Ray Price married Janie Price (nee Phillips) on June 11, 1970. They were together almost exactly 43 and a half years before the country music legend passed away on Dec. 16, 2013, after a long battle with pancreatic cancer.
For the anniversary of Ray Price’s death, Janie Price spoke with Preshias Harris about her husband’s music and legacy, as well as about what life without Ray has been like for her.
[Preshias] – Ms. Janie, were you able to be in the studio with Ray? And if so, what was a happy memory and what was a sad memory?
[Janie] – Well, I did not go to the studio with him. He did not want me in that studio with him. Now, I had been with him in every session he had ever had before, and I couldn’t figure out, why do you not want me there? And he said, well, honey, I’m going through this cancer, these treatments, and he said, I really think if you are there you are going to distract me. And he said I’ll be focusing on you, and I really have to put every bit of effort that I have into this project.
[Preshias] – How did Ray go about finding songs to record for the album, and how did they narrow them down?
[Janie] – Well, Fred Foster sent Ray a collection of songs, once they had decided the type of a concept that he wanted to do, and so Ray found the very first song “Beauty Lies In The Eyes Of The Beholder”. And once he found that song, Ray did the same thing with this album that he did with every other album, he did what he called concept albums. And he told Fred Foster, he said, I want songs that are comparable to this, that have the same — run in the same vein, that have the same story line behind them. So that’s how all of these love songs came about, is that they are all about two people who have been together for a long time and who love each other so much. And this is his way of showing this person how much they care for them after all of these years.
[Preshias] Who are some of the legends that appear on the sessions?
[Janie] – Well, of course the first one who is on Beauty is none other than Vince Gill himself. Vince said that he was a young guy learning how to sing harmony, and he said the way he learned was by listening to Ray Price. So his dream was to always be able to sing harmony with Ray Price. So Vince was the very first one who asked to be on the project.
[Preshias] – What was the hardest part of this journey you promised?
[Janie] – Getting out of that house. Just getting out of the house after Ray passed away. He passed away December 16, 2013, and it was April 13th, 2014 before I left that house. And I woke up one morning and I heard Ray Price’s voice as crystal clear as we’re speaking today, he said get out of this bed and keep your promise to me. And I hopped up out of that bed and I got up and I went out and I did what I had promised him I would do. I promised him that I would step into his place, and I would do anything that he would have done to promote this new album. And so that’s what I’ve been doing.
[Preshias] – Have you met some fans that you knew that these are exactly the people that Ray recorded this album for?
[Janie] – I absolutely have. I have met hundreds and hundreds of these people, and these are the people who are Ray Price fans. Absolutely, I’ve met them all.
[Preshias] – Is there one [fans] that stands out?
[Janie] – Oh, absolutely, you just know they are a Ray Price fan. I mean, how do you describe a Ray Price fan? I have to think about that. (SHORT PAUSE) There is a particular thing about a person when they approach me. There’s a look in their eye, there is a warmth about them. It’s actually like you go to a family reunion and a family member you haven’t seen for a long time approaches you, and you recognize them and you see them coming, you say, oh, I’m so glad they are here. That’s the feeling I get when these people come toward me. And when they touch me it is like family. I feel that, I feel it. And I feel the transference of their emotions from Ray to me. And I realize —— see, Ray said, “You are going to be the closest thing to me that people are going to have to reach out and touch.” And I didn’t know what he meant. He said, “Promise me you will make yourself available to them”. When I went to that thing April the 15th at Hastings in Tyler when we had the debut of the album, the fans started coming up and hugging me and touching me, and I understood exactly what he meant, and that was the reason.
[Preshias] – Was this [the album debut] the pivotal moment?
[Janie] – Yes it was. That was the pivotal. That was what turned me around, and that’s when I agreed to come on out and do this. They didn’t get a chance to say good—bye to Ray. And these people, that’s what they are doing, I can feel that. It’s just like he’s a family member, and they did not get to tell him good—bye. And that’s what they are saying to me, they are able to tell Ray good—bye by hugging me, and I just love it. I’m falling in love with everybody.
[Preshias] – Were you worried about his health during the recording?
[Janie] – Yes. The first question you asked me, was I able to come to the sessions, and I told you I was not able, that is what happened. I was terrified when he was away from me, and I was worried to death about him. Because I watched every little nuance, every little thing that happened with him, because with pancreatic cancer you start having complications and one little thing can get out of kilter and you will move into a serious situation if you are not paying attention. And that was what I was so worried about with him, because I knew exactly what he was supposed to eat, what he was supposed to avoid. His water consumption, he was required to have 64 ounces of water a day. Well getting 64 ounces of water down Ray Price was like taking a mule and forcing it to drink. But when he was at home he got it, but when he left me he didn’t drink it. And so I was worried, I always worried about him. But he always —— Ray and I stayed in touch constantly. When he was away from me, we were not away, because he was on that cell phone.
