Sunday, December 15, 2013 , Updated 5:40 p.m., December 16, 2013
UPDATED: USA Today, Rolling Stone published obituary before Ray Price died
He since passed away December 16.
Of this much there is no doubt: Ray Price, the 87-year-old Country Music Hall of Famer with the hillbilly’s heart and a crooner’s soul, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2012, and returned to his Mount Pleasant home only days ago to receive hospice care during his final days. But reports of his death today were premature.
[UPDATE: Price died December 16. Details here.]
Rolling Stone published Patrick Doyle’s obituary earlier Sunday; CMT published one as well. Then others, including USA Today, followed suit.
But it appears that information came from Price’s son Cliff via Facebook — information the Dallas resident has since retracted, according to The Tennessean, which likewise posted a death notice that has since been pulled from its website.
Shortly before 5 p.m., Janie Price, Ray’s wife, posted to Facebook a brief note that says only, “At this time our loveable Ray Price is still with. us. When it is the time there will be a official statement [from] Bill Mack.” Mack, of course, is the Fort Worth country-radio legend once synonymous with WBAP.
At 6:26 p.m., Mack told The Dallas Morning News that he’d just spoken with Janie, who told him her husband’s still alive.
“He’s fading rapidly,” says Mack, who notes that the cancer has spread into Price’s liver and lungs, but that he’s not in any pain. “She called me at 10 this morning and said he’s fading rapidly. I just spoke with Willie Nelson, who said, ‘I wish Ray would make up his mind.’”
Late Sunday evening Rolling Stone pulled its obit. Janie Price told the magazine that “he is still with us” at their Mount Pleasant home. She adds: “It’s been an honor to walk this road with him. It’s a sad day. We are losing a great man.” USA Today also retracted its obituary, adding the note that “reports that Country Music Hall of Famer Ray Price has died appear to be in error.”
The fact that Doyle reported Price’s death was perhaps how it spread like a virus: Only two days ago he wrote this piece in which Price reflected on one of country music’s most glorious — and underappreciated — careers, which began when the Perryville native cut his first record in ’49 on the Dallas-based Bullet label and signed to the mighty Columbia Records two years later, when he became close friends with Hank Williams.
As former Dallas Morning News and Austin-American Statesman critic Michael Corcoran writes in his obituary, Price grew up both in East Texas and in Dallas, “where his mother lived with her second husband, who owned a clothing business.” (In fact, Price graduated from Adamson High School, then joined the Marines.) As Corcoran notes, maybe that’s why Price’s songs — among them such immortals as “Release Me,” “Crazy Arms” and “For the Good Times” — were country songs with a big-city sound.
Price, who gave longtime collaborator Willie Nelson his start as his road-show bass player, remained closely tied to Dallas, joining the Big “D” Jamboree at the Sportatorium in 1949.
We will update if and when necessary.