Price, born in Perryville, Texas, served with the U.S. Marines from 1944–1946, and began singing for KRBC in Abilene, Texas during 1948. He joined the Big D Jamboree in Dallas in 1949. He relocated to Nashville in the early 1950s, rooming for a brief time with Hank Williams. When Williams died, Price managed his band, the Drifting Cowboys, and had minor success. He was the first artist to have a success with the song "Release Me" (1954), a top five popular music hit for Engelbert Humperdinck in 1967.
In 1953, Price formed his band, the Cherokee Cowboys. Among its members during the late 1950s and early 1960s were; Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Darrell McCall, Van Howard, Johnny Paycheck and Johnny Bush, Buddy Emmons, Pete Wade, Jan Kurtis, Shorty Lavender and Buddy Spicher. Miller wrote one of Ray Price's classics in 1958, "Invitation to the Blues", and sang harmony on the recording. Additionally, Nelson composed the Ray Price song "Night Life".