Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ray Price -- Third time's a charm

Ray Price is a country singer whom I highly esteem. He has a good voice, and did some great songs in the old-time traditional country way -- called the "shuffle", I think -- and later some great hits in the Nashville Sound that he and Chet Atkins and others developed in the Sixties. Most important, he recorded the song that's my second all-time favorite country song: "Crazy Arms".

I've been blessed twice to experience Ray Price live in concert. First in 2008 at Floore Country Store in Helotes, a formerly sleepy Texas village that morphed into a suburb of San Antonio. The second time happened last year in the Acuff Theater near the Grand Ole Opry House here in Nashville. (In both concerts he commenced with "Crazy Arms" medleyed with another of his hits.)

Well, I'd been eagerly anticipating a third encounter with Mr. Price. He was scheduled to be a guest of Eddie Stubbs on the WSM personality's show "Intimate Evening", which is done before a live audience at the Ford Theater in the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. Twice Ray was scheduled, twice I acquired a ticket, and twice the show with Ray got cancelled. The second time was recently and due to snowfall.

I despaired that Ray Price would ever make it onto Eddie's show, a usually once-a-month show in which I've taken great delight since my return to Music City.

But last evening (Monday the 22d), when Eddie came on-air to start his usual evening slot on WSM, he announced that Ray would be dropping by for a visit in studio later in the evening. Believe me, dear reader, I didn't allow myself to get out of earshot of my radio!

Ray Price did indeed come on during the 8 PM hour and continued for over an hour in conversation with Eddie. He spoke of his career, of the beginnings of the "shuffle" in country music and dancing -- I need to get a definition of just what a "shuffle" is! -- and other matters related to his very long and illustrious career in country and Western music. One delightful surprise for yours truly was to discover that Ray is in the midst of releasing an album of gospel music! Eddie even played a song from it. Ray may be in his mid-eighties, but he certainly isn't slowing down much! Indeed, at one point he insisted that he has no plans to retire.

And sure en'uf, late in the interview, Eddie played "Crazy Arms". It was almost like the time I was at Floore and the first notes to sound when Ray took the stage were the opening notes for it -- I felt like I'd died and gone to Heaven! Last evening I closed my eyes, and I was back once more in the ticket center just inside the gate to the late, great Opryland Park, selling tickets to Guests from far and near, and listening over and over to a set of about a dozen country hit songs by various artists over the history of recorded music. Some of my co-workers tired of the repetitive set, but I never did. I think I loved them all -- but most of all "Crazy Arms" with its terrific steel guitar slide at the conclusion!

And here I was, listening to the recording again, and to the singer who recorded it way back in the Fifties (it was No. 1 on the country charts in 1956, bumping Elvis & "Heartbreak Hotel" out of that spot) speaking about it to Eddie. True it would have been even better, I suppose, had this all been taking place in the Ford Theater before an audience including me, so that I could SEE as well as hear it. But simply to hear these two men, both of whom I highly esteem and who esteem each other, conversing like long-time friends about the love of their lives -- country music -- well, the listening alone was sufficient!

The Lord bless Ray Price! The Lord bless Eddie Stubbs! Thank God for country music! ! !

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