As a new year gets underway, we pause to recall those members of our community who passed away during 2011.
Country Music Hall of Fame members Charlie Louvin and Ferlin Husky are in our memorial. In addition to Louvin, the Opry cast lost Mel McDaniel, Billy Grammer and Wilma Lee Cooper. Louvin is also a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, which also lost Don Wayne. Other songwriting greats now gone include Harley Allen, Liz Anderson and Charlie Craig.
Three of our senior legends died during the past year. Wade Mainer was 104, Johnnie Wright was 97, and Doc Williams was 96.
The Charlie Daniels Band lost two alumni, Tommy Crain and Taz DiGregorio.
Many beloved Music Row business figures are also no longer with us, including Steve Popovich, Charlie Fach, Don Butler, Ron Baird, Barbara Orbison and Bill Johnson.
The music that these folks left behind will live forever.
GEORGE L. YATES, 73, died Dec. 31, 2010.
Member of the R&B group The Imperials, who charted with “Who’s Gonna Love Me” in 1978. Later, the lead guitarist in the Nashville R&B band The Endeavors.
JEAN KELLER HEARD, 86, died Jan. 2.
Former performer with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. As the wife of Chancellor Alexander Heard, she was Vanderbilt’s “first lady” and was instrumental in merging The Blair School of Music with the university in 1981. Mother of Blair violin professor Connie Heard. Mother-in-law of award-winning classical bassist Edgar Meyer, who is also a Blair faculty member.
KENNY EARL WINKLER, 68, died Jan. 4.
Guitarist in the local rock ‘n’ roll groups The Counts, The Chessmen and Key Largo.
JOHN GILBERT TEMPLETON, 53, died Jan. 7.
Copy writer, producer and creative director for the Nashville ad agencies Carden & Cherry and Buntin Advertising, as well as Music Row’s Film House. Also a drummer in the local rock bands 1969 and Trucking Blues, among others.
MARGARET WHITING, 86, died Jan. 10.
Pop star who was teamed with singing cowboy Jimmy Wakely for a series of highly successful duets, namely “Slipping Around” (1949), “Wedding Bells” (1949), “I’ll Never Slip Around Again” (1949), “Broken-Down Merry-Go-Round” (1950), “The Gods Were Angry With Me” (1950), “Let’s Go to Church Next Sunday Morning” (1950), “A Bushel and a Peck” (1950), “When You and I Were Young Maggie Blues” (1951) and “I Don’t Want to Be Free” (1951). “Slipping Around” made her the first woman to have a No. 1 hit on the country charts. Among the first pop stars to record the songs of Hank Williams. Also had a pop hit with Cindy Walker’s “Dime a Dozen” (1949). Original singer of the standard “Baby It’s Cold Outside” (a 1949 duet with her mentor, Johnny Mercer).
DUGG COLLINS, 67, died Jan. 11.
Country DJ and western-swing bandleader. Active at various stations in Oklahoma, then a fixture on he air in Amarillo, TX for many years. Following a stint at KFDI in Wichita, KS, he retired and returned to Amarillo in 2008. CMA DJ of the Year in 1967. Performed in Dugg Collins & The West Texas Express for 34 years. (real name: Fred H. Collins).
GENE ROBERTS, 82, died Jan. 12.
Bluegrass and country radio broadcaster for more than 50 years. He broadcast on such Midwestern stations as KCLC and KDHX.
TOMMY CRAIN, 59, died Jan. 13.
Lead guitarist for The Charlie Daniels Band from 1975 to 1989. He played on more than 20 albums with the group and co-wrote over 60 songs with it, including the Grammy Award winning “The Devil Went Down to Georgia.” One of the most influential musicians in Southern-rock music. Formerly in The Flat Creek Band and Buckeye.
JOE FORRESTER, 91, died Jan. 16.
Country performer of the 1930s and 1940s who worked with Bill Monroe, Gene Autry, Art Davis, Georgia Slim and others on WSM, KVOO (Tulsa), KRLD (Dallas) and elsewhere. Brother and former bandmate of the late bluegrass fiddler, longtime Roy Acuff band member and Music Row booking agent Howard “Howdy” Forrester (1922-1987).
TEDDIE PALMER MARTIN, 96, died Jan. 19.
Member of the pioneering country recording act The Palmer Sisters. Last surviving participant in the landmark “Bristol Sessions” of 1927, Victor Records’ legendary “Big Bang” birth of country music that discovered both Jimmie Rodgers and The Carter Family
JIM WILLIAMSON, 75, died Jan. 20.
