Willie Nelson, whose early Nashville music career included playing bass in Ray Price’s band, paid tribute to his friend and former employer on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live Wednesday night with a sprightly version of Price’s Number Two country hit “Heartaches by the Number.” Delivered with his typically unorthodox phrasing, Nelson’s jazz-influenced vocals veer off from the original but the band nevertheless holds true to the shuffling beat.
A 1959 Number One pop hit for Guy Mitchell, “Heartaches” is among the 12 tracks on Nelson’s new album For the Good Times: A Tribute to Ray Price, which also features “I’ll Be Here (If You Ever Want Me),” “Crazy Arms” and “Night Life,” a Price hit penned by Nelson. Recorded at Nashville’s Ocean Way Studios, where Price crafted his final album, Beauty Is…, the LP was engineered by recent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Fred Foster, the legendary producer who signed Nelson to Monument Records in 1964. The Time Jumpers, the Western swing outfit featuring Vince Gill, are featured on half of the album’s cuts.
“Ray was as a close a friend as you could have,” says Nelson of the performer, who passed away in 2013 at age 87. “We traveled together, lived together, played music together, partied together … and had a lot of good times.”