[Preshias] – Were you on your cell phone calling to say, okay, time to check in?
[Janie] – He called me all day long, I mean all day.
[ Preshias] – What is your favorite song on the album and why?
[Janie]- Well, they are all my favorites, but my very favorite is the one, of course, that I just literally begged and begged him to record, and that is “An Affair To Remember”. He finally relinquished it, he recorded that song for me. So, that’s my favorite.
[Preshias] If you could tell the fans, in words, what they meant to Ray, what would you say to them?
[Janie] – My God. I would tell Ray Price’s fans that they meant everything to him. His fans were what was the motivating force that had him get up and get out of that house, and get on that bus and go do concerts, and go do television shows, and come up here and record in Nashville, it was for his fans. Ray Price felt an obligation to his fans, and let me tell you how deep that goes. I’ll try to do this in less than a hundred words. When Ray and I were —— I was very young when Ray was 20 years older than me when we got married. And I was just a typical young bride, and I was jealous of my husband. All of these girls coming up to him and coming on to him, and I’m thinking, well he’s my husband. So Ray took me aside and he had a talk to me. And he told me, he said there’s something you need to understand, he said, every person that comes up to me is a fan of mine. And he said, I want you to remember that it is the fans who have bought every bite of food I’ve ever eaten, every car I’ve ever driven, every home I’ve ever lived in, every bit of gas I put in my car. He said, my fans are the ones who have supported me my entire life, and they are getting ready to support you, and I want you to always remember that. Don’t you ever, ever be jealous or afraid for a fan to come up to me or to you. And so I understood what he was talking about, and that changed my idea of how people approach him. Of course I loved him and knew —— you know how young brides are, we all want to just be the most important person in our husband’s life, but I was never able to be that person because I always had to share him. Always. And his fans came first in his life, they did. I was first, but as far as —— in God’s sense.
[Preshias] – In the God sense?
[Janie] – Yes, in the God sense. But Ray Price loved his fans; he appreciated his fans more than anyone out there will ever know. They will never know how much he appreciated. I’m talking one single person that went out and bought one single record of his meant more to him than a thousand people saying oh, Ray, I love you. He was dedicated to those fans, and he felt obligated to them. And Ray was one of those artists, when a concert was over, he would go and sit down at an autograph table, and Ray Price never left that table until every single, solitary person in that line who wanted an autograph got their autograph from him.
[Preshias]- Has the album helped ease the hardship of your grieving?
[Janie] – Oh, honey, thank you for asking me that question. Without this project, I think I would have probably just gone on and joined Ray. I promise you, I was ready to go. I did not think I was going to live beyond those first two weeks. The morning I woke up after he had passed away, I honestly felt like I was actually slipping away.
[Preshias] – Was it in a dream form?
[Janie] – It was not right. And I actually felt a pulling. I did, I haven’t told anyone this, but I felt a sense of being pulled out of my body. And I just wanted to go with him.
[Preshias] – Do you know why?
[Preshias] – It’s because when you made your vows, God joined you as one.
[Janie] – Ah.
[Preshias] – So he took the one soul. Took this soul, and it was joined —— the other soul was still here on Earth. It’s really hard trying to separate a soul, when it’s “Vowed in marriage and emotion.” And that’s why you felt that way. Because the word soul mate means something.
[Janie] – That’s what we were.
[Preshias] – I know that.
[Janie] – That’s what we were. And without this project —— it saved me. It saved me. It probably saved my life.
NOTE: The Country Music Hall of Famer’s last musical offering, Beauty Is … The Final Sessions (Amerimonte Records) garnered a unique Honorable Mention on Billboard.com’s The 10 Best Country Albums of 2014 list and grabbed the #1 spot on TheNashvilleBridge.com’s Top 10 Albums list. The album debuted at #22 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums chart, giving Ray his highest solo appearance on that chart in over three decades.
Ray Price’s phenomenal musical legacy leads off 2015 with a new single at Country radio, continued exposure via ESPN commercials, a TV tribute, “Best Of” accolades and more. The Sonny Throckmorton-penned classic, “I Wish I Was 18 Again,” resonates with emotion and Price’s incomparable vocal. Previously a Top 40 for the inimitable George Burns, the song is given new life – and insight with Ray’s interpretation. The single landed as ESPN-TV continued airing College Football Playoff ads sound tracked by Price’s “For The Good Times” and Country’s Family Reunion Tribute To Ray Price aired on RFD-TV. For more on Ray Price, log on to www.beautyisrayprice.com.