Noted Music Row studio engineer who recorded Merle Haggard, Bob Dylan, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and hundreds of other stars. He manned the controls for producers such as Owen Bradley, Don Law, Ken Nelson and Billy Sherrill.
LAMAR FIKE, 75, died Jan. 21.
Member of Elvis Presley’s so-called “Memphis Mafia.” Presley’s transportation coordinator. Road manager for Brenda Lee in 1961-62. Ran the Nashville operation for Hill & Range Publishing in 1963-1972. Presley’s lighting director in Las Vegas in the 1970s. Later an assistant to Nashville producer and label executive Jimmy Bowen, notably at Capitol Records in 1989-1995. Co-author of Elvis and the Memphis Mafia (2005). Appeared in the documentaries The Elvis Mob (2004) and All the King’s Men (1997).
BOBBY POE, 77, died Jan. 22.
Rockabilly artist who performed with Big Al Downing and Wanda Jackson with his band The Poe Kats. In the 1960s, he became a manager, notably of the band The Chartbusters. Also the publisher of Pop Music Survey, a radio tip sheet with its own annual convention. In 1996, he opened the Grand Grove Opry theater in Oklahoma. Member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Kansas Music Hall of Fame.
BUDDY CHARLETON, 72, died Jan. 25.
Renowned pedal steel guitarist. A member of Ernest Tubb’s finest band of Texas Troubadours, 1962-73. Session musician for Jack Greene, Loretta Lynn, Cal Smith, Jean Shepard, Porter Wagoner, Faron Young and more. Designer at Sho-Bud Guitars. Later a pedal-steel instructor who taught Bruce Bouton, Pete Finney, Bucky Baxter, Tommy Dettamore and many others. Member of the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. (real name: Elmer Lee Charleton).
CHARLIE LOUVIN, 83, died Jan. 26.
Country Music Hall of Fame member as one-half of The Louvin Brothers with Ira Louvin (1924-1965). The team was noted for such 1950s hits as “When I Stop Dreaming,” “I Don’t Believe You’ve Met My Baby,” “You’re Running Wild,” “Cash on the Barrel Head,” “My Baby’s Gone.” “Hoping That You’re Hoping” and “Knoxville Girl,” many of which he co-wrote. After the duo’s 1963 breakup and brother Ira’s 1965 death, Charlie continued as a solo artist and Grand Ole Opry member. His solo hits included “See the Big Man Cry” (1965), “I Don’t Love You Anymore” (1964), “Hey Daddy” (1968) and “Think I’ll Go Somewhere and Cry Myself to Sleep” (1965). He also had hit duets with Melba Montgomery, including “Something to Brag About” (1970) and “Did You Ever” (1971). An all-star tribute album to the music of the Louvin Brothers earned two 2004 Grammy Awards, and Charlie Louvin enjoyed a revival in the Americana field in 2007, as well as his own Grammy nominations. (real name: Charlie Elzer Loudermilk).
DOC WILLIAMS, 96, died Jan. 31.
Longtime superstar of the Wheeling Jamboree on WWVA radio, 1937-2003. Record store, publishing company and Wheeling Records label owner in West Virginia. Leader of his band The Border Riders. Versatile and durable stylist who performed cowboy, polka, bluegrass, honky-tonk, folk, pop and ethnic songs. Popularized “The Cat Came Back,” “Willie Roy the Crippled Boy,” “Roses Are Blooming,” “Silver Bell,” “My Old Brown Coat and Me,” “Mary of the Wild Moor,” “Polka Dots and Polka Dreams” and others. Publisher of a widely popular 1942 guitar-instruction book that remains in print. Star of two Country Moods PBS TV specials in 1976-77. Governor-proclaimed “West Virginia’s Official Country Music Ambassador of Good Will.” Particularly popular in New England, Canada’s Maritime provinces and Pennsylvania, as well as West Virginia. Published autobiography Looking Back in 2006. Doc and his singing late wife Chickie (“Should You Go First and I Remain/Beyond the Sunset”) (1919-2007) were inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2009. Their grandson, Andy McKenzie, became the Mayor of Wheeling. (real name: Andrew John Smik Jr.)
DON BUTLER, 80, died Feb. 3.
