Greetings from Asheville, where good music is always found on the turntable. This Classic 45 is an iconic piece of Country music, from an equally iconic vocalist. Ray Price is one of the greatest vocalists ever heard on vinyl. Few singers could successfully perform both hard country shuffle and lush country-pop arrangements. Ray did both spectacularly. Today’s Classic 45 remembers one of his classic hits from the shuffle era; “Crazy Arms”. Ray had been charting hit singles since 1952, but until 1956, he had yet to score a career-defining hit. “Crazy Arms” changed that.
“Crazy Arms” debuted in late May on Billboard, and early June on Cashbox. Within weeks, it was number one in both publications. The record spent eleven weeks atop both the Cashbox chart and Billboard’s Best-Seller list, and twenty weeks on top of Billboard’s Disk Jockey chart.
This is the record that kicked off the Ray Price Shuffle Sound, utilizing a 4/4 beat with a strong dose of steel guitar, fiddle, and what is called a walking electric bass. By the way, that sound also worked well with a ¾ beat, as the flip-side, “You Done Me Wrong” showed. It also made the top ten for Ray.
As for the origin of the song, there are at least three versions I’ve seen. Version one; some sources (including the “Classic Country Music Stories” Facebook page) say that longtime steel guitarist Ralph Mooney wrote the song with a Charley Seals, who eventually recorded the song, and Ray Price heard his version and decided to record it. A second version has Ralph writing the song, then selling it to Pep Records owner Claude Caviness, whose wife, Marilyn Kaye recorded it with another artist named Kenny Brown. Some sources, including Wikipedia, note that this record achieved some popularity in the Tampa area, and it was here that Ray was introduced to the song. And it is my understanding, that at least the latter part of Ray finding the song in Tampa, was confirmed by Ray.
A third version runs similar to the second but says that Ralph actually bought the lyrics from a ghost songwriter named Paul Gilley.
Whatever its exact origins are, it would become one of the greatest records in country music history.
We are saving vinyl, one record at a time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mike the Country Musicologist is a lifelong music and radio fanatic, lover of vintage agriculture, and big sports fan, including the Colts, Reds, Hurricanes, Pacers, Purdue & Butler Universities. He has collected records since childhood, and focuses on classic country and top 40 oldies music. He convinced Vincennes University to give him an Associate’s Degree in broadcasting. He’s worked for several stations in Indiana and North Carolina. Be sure to follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.