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It's About Time

After 50 years of hits, Ray Price keeps shuffling along. Ray, 76, whos often credited with perfecting the shuffle rhythm singing style, is celebrating his half-century in music with a new album, appropriately titled Time.

And he feels the time is right for releasing a record of pure, traditional country. You dont hear a lot of that on the radio these days, he declares, relaxing at his home in Mt. Pleasant, Texas. I dont mean to sound like sour grapes, but thats the way it is.

Actually, he has little to be sour about. Ray scored eight No. 1 hits during his career, starting in 1956 with Crazy Arms, the song that made him a full-fledged star. Hes also considered one of the most influential singers in history, inspiring such stars as Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson.

Ray bolstered his legend by being a bit of a maverick. Though he built his reputation with country and honky-tonk tunes, he did a complete about-face in the late 1960s, recording lush pop ballads with full string backgrounds.

I took some hits for that, he laughs. Some of the disc jockeys around the country really laid it on me for doing that. Some of them wouldnt play my records, because they said Id left country music. But I did all right.

Did he ever! Rays smooth sound produced such chart-toppers as the classic For The Good Times and Youre The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me. The hits kept coming through the 1980s, and, in 1996, Ray was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

People thought I might stop once I got in the Hall of Fame, reveals Ray in his trademark Texas drawl. But I still do about 100 shows a year. And I have the new record, which is getting a nice reaction. One of these days, though, Ill definitely quit.

When he does, it wont be for health reasons. Im still in good shape, he confides. Last year, it was reported that Id had a heart attack, but that was completely wrong. I had a little bout with my blood pressure, and Im still trying to get that settled down. He lets loose a hefty laugh. Everything else seems to be working OK!

Working continues to give him a kick. There are more albums I want to record, including a religious album, he explains.

As long as people seem to like what I do, Ill keep doing it.

Bob Paxman