Member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Executive Director of the Gospel Music Association for 15 years, 1976-1991. Began career as a gospel singer in such groups as The Marksmen, The Revelaires, The Ambassadors, The Statesmen and The Sons of Song. Voted “Mr. Gospel Singer of America” in 1958. Former administrator of the publishing catalogs of J.M. Henson, Faith Music, Abernathy Music, Stamps Quartet Music and Gospel Quartet Music. Former business administrator for both The Blackwood Brothers and the Stamps Quartet. In 1964, he co-founded the GMA. In 1970-75, the head of the booking and management firm The Sumar Talent Agency. Producer of the GMA’s Dove Award TV specials as well as of the syndicated TV shows Singing Time in Dixie and Glory Road. Former Nashville and national officer of The Recording Academy. Former board member of The W.O. Smith Community Music School, the Nashville Music Association and the Nashville Entertainment Association. Author, composer, record producer and music educator.
RON BAIRD, 60, died Feb. 3.
Founder of CAA’s Nashville office and its head in 1991-2004. Formerly a booking agent at the Good Music Agency, 1975-77, and at The Jim Halsey Company, 1977-88, where he booked Roy Clark, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Judds, Ronnie Milsap, Brenda Lee, Conway Twitty, Don Williams and Dottie West, among many others. At CAA he oversaw the touring careers of Clint Black, Billy Dean, Alan Jackson, Toby Keith, Shania Twain, Barbara Mandrell, Martina McBride, Reba McEntire and more. Performance magazine’s Country Agent of the Year in 1996-98 and Pollstar’s in 1999. President and Chairman of the Board of the Country Music Association in 2002-03.
RAMSEY CASTEEL, 29, died Feb. 3.
Associate manager at Mike Robertson Management. Formerly with Force Inc., The Firm, The William Morris Agency and an intern at MCA Records.
BUD REED, 93, died Feb. 12.
Guitar, harmonica and banjo accompanist. Husband and picking partner of the late mountain-music stylist Ola Belle Reed (1916-2002). They recorded for the Rounder and Folkways labels in the 1970s, and he had a solo Jimmie Rodgers tribute CD on the latter imprint in 1982. In the 1960s, the Reeds built and ran the New River Ranch country-music park in Rising Sun, MD and were the house band for Sunset Park in West Grove, PA.
RINEKE VAN BEEK, 57, died Feb. 14.
Dutch country music journalist who wrote for Country Gazette for decades. A familiar face at Fan Fair and during CMA awards presentations, she was a tireless international flag waver for country music. Honored by the CMA in 2005 with its Wesley Rose International Media Achievement Award.
DANNY WINCHELL, 84, died Feb. 16.
WAMB radio show host, pop singer, magazine publisher, record producer and music promoter. He had a 1952 pop hit with “Carolina in the Morning” and reportedly co-produced 1961’s No. 1 hit “Blue Moon” by The Marcels. Performed in Nashville in the pop trio Moonlight & Memories with vocalists Lisa Webb and Carole Shaw, the latter of whom is the mother of singer-songwriter-producer Victoria Shaw.
VICTORIA CONTRERAS, 61, died Feb. 17.
Singer in the Christian-music trio The Emeralds. Organizer of the Larry Butler Golf Tournament and the Hori Pro Golf Tournament, both of which benefited Belmont University’s music-business students. Wife of song plugger Juan Contreras.
GERALD “RED” ROBERTS, 78, died Feb. 17.
Fiddler and lead guitarist with Connie & Babe and The Backwoods Boys for 35 years. The group recorded for Rounder Records.
CLAUDIA PAYNE, 64, died Feb. 22.
Canadian country recording artist, noted north of the border for 1981’s “Cheatin’ Songs” and “Two Sides to Every Story.” (real name: Claudia Delia Payment).
ENOCH SULLIVAN, 79, died Feb. 23.
Fiddler and leader of Alabama’s gospel-singing Sullivan Family. Among those who passed through the influential group were Marty Stuart and Carl Jackson. In 2005, The Sullivan Family received the IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award and the Alabama Folk Heritage Award.
MILLARD PRESSLEY, 88, died Feb. 25.
Bluegrass recording artist for the King, RCA and Blue Hen labels.
A. FRANK WILLIS, 60, died Feb. 27.
Canadian country entertainer known as “The One-Man Band from Newfoundland.” His biggest hit was 1979’s “Take Me As I Am.”
JOHNNY PRESTON, 71, died March 4.
