In honor of what would have been Ray Price’s 91st birthday (January 12), here’s a look at one of his most famous songs.
“For the Good Times” may be Price’s signature song but it was written by Kris Kristofferson. Kris wrote the first verse and chorus in 1968 while driving from Nashville to the Gulf of Mexico.
Though Ray first met Kristofferson when the latter was a janitor at Columbia Studios, the singer wouldn’t remember the songwriter’s name until he heard his “For the Good Times” demo between sets during an 1969 tour.
After opening with the line “Don’t be so sad,” the song becomes increasingly tragic, detailing the last moments of a failing relationship before winding down to the closing chorus, “Hear the whisper of the raindrops blowing soft against the window/And make believe you love me one more time/For the good times.” Price was immediately taken by these lyrics, but Columbia initially released his take on them as a B side for the honky-tonk “Grazin’ in Greener Pastures.” Nevertheless, by the end of 1970 “For the Good Times” had become the biggest country song of the year. The chart-topping hit from 1970 became a crossover hit, his first. It also scored a Grammy and Single and Album of the Year at the 1971 ACM Awards.
The song became a popular tune covered by many artists including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Jamey Johnson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dean Martin, Willie Nelson and Michael Jackson, who sang it for his mother at her 50th birthday party.
When Ray passed in 2013, many of his friends remembered their mentor and friend fondly, including Kristofferson: “He was as great a person as he was a singer, and I will never forget the Columbia Studio A filled with an orchestra with sheet music – unheard of in country music at the time – to record ‘For the Good Times,’ changing our lives and country music forever.”
Willie released an album in honor of his friend and former boss, titled For The Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price on September 19, 2016. (You can read about that release here.)
(Sources: Rolling Stone, Arts Nash)