Willie Nelson has written many memorable country songs. But when he wrote "On The Road Again," he captured the essence of what it must have been like in the early days when he toured with Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys. "Like a band of gypsies we go down the highway...going places that I've never been before...seeing places I may never see again...'making music with my friends...just can't wait to get on the road again."
On TNN's "The Life and Times of Ray Price," Ray recalled how Willie joined the band:
“I had a publishing company with some other fellows called Pamper Music, and we heard about Willie and his songwriting. And we hired Willie to go to work at Pamper. Willie had a family and he needed more work. And I needed a bass player. And, of course, he worked for me for a long time. We were real close friends and always have been. And he became well-known. So, hooray for Willie.”
Ray Price seemed to be always stepping in to give work to men who had families, like Willie, and needed more work--or like Roger Miller, who had a pregnant wife to support and had temporarily left his own budding career to go to work for the Amarillo Fire Department. As many of his fans know, Ray Price has a big and generous heart.
But Ray's objectives in the two cases above were, of course, also in his own interests. Miller and Nelson were men of immense talents, and Ray had the innate genius to recognize--even before they became famous--what an asset these men--and others like them-- would be to the Cherokee Cowboys.
Ray had high standards for membership in his elite band. There were two requirements, according to him.
“The first requisite is, he has to be a great musician...and the second requirement is, he’s got to match that with his personality. That’s it.”
But Willie was far more than just a good musician with a great personality. His songwriting talents, like those of Roger Miller, would produce hit songs, not only for Ray, but for himself and for many other stars in the years to come. A decade or so later, Ray officially recognized this fact in his album entitled "A Tribute to Willie and Kris." This featured some of the hits that Willie Nelson had written and that Ray had sung--"Night Life," "The Healing Hands of Time," "Crazy," "I'm Still Not Over You," and "Funny How Time Slips Away."
Ray and Willie have also made several albums of music together over the ensuing years. "San Antonio Rose" in 1980 was a particularly outstanding one.