Texas singer of such hits as “Running Bear” (1959), “Cradle of Love” (1960) and “Feel So Fine” (1960). “Running Bear” featured “Indian” chanting by George Jones and J.P. Richardson (The Big Bopper). The song was written and produced for Preston by Richardson and later became a No. 1 country hit for Sonny James in 1969. (real name: Johnny Preston Courville).
RICHARD LEE OWENS, 59, died March 8.
Lead guitarist for the local rock band The Jaguars.
BILL MYRICK, 84, died March 12.
Guitarist for Bill Monroe and later the host of the NPR Internet bluegrass show Silvergrass and Purple Sage.
TODD RUSSO, 55, died March 13.
Lighting director and production manager who spent several years with the Tim McGraw tour and later worked at Production Impact in Albuquerque, NM.
DAVID DEESE, 69, died March 13.
Banjo player who was an alumnus of The Arthur Smith Show in North Carolina, of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, Red Smiley’s band, The Jones Brothers, The WBT Briarhoppers and Betty Fisher’s band.
TODD CERNEY, 57, died March 14.
Grammy nominated and ASCAP awarded pop and country songwriter whose catalog includes “I’ll Still Be Loving You” (Restless Heart), “Good Morning Beautiful” (Steve Holy), “No Mercy” (Ty Herndon), “Don’t Play That Song Again” (Brush Arbor), “I Never Looked Good in Blue” (The Kendalls), “Til I Get Used to the Pain” (John Anderson) and cuts by artists as diverse as Lynyrd Skynyrd, Etta James, Cheap Trick, The Four Tops, Jason & The Scorchers, Levon Helm, Aretha Franklin and The Whites. Member of the Nashville Mandolin Ensemble. Former Music Row studio backup singer. Husband of Nashville media personality Kip Kirby.
DICK CRAWFORD, 81, died March 16.
Nashville bluegrass fiddler.
CARLTON HANEY, 82, died March 16.
Member of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. Over Labor Day Weekend in 1965 at Fincastle, VA, he staged the first multi-day bluegrass festival in history. He ran the New Dominion Barn Dance in 1956-64, booked Bill Monroe in 1953-55, managed Reno & Smiley in 1956-65 and published the national periodical Muleskinner News for decades. Also worked on the landmark 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Promoter of shows for Porter Wagoner, Loretta Lynn, Merle Haggard, Conway Twitty, The Osborne Brothers and more. Featured in the 1971 movie Bluegrass: Country Soul. Co-writer of the 1961 Reno & Smiley novelty hit “Jimmy Caught the Dickens (Pushing Ernest in the Tubb).” Once dubbed “The P.T. Barnum of Country Music.”
FERLIN HUSKY, 85, died March 17.
Country Music Hall of Fame member who charted more than 50 titles between 1953 and 1975. He also recorded as “Terry Preston” and as a comic alter ego named “Simon Crum” on such light-hearted hits as 1955’s “Cuz Yore So Sweet” and 1958’s “Country Music Is Here to Stay.” His hit making began with 1953’s “A Dear John Letter” and “Forgive Me John,” duets with Jean Shepard that launched both artists’ radio careers. His biggest subsequent hits included “I Feel Better All Over” (1955), “Gone” (1957, his biggest pop-crossover smash and regarded as the first true “Nashville Sound” recording), “A Fallen Star” (1957), “Draggin’ the River” (1959), “Wings of a Dove” (1960, his biggest all-time country hit), “The Waltz You Saved for Me” (1962), “Timber I’m Falling” (1962), “I Hear Little Rock Calling” (1966), “Once” (1966), “Just for You” (1968), “Heavenly Sunshine” (1970) and “Sweet Misery” (1971). Formerly a member of the Grand Ole Opry cast. One of country’s most prolific B-movie makers, he was featured in nearly 20 of them, including Country Music Holiday (1958), Mr. Rock & Roll (1958), Las Vegas Hillbillies (1966), Hillbillies in a Haunted House (1967) and Swamp Girl (1971). He was also prominent on TV, beginning with hosting Hometown Jamboree in L.A. in 1951. He made several appearances on NBC’s Kraft Television Theatre in the 1950s, reportedly replaced Arthur Godfrey as the host of CBS’s Talent Scouts in 1958 and guest starred on he programs of Steve Allen, Ed Sullivan, Rosemary Clooney, Mike Douglas and many others. Husky was an early career booster of Tommy Collins, Dallas Frazier and Buck Owens. In later years, he performed frequently in Branson, MO and opened a “Wings of a Dove” museum at Twitty City in Nashville. As a concert entertainer, he is considered to be the top showman of his era.
