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Country Music Legend Ray Price Dead at 87

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(Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

(Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Annie Reuter
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Country music legend Ray Price died today (Dec. 16) at his home in Texas. He was 87.

Family spokesperson and country radio veteran Bill Mack relayed the news to fans on Facebook.

“Janie just called me: Ray Price left for heaven at 4:43 p.m. Central Time. He went in perfect peace. Details later. Janie and the family so grateful for your prayers. Ray’s body will be received at Restland Funeral Home in Dallas.”

The news comes just a day after media outlets prematurely reported Price’s death.

On Thursday (Dec. 12), Price returned to his ranch to receive hospice care after his ongoing battle with pancreatic cancer. His wife Janie left a message from the singer on his Facebook page, thanking fans for their support.

“I love my fans and have devoted my life to reaching out to them. I appreciate their support all these years and I hope I haven’t let them down. I am at peace. I love Jesus. I’m going to be just fine. Don’t worry about me. I’ll see you again one day.”

The 87-year-old Country Music Hall of Fame member initially gained attention for such innovative honky-tonk recordings as “Crazy Arms” and “City Lights.” He would later develop a smooth countrypolitan style that led to crossovers like “For the Good Times,” a song written by Kris Kristofferson that ended up being one of Price’s biggest hits.

Price was born in Perryville, Texas, on January 12, 1926. He served with the U.S. Marines from 1944–1946. Shortly after, he began singing for KRBC radio station in Abilene, Texas and later joined the Big D Jamboree in Dallas before he relocated to Nashville in the early 1950s.

In 1953, Price formed his band the Cherokee Cowboys, whose honky-tonk sound initially was in the vein of Price’s friend, Hank Williams. Early members of the Cherokee Cowboys included Roger Miller and Willie Nelson, both who would come to write songs for him. Price came to develop a sound known as the “Ray Price Shuffle,” a 4/4 arrangement with a walking bassline. That innovative sound can be heard on classic Price recordings such as “My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You,” “City Lights,” “Release Me” (which he cut years before Engelbert Humperdinck) and the song that became his first No. 1 hit, “Crazy Arms.”

During his career, which spanned 60 years and produced 62 albums that received multiple Academy of Country Music, GRAMMY and other awards, Price would go on to experiment with the Nashville Sound and later gospel music. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996. His last album, 2007’s Last of the Breed, was recorded with Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard.

Price had been battling pancreatic cancer since 2012, and last week he left the hospital after receiving months of aggressive treatment. Price chose to receive hospice care at his home in Texas for what his wife deemed his “final days.”

Janie, his wife of 45 years, explained the situation further in a hospital statement last week.

“With God’s blessing he has not had extreme pain,” she wrote. “But it’s with great sadness that I announce to you today that my beloved husband has entered the final stages of his cancer that he has battled for 25 months.”

As the country community learned of Price’s death, they took to Twitter to remember the legend, celebrate his life and share their condolences with his family.

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