The Janie Price Interview on the First Anniversary of Ray’s passing.
“If you knew just half of the story, you couldn’t get through it without crying. Ray came up to Nashville under the direst of circumstances. He was so ill, feeling so bad and weak. Chemotherapy just wears you out. This man just walked out of that house and, by golly, he got on that tour bus and he came back until he was satisfied he had that volume and that depth to his voice and then would resonate down to the lowest. Ray was able to do this. I was married to one of the most incredible men that has ever walked the face of this earth. This man was a true man. I am so proud to be his wife.” – Janie Price, December 2014
Ray Price spent the last couple of years of his life crafting his final masterpiece, Beauty is… The Final Sessions. A collection of carefully compiled gems, this is a love letter to his wife, Janie Price. Ray worked with legendary Record mogul, Songwriter and Producer Fred Foster [Roy Orbison, Dolly Parton, Billy Grammer, Ray Stevens, Kris Kristofferson, Tony Joe White, Larry Gatlin, Charlie McCoy, Al Hirt, Boots Randolph, Jerry Byrd, Billy Joe Shaver, Grandpa Jones, The Velvets and Robert Mitchum] to build on a bed of lush strings and orchestration reminiscent of the best of Countrypolitan.
A combination of Texas Country treasures by Cindy Walker [Until Then] and Willie Nelson’s “It Will Always Be” along with standards like Stephen Foster’s “Beautiful Dreamer” and the 1957 Vic Damone classic “An Affair To Remember” at the bequest of the love of his life has proven to be a benchmark for 2014 in modern day Nashville.
Ray Price was joined by Vince Gill [Beauty Lies In The Eye of The Beholder, Until Then] and Martina McBride [An Affair To Remember] on the most personal project of his career.
Janie Price took time to look at Ray Price’s final thoughts and to talk about his friends and recent discoveries regarding the modern age of digital media and social networking.
Brad Hardisty – The Nashville Bridge: Jeanie, it sounds like you have been busy promoting the legacy of Ray Price and his final recording over the last few months.
Jeanie Price, wife of legendary performer, Ray Price: I was down at Larry’s Country Diner and Jeannie Seely and John Conley were there and did a tribute to Ray. They sang some of his songs and it was so neat. I had co-hosted that with Bill Anderson a couple of months ago and they are in the process of getting that 5 DVD set ready. It’s already for pre-orders now. Larry Black had me come back to talk about that we did yesterday. I did the Mike Huckabee Show in October. He is going to do a special on Ray and that is going to air the 13th and 14th [last weekend] of this month around the time of Ray’s Anniversary of his passing on December 16th. I did The Texas Music Scene with Ray Benson. I went down to Billy Bob’s in Fort Worth and it was a day that they had their offices closed so they let us use one of they’re really neat rooms. I met with Dallas Wayne and the production crew all from Texas Music Scene there and filmed a documentary and that started running last week and the response we had from that was absolutely remarkable. I was on WSM with Bill Cody this morning so, I have been busy.
TNB: Who would have guessed that this last album would have such an impact?
JP: Absolutely. You’re telling the facts there because Ray talked to Fred and he asked Fred, he said, before he cut this album, “Do you think that it is humanly possible that an old fellow like me could possibly have another record in this industry? Do you think I can even chart or even get one released, get a record company interested in me?” Fred told Ray everything has changed in this industry and it is certainly not the same place that it was when you and I were in our heyday. But, Fred said, “I will tell you one thing, if anybody can do it, Ray Price can.” Fred Foster was right.
TNB: I think Ray did the right thing by insisting on having strings and the classic Countrypolitan sound.
JP: You know Brad, Ray and I were together forty five years. We were married 43 ½ years and I had taken over his business prior to that and I was there in the beginning of the time when Ray moved from Nashville and came back home to Texas. The reason that he left Nashville was over that very thing. It was the issue of the fact that he had wanted to enlarge the sound of Country Music. Ray wanted to take Country Music to town and to upgrade the sound and make Country Music something that everybody would be proud to listen to.
TNB: Ray was really one of the pioneers of the big Nashville Country sound.
