Country hall of famer Ray Price rocks Bakersfield

Elka Wyatt and Elka Wyatt

Looking dapper in a gray Nudie suit with a turquoise tie, at the ripe age of 82, Ray Price took the stage of Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace and performed many of the songs that gained him popularity in the ’50s, ’60s and early ’70s.
Some of those hits included “Release Me,” which was recorded in 1954, 13 years before Englebert Humperdinck made it a top five pop hit, and “For The Good Times,” which earned him a No. 1 spot on the country music hit list and No. 11 on the pop charts.
On Nov. 25, the Country Music Hall of Fame member, along with his band, The Cherokee Cowboys, brought Bakersfield back to the days when honky-tonks were the happening places to be.
Once a roommate of the late Hank Williams, Price originally used Williams’ band, The Drifting Cowboys, as his back-up band. He formed The Cherokee Cowboys in 1953 with remnants of Williams’ band. Price has been known as a steppingstone for other talented artists, such as Willie Nelson, Roger Miller and Johnny Paycheck, who all played with his band at one time or another.
An innovative songwriter, Price developed what was referred to as “the Ray Price Shuffle” or “the Ray Price Beat,” a 4/4 arrangement of honky-tonk with a walking bassline. This could be heard on his hit, “Crazy Arms” as well as hundreds of other songs since then.
Throughout the ’60s, Price experimented with “the Nashville Sound” which included crooning ballads and string arrangements. His rendition of “Danny Boy” leaned toward the pop end of the music spectrum. His old fans were not impressed, but he gained new ones from another genre. Later on, “For The Good Times” received favorable response from both sets of fans.
Opening the show for Price was his son, Cliff Price, who performed favorites by Merle Haggard, Mel Tillis, George Strait and Bob Wills. The younger Price now fronts The Cherokee Cowboys.
The elder Price then stepped onto the stage and began by singing “Crazy Arms,” which was recorded on March 1, 1956 and spent 20 weeks at No. 1 in the country charts, establishing him as a star.
After a set of several songs, including “Heartaches By The Number,” “Release Me” and “City Lights,” Price took a break while the band played, showcasing individual players.
Price again took the stage, starting with “The Nightlife” and then “Crazy,” both written by Willie Nelson, “Make The World Go Away” which was recorded by Price in 1963 but made a hit by Eddy Arnold in 1965, and finally “For The Good Times.”
After leaving the stage, Price came back and wished a woman who was in the audience a happy 83rd birthday.
“In six weeks, I myself will be 83” said Price.
He then sang “I Wish I Was Eighteen Again,” which had been recorded by several other artists as well as Price in 1999 and was sung by George Burns in the movie “18 Again.”
Price then met with fans in the lobby and signed autographs.
Standing in line for an autograph, one woman was overheard saying, “It was good to go to a concert where I didn’t need earplugs.”
“I have seen him three times,” said David Jones, 48, of Bakersfield. “I love traditional country music. That’s why I came tonight.”
Karen Ellis, 52, said, “My daddy used to listen to Ray Price all the time when I was a girl. I grew up listening to him and feel fortunate to have been able to be here tonight.”