Deep country cut of the day — Ray Price’s ‘Rose Colored Glasses’

The stone cold classic country contained within Ray Price’s 1965 rendition of “Rose Colored Glasses,” written by Deana Carter’s dad Fred Carter, Jr., has never been surveyed until now. The Cherokee Cowboy is seen above examining a single 45 record on December 12, 1959, as he chats by telephone to a friend. Price’s double-sided Columbia hit record, “The Same Old Me” [No. 1 C&W] b/w “Under Your Spell Again” [No. 5 C&W], was sitting comfortably atop Billboard’s country chart at the time. A framed copy of Price’s debut July 1957 studio album, “Ray Price Sings Heart Songs,” can be seen on the wall. Photography by Gerald Holly / The Tennessean

“A perfect kind of love is what you want from me, if I could I’d gladly give you more, but I know that I can never paint for you the rosy pictures you are searching for…you’re wearing rose colored glasses everywhere you go…” Ray Price effortlessly wrung every ounce of emotion from a lyric. It’s not much of a stretch to say that the cool Cherokee Cowboy was the Frank Sinatra of country music.

Credited with discovering both Willie Nelson and Roger Miller and even rooming with the legendary Hank Williams for a spell, the robust baritone notched a head-spinning 64 Top 20 C&W singles between 1952 and 1982, including “Heartaches By the Number,” “Crazy Arms,” “Night Life,” “For the Good Times,” and “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.”

He kept recording into the new millennium, landing his first Top Ten country album in nearly 30 years with the Last of the Breed Merle Haggard / Willie Nelson collaboration and touring rigorously until his death on December 16, 2013, from pancreatic cancer at age 87. A posthumous project entitled Beauty Is…The Final Sessions, Price’s first solo studio album in 12 years, concluded the Texan’s recording career in tasteful style.

A song nestled deep within the artist’s discography that deserves rediscovery is his 1965 rendition of “Rose Colored Glasses” — not the signature John Conlee country number unleashed a decade later. Never released as a single or even on a greatest hits compilation, “Rose Colored Glasses” is stone-cold classic country at its best.

The soap-opera inspired cover of “The Other Woman,” the ninth studio album released by Cherokee Cowboy Ray Price in September 1965. Image Credit: Columbia Records

Price was slowly dabbling his toes in the second phase of his recording career — that of a Nashville Sound embracing crooner. “Make the World Go Away” had stormed the charts two years earlier with its fleet of overdubbed strings, female chorus, Floyd Cramer’s slip note piano, and Price’s deceptively smooth, simultaneously pleading vocal.

Not all longtime fans were impressed by the stylistic departure, so in a sagacious move, the handsome troubadour appeased them by recording more honky tonk. By 1967 he plunged headfirst into chart-friendly, string-laden country pop when his “Danny Boy” cover sold well.

Written by noted Nashville session guitarist-producer Fred Carter, Jr. — father of “Strawberry Wine” balladeer Deana Carter — Price was the first artist to tackle the mid-tempo “Rose Colored Glasses” during a May 11, 1965 session at Nashville’s Columbia Recording Studio for his ninth album, The Other Woman. Roy Clark and David Houston later released hard-to-find versions.

It was Nashville’s golden age, and recording six compositions in one evening, as Price indeed did on that late spring evening, was a customary practice. Much of the legendary Nashville A-Team is present. Tommy Jackson, regarded as the first great Nashville session fiddler, kicks off the direct two and a half minute performance.

Steel guitar wiz Buddy Emmons conjures up a storm during the solo as stalwart drummer Buddy Harman, who appeared on virtually all of Elvis Presley’s studio output recorded between June 1958 and January 1968 in tandem with D.J. Fontana, maintains a two-step backbeat.

“My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You:” Country crooner Ray Price clutches a Gibson acoustic guitar and sports a Rhinestone encrusted Indian chief white suit in this circa 1957 candid. Image Credit: Columbia Records / Wrong Highway

Harold Bradley’s distinctive tic-tac bass completes the perfect Nashville rhythm section. Listen closely and you can hear the sweet jazz noodling of electric guitarist Grady Martin, yet another Presley studio sideman, buried somewhat in the mix.

The relaxed, atmospheric performance was no doubt stymied in part by producers Frank Jones and Don Law. The latter was Price’s right hand man at Columbia for over 25 years. Law also coordinated the vast percentage of another Columbia label mate’s iconic recordings. His name was Johnny Cash.

It’s difficult to determine who made the decision not to release “Rose Colored Glasses” as a single or accompanying B-side, since most of the participants are long gone or likely have no memory of the internal politics surrounding the album’s creation.

Two singles from The Other Woman were released to radio and did quite well — the No. 2 C&W title cut and the No. 11 “Don’t You Ever Get Tired [Of Hurting Me].” Maybe Columbia didn’t want to clutter the marketplace with an additional song from the album. The Other Woman was Price’s third album of original material released in 12 months. The label was well aware that sessions for their artist’s next album were just around the corner.

Regardless, “Rose Colored Glasses” cleverly presents a warning to anyone experiencing false pretenses about an idealized partner. And it’s perfect for dancing, especially if said participants are a tad apprehensive about busting out any flashy moves. Visit Amazon or iTunes to hear and/or purchase.

A weathered but still vocally commanding Ray Price was actively touring and recording when this circa February 23, 2010, portrait was captured some three and a half years prior to his demise from pancreatic cancer. Image Credit: The Estate of Ray Price / The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

© Jeremy Roberts, 2014, 2018. All rights reserved. To touch base, email jeremylr@windstream.net and mention which story led you my way. I appreciate it sincerely.

Retro pop culture interviews & lovin’ someone fierce sustain this University of Georgia Master of Agricultural Leadership alum. Email: jeremylr@windstream.net

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