JP: Ray Price paid the dues. He put his money where his mouth was and I can tell you for a fact. I was his book keeper and I wrote every check for Ray Price for the last 45 years and he spent his life’s fortune on moving Country Music into the modern day. When Ray and I first met, he was carrying a 22 piece Orchestra and he was working with so many violins and cellos and violas plus he had a horn section. He had so many musicians.
TNB: I bet that was a challenge on the road.
JP: Ray was working in places that didn’t have a stage big enough to hold them all. It was pretty funny. These guys would set up on the side of the stage. But by golly, he did it.
TNB: Strings were a trademark of his sound.
JP: Ray believed so strongly that the violin was the most classic and versatile of instruments. He said he felt that it replaced the human voice. So, by adding a multitude of strings all at the same time; eight violins, ten violins, it was like having a choir behind you singing. That was Ray’s imagination saying I think we can create this sound and we are going to be able to duplicate a sound that will replace all these people. The violin is going to be the one to do that. I think that he was right.
TNB: Eddie Stubbs [WSM], during the recent tribute, pointed out that Ray carried on the tradition of the violin or the fiddle at a time when it was disappearing in Country Music.
JP: Well, you’re right. The old time fiddle was going away so Ray just changed it. Ray said it was the same instrument and it just sounds different depending on whose holding it and how you play it. Ray wanted to hear those beautiful voice-like strings and so that’s why he had them playing.
TNB: Wasn’t that a great tribute?
JP: I was there that night. I was backstage and they told me they just wanted me to come up and thank those involved and how much we appreciated them doing this tribute. I was sitting backstage and I was on the right hand side of the stage facing the audience where the podium was and Eddie Stubbs was standing there. I was just enjoying the show. It was a sad time for me because it had only been three and a half months since I had lost Ray. At the end of the show, Eddie said, “Now folks, I’ve got a real special person here tonight. I want you all to make her feel welcome. I want you all to say hello to Ray Price’s wife, Janie.” Well, it just scared me to death. I had no clue that he was going to ask me to come out on that stage. After all, that is the Grand Ole Opry isn’t it? told my sister my legs are just killing me. I cannot stand up and she said, “You better do something? Eddie Stubbs is standing there with his arm out wanting you to come out there.” I finally was able to get to my feet. I was out there and Eddie said,”Now Janie, I want to tell you somethin’.” Eddie told me the exact date in 1952 when Ray Price walked out on that very spot and made his very first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. Eddie told me the song he sang. Eddie said “What do you think about that?”
TNB: I bet that was a surprise.
JP: I was just dumbfounded. I didn’t know what to say. I don’t know why it came out of my mouth but, I said how old was I? Ray was twenty years my senior and I was just thinkin’ that I was just a kid. I said, “How old was I? Eddie said “Janie, a woman who will tell you her age will tell you just about anything.”
TNB: That was a good safe answer.
JP: All the audience just laughed and that relaxed me and it just made me laugh. Eddie said “Well, I just want you to turn to this audience and I want you to tell these fans out here what this album means to you and what Ray’s idea and plans were for this album.” I don’t know how I got through it but I just turned to the audience and I told them that Ray had pancreatic cancer and he had fought it for twenty five months. Before he left this world, he had made the decision that he wanted to do one last thing. He said I don’t want to just go home and sit down and die. I want to do something with the remaining days of my life and do something that is meaningful.
TNB: How did he get started?
JP: Ray picked up the phone and talked to Fred Foster. He asked Fred if he would be a part of it and he said”I would love to be a part of this!” Martina McBride, when she found out about it, she was just so thrilled at the chance to be on the album with Ray. She came over and sang on “An Affair To Remember” which is the song that I just begged Ray to record for so many years.
TNB: I think anybody would have jumped at the chance to work with Ray.
JP: It was just a combination of a dream that my sweetheart husband had. He wanted to have one last album before he left this world and it has been left in my hands to go out and do the promotion and do everything that Ray would have done and had every intention of doing.
TNB: It must have been a huge undertaking with his health issues at the time.
JP: Ray had developed some serious side effects and had some health problems that were caused by those reactions that we simply did not anticipate that pro longed his ability to take chemotherapy. It was during that period of time when Ray was recovering from those side effects to the medication that the cancer had spread pretty quickly beyond where we would not be able to do any treatment for it and he realized that he was not going to be here.
