Before wild pigs took over the Texas countryside—and then headed for the suburbs—and before the wildly successful Ford Mustang made its debut 50 years ago, Ray Price brought a new beat to dance halls.
The Beat Goes On
Visit any honky-tonk in Texas and you’ll likely hear the legacy of Ray Price. The bandleader, who died in December at 87 with a string of hits to his credit, is best remembered for a 4/4 walking bass beat—dubbed the Ray Price Sound—that’s a standard of boot-scootin’ tunes today.
He formed the Cherokee Cowboys in the 1950s, and the band eventually included such future stars as Willie Nelson, Johnny Paycheck and Roger Miller. Price, who was born in Perryville in Wood County and grew up in Dallas, produced hit after hit on the charts. He added a citified sensibility to country music, pioneering the popular “countrypolitan” sound that bridged pop and twang but made purists frown.
“He was probably the first outlaw,” Merle Haggard told The Associated Press after Price’s death in December. “He was out there fighting for what he believed and doing it his way, and being criticized and all that. I remember when he laid the guitar down and started hiring violin players and all that, and everybody thought he was crazy. Crazy like a fox. He knew what he was doing.”
The Ford Mustang made its debut April 17, 1964, at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York, and immediately started a stampede at dealerships across the country. Ford forecast annual sales of about 100,000 cars, but on the first day alone, 22,000 Mustangs were sold. The list price was $2,368.
In Garland, outside of Dallas, 15 customers wanted the one Mustang on the lot, and the highest bidder insisted on spending the night in the car until his check cleared.
Southern Methodist University football lore suggests the team inspired the sports car’s name. After the Mustangs played the only game against Michigan in school history, in 1963, Ford executive Lee Iacocca supposedly visited the SMU locker room and told the losing team, “After watching the SMU Mustangs play with such flair, we reached a decision. We will call our new car the Mustang. Because it will be light, like your team. It will be quick, like your team. And it will be sporty, like your team.”
Iacocca neither confirms nor denies that story, which SMU included in a news release about the school scheduling a game at Michigan in 2018.
By the Numbers: 1539
This is the year Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto introduced pigs to the continental U.S. After wandering around the southeastern U.S. in search of gold, his party in 1542 brought 700 pigs into what would become Texas. Today wild pigs number in the millions in the state and wreak havoc on the landscape. See “Here a Pig, There a Pig.”