Forgotten Artists: Kenny Price (1931-1987)

Paul W. Dennis | June 2nd, 2009

Fans of the long running television show Hee Haw may remember Kenny Price. He played various roles in Hee Haw’s skits, including the over-protective father of a pretty teenage daughter (whose suitor, Billy Bob, did not meet his approval), a backwater sheriff and a country bumpkin lounging on the lawn in front of the general store. He also appeared in two of the regular musical spots, the “Gloom Despair and Agony” snippets and the glorious Hee Haw Gospel Quartet segment wherein Kenny, Grandpa Jones, Buck Owens and Roy Clark would lend their talents to old-time gospel favorites. Many viewers considered the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet to be their favorite portion of the show. He also appeared as Kenny Honey, the father on the spin-off Hee Haw Honeys and hosted a travel show on TNN called Wish You Were Here with his wife Donna.

Unfortunately, few today remember Kenny Price as a country music recording star for Boone and RCA records. A solid journeyman performer, known as ‘The Round Mound of Sound,’ he charted 34 singles during his 15 year chart run, but never had a number one record or a sustained run of top ten records.

Standing six-feet tall and weighing well over 300 pounds, Kenneth James Price is remembered by fellow performers and fans alike as one of the nicest individuals to ever sing a country song. Born near Florence in Boone County, Kentucky, he was raised on a ranch and learned to play the guitar when he was only five. Initially at least, Price aspired to be a farmer but eventually he changed the focus of his endeavors. He got his start in 1945 playing on WZIP-Cincinnati and over the next few years, played a few dates in the Kentucky-Ohio border area. Uncle Sam called in 1952 and Price spent the next two years in the military. While stationed in Korea, he auditioned for a USO show. By the time he was discharged in 1954 Price had decided on music as a career and studied briefly at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. From there he appeared on Midwestern Hayride at WLW-Cincinnati and by 1957 was appearing on Hometown, a Cincinnati television show hosted by Buddy Ross. Meanwhile, in 1955, he issued two singles on the “X” label (an RCA subsidiary) called “Cold Hearted Love” and “Worryin’.” Neither single charted.

Nearly nine years passed before Price again landed a recording contract, this time with Boone Records, out of Boone, NC. After four non-charting singles he finally hit it big with his third single, “Walking on the New Grass,” which cracked the Top 10 in 1966–as did his next single “Happy Tracks.” While none of his following Boone singles charted in the top ten nationally (“Southern Bound” came close), they did well enough in regional markets to land him a recording contract with RCA. Moreover, RCA thought highly enough of him that they purchased the masters for his two albums on Boone and reissued them as his first two RCA albums.

The first RCA hit was achieved in 1969 when “Northeast Arkansas Mississippi County Bootlegger” reached #17. This was followed by two more top ten hits in “Biloxi” (#10 in 1970) and “The Sheriff of Boone County” which reached #8 at the end of 1970 and appeared briefly on the pop charts (the song was inspired by a series of amusing Dodge automobile commercials). After that, Top 10 success eluded Price, although he did have a few more minor hits. His tenure with RCA ended in late 1975, but he kept busy when Hee Haw beckoned in 1976. He remained a member of the cast until his death in 1987.

Discography

CD
Nothing of Price’s solo work is available on compact disc except possibly for stray album tracks on multi-artist anthologies. At various times recordings of the Hee Haw Gospel Quartet have been available on CD, most recently by Time-Life. These CDs feature Price on most of the tracks.

Vinyl
Two albums were issued on Boone, One Hit Follows Another and Southern Bound–the songs on these two albums were reissued on RCA, although not necessarily together on the same album, on the first two RCA albums Happy Tracks and Walkin’ On New Grass.

Starting in 1970, RCA issued new material:

The Heavyweight (1970) generated no hits but contained a nice selection of current Nashville songcraft, including “Last Song I’m Ever Gonna Sing,” which later became a staple of bluegrass artists such as Jimmy Martin. Other tracks include “Green Green Grass Of Home,” “Shortest Song In The World” (it runs about 15 seconds), “Who Do I Know In Dallas,” and “It’s Such A Pretty World Today.”

Northeast Arkansas Mississippi County Bootlegger (1970) includes the title hit plus covers of “Brown- Eyed Handsome Man” (a recent Waylon Jennings hit cover of a Chuck Berry song) and a version of the rarely covered Roger Miller hit “Tomorrow Night in Baltimore.”

