When is it time to say goodbye?
Entertainers as great as Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra had a tough time knowing when it was time to step out of the spotlight. With some acts, the ticket-buying public decides for them.
Wayne Newton is 67 and calls his Tropicana show “Once Before I Go.” His singing voice has been strained for more than a decade, and he hints of retirement.
But Mr. Las Vegas is ever the showman, and who knows? He could follow his USO work into a Bob Hope format, introducing younger talent in a variety show.
Ray Price turns 84 in January. Unless something happens to the singer between now and Friday, the indestructible country great will sing “Make the World Go Away” at Boulder Station for his eighth time in 10 years.
That’s fairly remarkable when you think of how many octogenarians still sell tickets in Las Vegas. There’s Don Rickles, Tony Bennett — and that’s about it.
But with Price, it’s especially impressive after a rough summer. “I had colon cancer real bad and they took out almost all my colon,” he says. “It was a pretty tough operation, but I’ve been doing rehab three times a week. I got my strength back real fast.
“I’m not over the operation yet,” he adds. “It’ll take a year to get over to get my energy back right. But I’m back enough where I’m doing good shows.”
Like Bennett or Ralph Stanley, Price is more valued as an elder statesman than he often was in his journeyman years. “For the Good Times” was a pop hit in 1970. But it was harder then for an act to cross over from the country charts, where Price had 80 hits.
Two years ago, Price teamed with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson for the “Last of the Breed” tour at Planet Hollywood. Price came out and opened the show with an extra 40 minutes.
Now they’re talking about a reprise of the tour. And he may do some shows with an orchestra or big band next year. “It’s kind of up to other forces, but I’m going to stay as long as I can still do it and do it good.”
But what about the big question: How will he know when it’s time to step down?
“The minute I don’t do it good or my voice starts going, so do I,” he says. “I’m not gonna subject my fans to that.”
Does he trust his own judgment? “I have to. I’m the one that’s gotta do the work,” he says. “My family would tell me in an instant. But I’ll know, I won’t have to worry about it.”
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at email@example.com or 702-383-0288.