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The Legends Of Western Swing

Legends Festival Banner with River Road Boys

Miss Gloria

The Legends Of Western Swing Music Festival 2005

Including Interview with 
Ray Rice 

With dedicated hard work, Mrs Gloria Miers presented the 18th annual Legends Of Western Swing Music Festival at the Multi-Purpose Event Center, Wichita Falls, Texas over the 2nd - 4th June 2005. Some of the best western swing bands from Texas and New Mexico gave three days of stunning music for the thousandsRiver Road Boys on Stage of fans who attended this three day event to either sit and enjoy the music or two-step the hours away on the dance floor.

This year's Legends Of Western Swing Music Festival paid tribute to one of the most prolific songwriters in the country music genre…Miss Cindy Walker. A true living legend, Cindy Walker has penned over 1,000 songs during her career, recorded by stars of the calibre of Bing Crosby, Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, Roy Orbison, Cher, Perry Como, Ray Charles and a host of country artists too long to mention from Roy Rogers and Tex Ritter to the likes of Eddie Arnold, Merle Haggard, George Jones and everyone in-between. The recording artist most noted for the songs written by Cindy Walker is the iconic western swing bandleader Bob Wills who along with his Texas Playboys recorded some 50 of Cindy's songs. Just a few of those songs that are now classed as western swing standards include, "You're From Texas" (1944 Top 3 hit), "Cherokee Maiden", "Dusty Skies", "Miss Molly", "Bubbles In My Bear" (1948 Top 5), "New Playboy Rag" and "Warm Red Wine". Other country classics include "When My Blue Moon Turns To Gold Again", "Going Away Party", "Sugar Moon", "China Doll", "Blue Canadian Rockies", "Distant Drums", "In The Misty Moonlight" and oh!!! so many, many more wonderful songs. Cindy Walker wrote all 39 songs performed in the eight movies Bob Wills made with Columbia Pictures and was inducted into Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1997.

Miss Cindy WalkerOver the three-day period from midday - midnight, eleven different bands gave two performances each, plus two more bands played for the diners during the hour-long break for refreshment (Texas Sand and the Lone Star Troubadours). The Legends Festival saw the famous Bob Wills Texas Playboys with Tommy Allsup & Leon Rausch, Clyde Brewer with the River Road Boys, (home of the famous Nocona boot company) Nocona's own legendary Bill Adams & In The Mood featuring Susan Riley on vocals, Tom Morrell & The Time Warp Tophands, Bobby Flores & His Yellow Rose Band, Dave Alexander & His Big Texas Swing Band, Jody Nix & The Texas Cowboys, from New Mexico Ted Scanlon & The Desperados, Wichita Falls own Eddie McAlvain & The Mavericks and Dugg Collins & The Brazos Valley Band, while the whole festival was compared by the renowned Mike O'Daniel and Larry Scott.

Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1996, a true legend in his own right at the age of 79, the critically acclaimed Ray Price drew a full house on the Thursday with his velvety vocals and band The Cherokee Cowboys thrilling the crowd with two electrifying sets. Ray registered seven country #1 hits during his Bill Adamscareer. Between 1954 and 1974 he amassed a total of 64 US country chart hits with only 11 that failed to make the Top 20 and 13 crossed over to the pop charts. Many of the songs he is known and loved for were there. Starting both sets with Bob Wills "New San Antonio Rose", he gave us "Crazy Arms", "City Lights", "For The Good Times" (#1 1970) which Price received a Grammy for in 1971, "You're the Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me" (#1 1973), Willie Nelson's "Night Life" plus the song Ray announced that goes back to "B H" (Before Humperdinck)…" Release Me" (#6 1954). Ray Price finished both sets with a tribute to his good friend from the early days…Hank Williams and "Mansion On A Hill".

Following the afternoon show a congenial Ray Price signed autographs for a long line of fans and then found time to invite me onto his tour bus for an interview and talk about his career, with Ray spending several minutes telling me about his great passion as a racing pigeon fancier. Though he doesn't race his pigeons he does keep several for the sheer pleasure of their plumage and breed. In September 2004 Ray Price had a heart attack while in Houston and needed hospital treatment.

It's a real pleasure to meet you Ray…I believe that you had a little bit of heart trouble last year. Can I just ask how you're doing now?

Jody Nix"Well I'm doing fine, I didn't have an operation…they put a stint in one of the blood vessels and I've been doing just great!!!"

That's good to hear.

"You've got to just hang in there!!! Ha, Ha, Ha"

You've had a wonderful career that came in two parts. You started out with The Cherokee Cowboys dressed in the western gear and then you started to dress more in a dinner suite or tuxedo that changed your career. What period did you most enjoy in your career.

