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Country Singer, Bandleader Ray Price Dies At 87

Ray Price performs during Stagecoach: California's Country Music Festival 2010 held at The Empire Polo Club on April 24, 2010 in Indio, California.
Frazer Harrison
Getty Images
Ray Price performs during Stagecoach: California's Country Music Festival 2010 held at The Empire Polo Club on April 24, 2010 in Indio, California.

Singer-bandleader Ray Price, who had more than 100 country hits in his decades-long career, has died at the age of 87 of complications related to pancreatic cancer, his family said.

Price was a Grammy Award winner and a Country Music Hall of Fame inductee (1996).

Quoting family members, The Associated Press writes:

"Price died Monday afternoon at his ranch outside Mount Pleasant. ... He was discharged last week from the East Texas Medical Center in Tyler, where he had been in and out in recent months as he was treated for cancer and its complications. He was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2011 and it has recently spread to his liver, intestines and lungs, the hospital said."

Blake Farmer, of member station WPLN in Nashville says Price "is credited with pioneering a shuffle beat and walking bass line that became a standard in Texas dance halls."

Farmer says that after he first gained fame in the mid-1950s, he "helped push country music into an era of crooning. The fiddles from his honky tonk band turned into an entire string section."

Variety says of Price:

"Originally an acolyte of his close friend and sometime housemate Hank Williams, whose band he would adopt as his own, Texas-born tenor Price developed his own style in the early '50s, drawing on the Western swing of his native region for inspiration."

"Propelled by a powerful shuffle beat and backed by his flashy, fiddle-driven group the Cherokee Cowboys – whose personnel over time included future stars Willie Nelson, Roger Miller and Johnny Paycheck – Price rode to the top of the charts with such dancefloor-packing classics as 'Crazy Arms' and 'Heartaches By the Number.'"

"However, in the late '60s, Price embraced the string-laden, chorale-drenched 'Nashville Sound,' alienating many in his original audience with such florid yet highly successful ballads as 'Danny Boy' and 'For the Good Times.'"

"In later years, Price — who authored 109 chart singles, many of them self-penned — successfully reconciled the two sides of his performing personality as hardcore country singer and pop-skewed balladeer, and restated his honky-tonk credentials via an album and tour with his peers Nelson and Merle Haggard. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996."

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Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.
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