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Music that never gets old

BY DAN WATSON | FEBRUARY 19, 2009 7:51 AM

In 1974, Joe Price was painting the flagpole at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City. He was nearly one-third of the way done when the height made him sick. Fed up with his day job, he climbed down the scaffolding and proceeded to walk down the highway, never to return to the undertaking. That was when he decided to follow his dream of becoming a professional musician.

A few years later, he met the woman he later married, now Vicki Price, while playing a gig in Waukon, Iowa. The couple will perform Friday at the Mill, 120 E. Burlington St., celebrating the release of Joe Price’s CD Rain or Shine, his first album since 2000.

Although the couple have been married for 25 years, Vicki Price didn’t tour with her husband until 2003, she said. Instead, she said, she stayed home in Lansing, Iowa, working as a photographer and graphic designer. After quitting her day job to tour with her husband six years ago, the two now perform around 125 shows a year across the United States.

“We usually begin touring around spring and go through the fall,” Joe Price said. “I’m ready to get on the road; I have cabin fever so bad I could scream.”

The two are known to have lengthy shows that run around four hours. He typically begins the show solo, singing and playing guitar, then she joins in around halfway through.

They have never recorded a CD as a duo. Instead, the couple write music separately and release individual albums, although they collaborate on each other’s CDs.

“What he writes is his, what I write is mine,” Vicki Price said. “But we are very honest with each other — I’ll put my input into his songs if I don’t think they are ready.”

Together, the two have spent more than half of a century in the music business, with both beginning to play guitar when they were young. Joe Price first picked up the instrument when his father gave him a guitar before joining the Marines in 1960, when Joe was 8 years old. Vicki Price began singing at her church when she was 4 years old because her mother was the organist; she began strumming a guitar a few years later.

When not recording in Nashville, the couple reside in Lansing. Vicki Price said she spends much of her time in Iowa promoting and booking gigs.

“Booking shows is quite a chore for Vicki,” Joe Price said. “But for little people like us, being able to sell CDs on the web and people seeing when are shows are, I notice that all these venues we play at are getting chuck-full with people.”

One key to a successful tour is to play at music festivals, he said, and when the couple are booked at a festival, they try to play as many gigs as possible in that area. They typically put approximately 40,000 miles on their raised-roof white van and alternate between driving and sleeping to make better time, they said.

As a seasoned veteran of the road, Joe Price knows a few things about touring and the musician’s lifestyle.

“I’ll still drink a couple Guinness during the shows,” he said. “But I’m 57 years old; I can’t be raising hell every night anymore.”


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