AASHID HIMONS, 68, died March 19.
Leader of the Nashville reggae group Afrikan Dreamland. Star of the long-running cable-access TV show Aashid Presents. Creator of Nashville’s first long-form video. Recorded more than 30 LPs, cassettes and CDs in reggae, blues, world-music and new age styles. Featured in a number of country videos and in the independent films Circle of Fault and Existo. Founder of Nashville’s Society of Black Artists (SOBA). Formerly “Little Archie,” the lead singer of the r&b bands The Majestics and The Parliaments, which recorded for the Fern, Sue and Dial Records labels.
RALPH MOONEY, 82, died March 20.
Co-writer of the 1956 Ray Price standard “Crazy Arms.” Steel guitarist noted for his work on 1960s discs by Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. A 20-year member of Waylon Jennings’ band The Waylors, Mooney contributed significantly to such Jennings “outlaw” albums as Dreaming My Dreams, Honky Tonk Heroes, Ladies Love Outlaws, Lonesome Orn’ry and Mean, Are You Ready for the Country, Waylon Live, I’ve Always Been Crazy and This Time. He can also be heard on the 1978 Waylon Jennings / Willie Nelson hit duet “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.” Mooney also recorded with Johnny Cash, Neil Young, Wanda Jackson, Wynn Stewart (“It’s Such a Pretty World Today”), Donna Fargo, Jessi Colter, Tommy Collins, Earl Scruggs, Hoyt Axton, Marty Stuart and many others. Member of the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame.
GARY ALLEN TANNER, 47, died March 21.
Nashville sound engineer.
SAM LITTLETON, 73, died March 22.
A 20-year broadcasting veteran of WSM, The Grand Ole Opry and WSMV-TV in Nashville. Also served stints at WGNS in Murfreesboro, WMC in Memphis and WBIR in Knoxville.
JILL FRANCIS HUDSON GREEN, 65, died March 26.
Radio-industry veteran with 35 years at the Tennessee Association of Broadcasters and formerly with WKDA.
TERRY SUMSION, 64, died March 26.
Canadian country recording artist, whose signature song was “Our Lovin’ Place.”
BILL GRIGGS, 69, died March 29.
Founder of the Buddy Holly Memorial Society.
HARLEY ALLEN, 55, died March 30.
Nashville singer-songwriter responsible for “Rollin’” (Garth Brooks, 1995), “Everything I Love” (Alan Jackson, 1997), “Between the Devil and Me” (Alan Jackson, 1998), “The Little Girl” (John Michael Montgomery, 2000), “The Baby” (Blake Shelton, 2003), “Tough Little Boys” (Gary Allan, 2003), “If Nobody Believed in You” (Joe Nichols, 2004), “My Last Name” (Dierks Bentley, 2004), “Awful Beautiful Life” (Darryl Worley, 2007), “I’ll Wait for You” (Joe Nichols, 2007) and “Like My Dog” (Billy Currington, 2011). BMI’s Country Songwriter of the Year in 2005. Two-time Grammy winner as a member of The Soggy Bottom Boys on the film soundtrack O Brother Where Art Thou. The group’s “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” was the CMA Single of the Year in 2001. Duet partner of Dierks Bentley on the Grammy-winning 2003 CD Livin’ Lovin’ Losin:’ The Songs of the Louvin Brothers. His “Me and John and Paul,” as recorded by The Grascals, was the 2005 IBMA Song of the Year. Between 1970 and 1995, he recorded 16 albums as a bluegrass artist. In addition to dozens of bluegrass acts, his songs have been recorded by George Jones, Linda Ronstadt, Don Williams, Josh Turner, Gene Watson, Billy Currington, Hal Ketchum, Kathy Mattea and many other country stars. Son of Bluegrass Hall of Fame member Red Allen (1930-1993).
MEL McDANIEL, 68, died March 31.
