Noted Arranger Sheldon Kurland Passes

Sheldon Kurland, known throughout the Nashville music community as a session musician and as the leader of The Sheldon Kurland Strings, died Wednesday, Jan. 6 at age 81.

He can be heard on such hits as “Last Cheater’s Waltz” by T. G. Sheppard, “Rose Colored Glasses” by John Conlee, “Everything is Beautiful” by Ray Stevens, “When I Dream” and “Half the Way” by Crystal Gayle, “Happy Birthday Darlin’” and “I May Never Get to Heaven” by Conway Twitty, “I Wish I Was 18 Again” by George Burns, “Fancy Free” by The Oak Ridge Boys, “Dreaming My Dreams” by Waylon Jennings and “I Wouldn’t Have Missed it for the World” by Ronnie Milsap.

He worked on recording sessions for virtually every country star in Nashville. Clients included Loretta Lynn, Kris Kristofferson, Dottie West, The Browns, Hank Locklin, Eddy Arnold, Reba McEntire, Michael Johnson, Willie Nelson, Ed Bruce, Bobby Bare, Con Hunley, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Jack Clement, Hank Snow and many more.

Kurland’s contributions extend to the pop-music world, as well. He is on Jimmy Buffett’s Changes in Attitudes Changes in Latitudes LP, England Dan & John Ford Coley’s “Nights Are Forever” and Bob Dylan’s Self Portrait, as well as recordings by Donovan, James Galway and Amy Grant. He not only appeared on Comes a Time by Neil Young, he also toured with the rock superstar.

The New York native was classically trained at Julliard. He came to Nashville in 1964 to teach at Peabody College, but was soon playing sessions. He formed The Sheldon Kurland Strings in the 1970s and was featured on The Johnny Cash Show in 1969-71 and again in 1976, sometimes wearing a jacket with “Julliard” spelled out on the back in rhinestones.

Two of his children have become prominent in Nashville entertainment. Daughter Amy Kurland founded The Bluebird Café. Son Peter Kurland runs the Darkhorse Theater. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced. Check back with MusicRow for updates.


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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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