A Red Foley Songbook (1971) covers a bunch of the recently deceased Red Foley’s best loved songs including “Tennessee Saturday Night,” “Midnight,” “Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy,” “Old Shep,” “Sugarfoot Rag” and the gospel classic “Peace In The Valley.”

Sheriff Of Boone County (1971) includes the hits “Sheriff Of Boone County” and “Biloxi.”

Charlotte Fever (1971) includes the title song and recent hits “Me And You And A Dog Named Boo,” “Ruby (Are You Mad),” “Workin’ Man Blues,” “Jody And The Kid” and “For The Good Times.”

Super Sideman (1972) includes the title track (which also was a track on the previous album) the amusing track “Dr. Feelgood” plus some more covers.

You Almost Slipped My Mind (1973) features the title track (later a #1 record for Charley Pride) plus some covers “Woman (Sensuous Woman),” “San Francisco Mabel Joy,” “Hot Rod Lincoln” and some filler.

Sea Of Heartbreak (1973) is my favorite Kenny Price album as Kenny covers songs written by or recorded by the legendary Don Gibson. Truth be told, Kenny’s version of the title track is my favorite version of the song as is his version of “Blue Blue Day.” Other tracks are “Give Myself A Party,” “(I’d Be A) Legend In My Time,” “Far Far Away,” “Don’t Tell Me Your Troubles,” “Sweet Dreams,” “Just One Time,” “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” and “Oh Lonesome Me.”

30 California Women (1973) includes the title track plus the really amusing “Bumper Sticker Song.”

There is one more RCA albums plus some post-RCA albums, but none of them are as good as the albums referenced above. If you like Kenny’s voice you’ll find something to like on them, but unless you can find them cheaply, I’d pass.

1 Ping

  1. [...] “Sea of Heartbreak” – Kenny Price (1972) From Kenny’s Don Gibson tribute album, this fine recording only reached #24 but is my favorite version of the song. (See the Forgotten Artist article for more on Kenny Price) [...]
  1. Patrick
    June 2, 2009 at 4:13 pm

    I knew Kenny very well, and he was a sweetheart…every bit as nice as he appeared to be on tv. He loved to laugh and he LOVED his wife and family.
    I never thought he got his due record-wise, but that’s the way it happened.
    By the way… you said none of his next Boone singles charted nationally, but you are mistaken. “Pretty Girl, Pretty Clothes, Pretty Sad” peaked at #26,
    “Grass Won’t Grow On A Busy Street” reached #24, “My Goal For Today” #11,
    “Going Home For The LAst Time” #31….and THEN came “Southern Bound”
    which made it to #37 Two more Boone singles tanked….then he moved to RCA.

    Thanks for your remembrance!

  2. Paul W Dennis
    June 2, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    You are correct – I meant to say “While none of his following Boone singles charted in the top ten nationally, they did well enough …”

    To show you the disparity between the various charts of the time, “Southern Bound” went #12 on Record World, did not chart on Cashbox and “My Goal For Today” only reached #19 on Cashbox.The other songs you listed all did worse on Cashbox than on Billboard

    I never got to see Kenny Price in person, but I know several musicians who worked with him, plus I’ve met Roni Stoneman. All had nice things to say about Kenny

  3. Mrsandy
    June 2, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    “a version of the rarely covered Roger Miller hit “Tomorrow Night in Baltimore.” Actually, Kenny Price wrote that song and his release preceded Miller’s.

  4. Jeff
    June 5, 2009 at 1:06 pm

    Another great forgotten artist. “Sea of Heartbreak” is a really fantastic song.

