Personnel: Ray Price (vocals, guitar); Buddy Griffin (vocals, guitar); Grady Martin (guitar, nylon-string guitar); Thomas Williams , Benny Martin (guitar, fiddle); Jack Shook, Velma E. Williams Smith, Loren Otis Shook, Jerry Glenn Kennedy, Sherman Collins, Jimmy Rollins, Herman Wade, Jack Pruett, Hank Cochran, Hank Garland, Harold Bradley, Art Bishop, James "Jimmie" Selph, Johnny Bond, Leon Rhodes, Ray Edenton, Roger Miller , Roger Miller , Rusty Gabbard, Walter Haynes, Wayne Moss, Willie Nelson, Charlie Harris (guitar); Chet Atkins (electric guitar); Eddie Martin , James "Jim" Biggar, Jack Evins, James Day, Jimmy Day, Pete Drake, Buddy Emmons (steel guitar); Earl Scruggs (banjo); Paul Buskirk (mandolin); Byron Bach (violin, cello); Howard Carpenter, Wilda Tinsley, Roby I. Story, Vernal E. Richardson, Martin Kathan, Lillian Vannhunt, Solie Fott, George Binkley III, Brenton Banks (violin); Thomas Lee Jackson Jr., Dale Potter, Francis Keith Coleman, Gene Gasaway, Gordon Terry, Jim Belken, Johnnie Manson, Jerry Rivers, Johnny Gimble, Wade Ray, Grover Lavender, Cecil Brower, Buddy Spicher (fiddle); W.O. Collins (viola); E.A. "Highpockets" Busse (accordion); Milburn Winston "Bernie" Annett, "Papa" John Gordy, Floyd Cramer, William Whitney Pursell, Marvin H. Hughes, Harold Carmack, Owen Bradley, Hargus "Pig" Robbins, Gordon Stoker (piano); Farrell Morris (vibraphone, percussion, background vocals); Joe Zinkan (acoustic bass); Douglas Kirkham, Jimmy Dennis, Len "Snuffy" Miller, Robert E. Preston, William Paul Ackerman, T. Tommy Cutrer, Stephen F. Bess, Jan Kurtis Skugstad, Farris Coursey, Buddy Harman (drums).
Audio Mixer: Mark Wilder.
Recording information: Bradley Studios, Nashville, TN (03/15/1951-11/08/1966); Castle Studio, at The Tulane Hotel, Nashville, TN (03/15/1951-11/08/1966); Columbia Studios, Nashville, TN (03/15/1951-11/08/1966); Jim Beck Studio, Dallas, TX (03/15/1951-11/08/1966).
Illustrators: Lars Lundgren; Herman Wade; Darrell McCall & Johnny Bush; R.A. Andreas.
Photographers: Darrell McCall; Lars Lundgren; Herman Wade; Darrell McCall & Johnny Bush; R.A. Andreas.
Unknown Contributor Roles: Mark Wilder; Bob Jones .
Arranger: Ray Price.
The Honky Tonk Years (1950-1966) is an accurate title for this mammoth ten-disc set. Tracing Ray Price's career through his heyday in the '50s and stopping in the late '60s, just as he abandoned honky tonk for country-pop, the set documents one of the finest singers and bandleaders in country music. During this era, Price had a long, impressive string of Top Ten singles -- including "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes," "I'll Be There (If You Ever Want Me)," "My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You," "City Lights," and the massive hit "Crazy Arms" -- and led a band that featured, at various times, such musicians as Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck, and Roger Miller. Price and his band were talented enough to make weak material, which helps make this exhaustive set interesting; after all, there's bound to be a few lesser cuts in a box that runs over 260 tracks. Though the strict chronological session order is occasionally tedious, the quality of the music far outweighs the flaws in presentation. For serious listeners and musicologists, The Honky Tonk Years is an essential purchase, since it offers a complete picture of one of the biggest figures in country music. Neophytes and casual listeners, however, are advised to stick with the single-disc collection The Essential Ray Price, simply because it is far easier to digest. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine