for his lost love interest to return to him remains one of Price’s best country hits of all time. Guy Mitchell turned “Heartaches by the Number” into a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, making it a huge favorite among the mainstream crowd at that time. It still remains a favorite today, still covered by a number of artists who know a genuine classic when they hear one.
#6 – Release Me
“Release Me” was released on the B-side of Ray Price’s studio recording that featured “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)” on the A-side. This 1949 original from Eddie Miller and Robert Yount was first recorded in 1953 by Jimmy Heap & The Melody Masters but did not become a hit until it was covered in 1954.
Released separately as singles by Patti Page, Ray Price, and Kitty Wells, it was Price’s version that became a number six hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. Engelbert Humperdinck’s version remains the most popular of all time as a pop-rock classic but it was Price’s version that holds the mantle as the all-time country classic. Some fans and critics believe it was “Release Me” that really served as Price’s breakthrough hit, even though “I’ll Be There” fared even better that year on the exact same music chart as it peaked as high as number two.
#5 – I Won’t Mention It Again
In 1971, “I Won’t Mention It Again” was a song performed by Ray Price that became yet another number-one single for the man on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and the Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart. It also peaked at number four on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart and at number forty-two on the US Billboard Hot 100. At this point, Price was establishing himself as a ballad master who could just as easily bring a listener to tears after revving them up with some of his honky tonk classics.
#4 – I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)
In 1954, “I’ll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)” became a major hit for Ray Price that has since been covered by a long list of top-name artists who found this song too inspirational to ignore. On the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, it peaked at number two. This song was part of Price’s homage to his friend and mentor, Hank Williams. After Williams died in 1953, Price briefly managed his friend’s band, Drifting Cowboys, and together they recorded and released “I’ll Be There.” However, Price felt he sounded too much like Williams, which would prompt him to form the Cherokee Cowboys.
#3 – You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me
If there is to be a perfect song for an anniversary, a wedding, or even a marriage proposal, “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” by Ray Price would be it. Recorded and released in 1973, it became one of many number one hits for the man, namely on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart. The Canadian RPM Country Tracks chart peaked this ballad at number two and it was a number eighty-two hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. Written in 1971 by Jim Weatherly, it was presented to his wife’s father before Price turned it into one of the best ballads ever to grace the music charts. This song became so popular that it inspired several artists to record their own versions of it, including Gladys Knight & the Pips. Their R&B version won over the pop charts, peaking as high as number three on the US Billboard Hot 100 when it was released in 1974.
#2 – Crazy Arms
“Crazy Arms” was the big breakthrough hit for Ray Price after it was released as a single in 1956. It was his first number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and it served as his signature sound that redefined honky-tonk music, as well as the genre of country and western as a whole. The checkered origins of this all-time classic still have Ralph Mooney credited as the 1949 original publisher despite research suggesting Paul Gilley may have been the actual songwriter. As for Price’s version, the composition and lyrics were altered to make it his own, which also became a number twenty-seven hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 at the time. The shake-up from its original ballad state into an amazing country hit wonder served as the beginning of a man’s career that kept Price as a mainstay for many years to come.
#1 – For the Good Times
Written by Kris Kristofferson, “For the Good Times” was first recorded by Bill Nash in 1968 before Kris Kristofferson himself had it featured in his debut album in 1970. Ray Price also recorded this song in 1970 and released it as a single. For Price, it became a number one hit on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart, as well as one of his signature songs. This incredible ballad that has established itself as a real tear-jerker justifiably won Single of the Year and Song of the Year with the Academy of Country Music, as well as a Grammy Award for Best Male Country Vocal Performance. Considered one of the saddest songs of all time, “For the Good Times” cemented Ray Price in the history books as one of the best singers ever to grace the music industry with his voice.
Top 10 Ray Price Songs article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2022
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