"Well I still do the country. And I still call my band The Cherokee Cowboys. The only thing I did was add strings to the country songs. Strings have a way of blending with voices, because they are close to voices themselves. I took a lot of heat for it for a while, but everything turned out, everything's great."

But that was how country music was going, as today it was going towards the pop side in those days.

"Yeh, Yeh. Country mus ic was still the same. What you hear as country is rock 'n' roll and they use country to sell it. And at the time…it broke loose for these big radio stations that owned most of the audiences. And at that time they just blew everything away and wouldn't let any of the old ones in. But it hasn't changed anything; they're going out too. I understand that England doesn't like that new country sound!"Ray Price on stage

On the whole No! It has a following with the younger audience, but the majority of fans still want the traditional sound.

"Well I have nothing against the music, but they should stop calling it country. It's just a poor rock 'n' roll."

I believe that you wrote a lot of the music that you sang.

"No that's a misnomer! Only one or two. Willie [Nelson] wrote a lot of them; Willie was in the band for a long time. Willie, Johnny Paycheck and Roger Miller…they were all in the band and it's their songs and Hank Cochran's songs."

Hank and Willie were part of Sony Tree publishing house for many years.

"Well see, I owned the publishing company they were in, Pamper Music. Then they sold it to Tree and it became their big catalogue, so they've done really well with it."

How did you get into the publishing business?

"A friend of mine, or a fellow that I met out in California…. Claude Gavness said I've got a great song for you and I recorded it………it was a great hit "Crazy Arms". He said I'm the publisher and I'd like to know if you'd like to go into the publishing business with me. So I said yeh I'd go into it. What we'll do is…if we can give a third to a fellow I know to run it, because I can't run it either. So we did and it was a Cinderella story…a huge success!!!"

Well I believe that "Crazy Arms" is the best loved of the songs that you did…particularly in Britain and especially with me.

"It's a great old song!!! I did it in 55…it knocked Elvis off the number one spot and I think stayed up there for twenty Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboyssomething weeks on #1and my first million seller. And the first cross-over song in the industry I guess, but I'm not sure."

It must be a great achievement to knock Elvis off number one!!!

"Well Elvis and I were real good friends! So it was kind of fun, when he was real hot and it done goes without saying that Elvis was Elvis. But I just happened to have a song that was strong enough to take the plays. And I wish I'd had a bunch like that!!!"

You were also good friends with Hank Williams in your early days. How did you get to know Hank?

"Hank got me on the Grand Ole Opry and I was with Hank the last year of his life. I've done a couple TV interviews with the BBC in London that they've been showing over there. Hank was a fine feller…it was just had a tragic life was all."

More recently, I believe you have a new album.

"I've got one recorded and Willie's on three of the songs with it. And last year Willie and I were nominated for a Grammy with one of the albums and this year…right now we are in the throws of getting this thing set, so we'll be coming up with a new album. That'll be first one in a long time besides the one Willie and I did."

Will there be any new songs on it?

"No they're all old hits…they are all my old friends that's gone! That what the album's about…it's a tribute to them."

Your playing at the Legends Of Western Swing Music Festival at Wichita Falls, which is a small hometown festival. And it's wonderful to see in a festival of this size.

"Oh!!! Iclose up of Ray Price enjoy it! I've played Wichita Falls for many, many years. It's one of my favourite places. I played here last year with the sheriff's convention, but this year is the first time I've got to play for the people in a long time…and I enjoy it. I have a lot of fans out there."

Is there anything else in the future they we should be looking for?

"I don't know…maybe some videos. And maybe a lot of work in Europe. I'm hoping!!! I want to get over before I'm just too old and can't work. I'd like to play England and I believe Sweden's great for country music and Ireland of course. I'm just hoping to get over…we'll just have to wait and see!!!"

We'll look forward to seeing you!!! It has been a real pleasure meeting to you and talking with you.

"Yeh!!! Me too. I'd like to say Hi to everybody in England and maybe someday I'll get to come and sing for them….that's what I'd like to do!!!"

We'll look forward to you coming over….thanks very much.

"You Bet!!!"

Ray Price one of the nicest artists that I've interviewed in a long time was the hit of the event at Wichita Falls. The Legends Of Western Swing Music Festival takes place again over 15-16-17 June 2006. I highly recommend going to the Legends festival. And just what does Miss Gloria have up her sleeve for next year??? We will just have to wait and see!!!

Graham Lees August 2005