TNB: I bet that was a difficult situation, knowing that this would his final project.
JP: He wanted to be here so badly. He wanted to be a part of another hit record and to leave his fans with one last album. He dedicated it to all the people who supported him all these years. So, he asked me if I would step forward and do what he would have done. I told him I had never done anything like this before. He said you are just going to have to make yourself available. He said I have got the right people in place.
TNB: Ray was confident in your abilities.
JP: Ray said all you are going to have to do is what they tell you to do. I said but, I don’t know what to say. Ray said “I tell you what I want you to do. I want you to call my good friend Eddie Stubbs.” He said you ask Eddie, you tell Eddie that I want him to help you and give you support and to try to tell you how to handle these interviews. Ray said,”He will talk you through it” and he did. Eddie broke down and started crying when I told him what Ray said. Eddie Stubbs said “I would love to do that.” Eddie has spent many, many, many conversations on the phone in the beginning of this and giving me tips. I thought, I’m so lucky to have a master like Eddie Stubbs giving me pointers. Eddie is a big part of this. Eddie and Ray were close friends. Eddie Stubbs was closer to Ray than any other human being those last years of Ray’s illness and I know he called every week and talked with Ray as long as Ray was able to talk. When Ray could no longer talk, he started talking to me and Eddie kept an update with all his fans on his show on WSM. Eddie told Ray as long as I have a job and until they fire me, I am going to play a Ray Price song every time I am on the air.
TNB: What role has social media and internet played in helping to get the word out on this album?
JP: As you know, that is instant media and it just goes everywhere. It is worldwide. There is no limitation. Radio stations are limited as far as their signal will broadcast but internet is limitless. I have done several internet radio shows and they have gone all over the country and that has made a huge difference. It’s like it has opened up whole world. Now, that is hard for older people like us that are not accustomed. We think if we are texting on a telephone we are doing really good. These young people are becoming so computer literate and they just live on that internet. They do their entire life, business and everything on the internet so they are picking up on things. this morning when I was on WSM, Martha [Publicist] tweeted it on her account and Bill Cody did the same thing on WSM’s and Martha just posted “Janie Price is live on the air with Bill Cody and Charlie” and if you would like to listen, click on right now and within less than a minute there were 352 people on those lines in less than a minute. I don’t know how many people ended up listening to it but there were bunches of them. Ray loved the internet. Do I have time to tell you what he said about it?
TNB: Go ahead.
JP: Ray opened up his Facebook page and it was something that just thrilled him. Ray had no clue that so many people would join his Facebook page and so after it was posted, there were 118 people that had already clicked on it. Before our web designer got off the line we already had 500 people that liked his page.
TNB: One last question. The newer Country is really different. Do you find younger Country fans that are going back and looking for the roots and recognizing Ray Price for what he did?
JP: From what we are being told, that is what has turned this record around. That is exactly what is happening. Ray’s fan base was the same age and he was 87 years old when he passed away. We have lost so many of those people. How do we account for all this huge gigantic sales of Ray Price’s album? Well, these people all had children, who had children, who all now have children and they all have been raised on Ray Price’s music. And it has been handed down and now people like Ray Benson are talking this project on The Best of Texas. There are so many new young artists on there and they have brought in so much of the young crowd and there is a younger generation that is just falling in love with Ray Price. We wish he was here to see this because that was always his dream. He said “I have been the singer for all these old folks all these years and I would love it if the younger generation would start liking my music. That would thrill me to no end.” He said, “That would make this old man’s heart proud.” That is what has happened.
Message from Eddie Stubbs, WSM Radio and best friend of Ray Price-
“Ray Price was an extraordinary singer. He was a true vocal and musical stylist–an absolute American original. It was a special blessing to have known him for over twenty years. We did many, many interviews together over those years. There were numerous occasions that I drove four and five hours each way to see Ray in full-concert. I’ve never regretted a single mile of those travels. On-stage Ray Price was pure class–a term you rarely hear used to describe an act in any form of entertainment. He was a super-hero to me, and it was always a privilege to just to be in his presence.”
- Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN thenashvillebridgeathotmail.com