    Check out some other rare and forgotten American artists on Lost Gold Records at http://www.lostgoldmusic.com

  5. Peggy Canard
    June 5, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    I would like to hear Mel Tillis sing more of his songs on this radio station. A Fan of Mel’s Fan Club

  6. TERRY
    June 6, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    I AM A HUGH FAN OF KENNY PRICE I HAVE ALL OF HIS ALBUMS BUT ONE. I MET KENNY IN THE AIRPORT IN GREENSBORO,NC JUST 2OR 3 YRS. BEFORE HE DIED.HE WAS IN THE GIFT SHOP LOOKING LIKE THE SADIST PERSON IN THE WORLD WHEN I WALKED UP TO HIM AND ASKED FOR HIS AUTOGRAPH. AT THAT MOMENT HE LIT UP AND WAS SO HAPPY THAT SOMEONE KNEW HIM .PEOPLE CAME FROM ALL OVER THE TERMINAL FOR PICTURES AND AUTOGRAPHS.HE WAS A VERY NICE PERSON .HE EVEN CHANGED HIS CONNECTION FLIGHT SO HE COULD TALK WITH MORE PEOPLE.

  7. David B
    July 30, 2009 at 11:43 am

    I heart Kenny singing, “Walking On New Grass” on “THE ROADHOUSE” the other day. It was great. I had never heard him sing before, other than with the Hee Haw Quartet. I grew up in the 1980’s and I do not remember him doing any solo work on Hee Haw. He was always doing comedy or with the gospel quartet.

  8. Nancy
    August 9, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Patrick, Could you tell me what his parents names were. Kenny lived in Pendleton County, Kentucky, and graduated from the Morgan High School.

  9. Linda
    October 24, 2010 at 8:31 pm

    Back in 1984 I saw Kenny Price sing “If I Just Had You” on Hee Haw. I have found out that it was a single on Jewell Records but I cannot find much else about it.
    I would like to hear it again, it was beautiful.
    does anyone know where I can buy it?

  10. Allen
    November 6, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Does anyone know about the tv show, Wish you were here? if you can find it anywhere on dvd?

  11. Joyce Foley
    November 6, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    The Boone County Historical Society is trying to locate Kenny’s daughter believed to be living in Cincinnati, OH. We want to do a program on him. Any information would be appreciated. 11/6/10

  12. Linda
    November 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    I finally found the record I have been looking for since 1983,”If I Just Had You” by Kenny Price.
    I have purchased the record and would gladly share it via email to anyone wanting to hear it.
    Email Linda @ jimbolin@ptsi.net

  13. luckyoldsun
    November 21, 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I never heard of the guy.
    But on “Sea of Heartbreak” he sounds a lot like Waylon.

  14. Dorothy
    February 8, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    does anyone have the Kenny Price song “Children and Birds Fly Away”?

  15. Tom Nichol
    April 24, 2012 at 11:10 pm

    I met Kenny during the NARAS Summer Seminar in 1971, right after I graduated from high school–either then, or during a college class in “Production and Studio Techniques” I took at George Peabody College a couple of years later. He was extremely nice. I specifically remember hearing his “Bumper Sticker Song” while we were at the old RCA Studio B, and it just cracked me up! By any chance does anyone know how I could get a copy? I’d also like to get a hold of his rendition of “Naughty Girl”–it’s a side-splitter!

Tagged In This Article

// // // // // // //

Current Discussion

  • luckyoldsun: Dwight's had so many great songs. From memory, I'd have to name "Bakersfield" with Buck Owens, "Guitars, Cadillacs," "Nothing" and …
  • Scooter: Thanks Jonathon. Downloaded "Last Chance for a thousand years" and love it. Was unaware of that album.
  • Donald: The correct answer is of course, "Bury Me."
  • Leeann Ward: As far as I know, I have all of Dwight's albums. It's truly impossible to choose a favorite song, but …
  • Michael: I wonder if Kasey Chambers will be visiting Dr. Gwen Korovin for treatment of her vocal cords...
  • Dave D.: Just about any song off of Dwight's first three albums would qualify as a favorite; forced to pick one I'd …
  • Jack Williams: No. Not Owner of a Lonely Heart. I was hoping for better when I saw the article title …
  • Russ Morris: My introduction to Dwight was This Time. Every song on that album is my favorite. I'm playing 3 Pears in …
  • Jonathan Pappalardo: Favorite Dwight Yoakam song? Too darn tough to choose! I do love his second Greatest Hits album, though, featuring his …
  • Ken Morton, Jr.: The inferiority complex of the CMA never ceases to amaze me.

Recently Reviewed Albums

  • deadmanstown
  • tom t hall storytellers
  • paulthorntooblessed
  • duhksbeyondtheblue
  • kelleymickwee
  • sandrarhodes
  • candi staton
  • sturgillsimpsonmetamodern