Grand Ole Opry star with a long string of hits on Capitol Records. His biggest included “Gentle to Your Senses” (1977), “God Made Love” (1978), “Louisiana Saturday Night” (1981, his first top-10), “Right in the Palm of Your Hand” (1981), “Preaching Up a Storm” (1981), “Take Me to the Country” (1982), “Big Ole Brew” (1982), “I Call it Love” (1983), “Let it Roll” (1985, written by Chuck Berry), “Stand Up” (1985), “Stand on It” (1986, written by Bruce Springsteen) and “Real Good Feel Good Song” (1988). His 1984 No. 1 hit “Baby’s Got Her Blue Jeans On” was nominated for both a Grammy and a CMA Award. Also notable as a songwriter, he co-wrote “God Made Love,” plus Conway Twitty’s 1978 hit “The Grandest Lady of Them All.” His “Goodbye Marie” was a hit for Bobby Goldsboro in 1981 and for Kenny Rogers in 1986. Hoyt Axton popularized McDaniel’s “Roll Your Own.”
GIL ROBBINS, 80, died April 5.
Former member of the folk group The Highwaymen, 1962-64. Later the manger of the famed Greenwich Village folk club The Gaslight.
COYOTE McCLOUD, 68, died April 6.
Pop-radio broadcast personality in Nashville for more than 30 years. He served on-air stints at WMAK, WYHY, WZPZ and WRQQ. The first off-camera voice for CMT. Leader of “The Zoo Crew” on Y-107 as the city’s first “shock jock.” Last notable gig was as co-host of “Coyote and Cathy in the Morning” on WMAK-FM and WRQQ. That show ended in 2006. Writer-performer of the novelty song “Where’s the Beef?”
RANDY WOOD, 94, died April 9.
Founder in 1947 of the mail-order giant Randy’s Record Shop in Gallatin, TN. The shop advertised on 50,000-watt WLAC selling r&b records to white teens, setting the stage for the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. Founder in 1950 of Dot Records, the label that brought pop fame to Pat Boone, Gale Storm, The Hilltoppers, The Dell-Vikings, Jim Lowe, Tab Hunter and The Fontane Sisters. The label’s country successes included Jimmy C. Newman’s 1954 hit “Cry, Cry, Darling” and 1957’s “A Fallen Star,” Mac Wiseman’s early bluegrass favorite “Tis Sweet to Be Remembered,” Bonnie Guitar’s 1957 “Dark Moon,” Leroy Van Dyke’s 1957 “The Auctioneer” and Sanford Clark’s 1956 “The Fool.” Wood sold Dot to Paramount in 1957 and moved to California to continue serving as its president until 1967. Dot was re-branded as a country label in 1968 (Donna Fargo, Roy Clark, Tommy Overstreet, Joe Stampley, Hank Thompson). It became ABC-Dot on Music Row in 1974 (Freddy Fender, Barbara Mandrell, The Oak Ridge Boys, Don Williams) and was discontinued at the start of 1978. On the West Coast, Wood co-founded Ranwood Records with bandleader Lawrence Welk.
STAN HEDGES, 54, died April 13.
Known as “Stan the Man,” a blues musician in the Nashville bands The Mojo Men, The Businessmen, Hal Newman & The Mystics of Time, Chicago Charlie Fink & The Mighty Rib Bones and Two Mule Parade.
ROY EDWARD BURRIS, 79, died April 19.
Former drummer in Merle Haggard’s band The Strangers. Co-writer of The Hag’s iconic 1969 hit “Okie From Muskogee.”
JIM DICKSON, 80, died April 19.
Songwriter, bass player, artist manager, photographer and producer of The Byrds, The Dillards, Gram Parsons, The Flying Burrito Brothers, Clarence White, The Hillmen, Hamilton Camp, The Gosdin Brothers and others.
HAZEL DICKENS, 75, died April 22.
Acclaimed mountain folk/bluegrass stylist. Noted for her work in the Rounder Records duo Hazel & Alice, which influenced and inspired Emmylou Harris, The Judds, Alison Krauss and others. Her songs were featured in the Oscar-winning 1975 documentary Harlan County USA and she appeared in the 1987 coal-mining movie Matewan. The documentary Coal Mining Women and the feature film Songcatcher also included her songs. Among those who recorded her feminist and coal-mining compositions are New Riders of the Purple Sage, The Johnson Mountain Boys, Dolly Parton, Kathy Mattea, X, Bobby Osborne, James King, The Lynn Morris Band, Cherryholmes, Hot Rize, Delia Bell, Dry Branch Fire Squad and Laurie Lewis. Member of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, Folk Alliance Lifetime Achievement awardee and a 2008 recipient of the National Heritage Award from the NEA. The first woman to receive an IBMA Award of Merit. Co-author of her 2008 autobiography Working Girl Blues.
NORIO OHGA, 81, died April 23.
Developer of the compact disc. Former president and chairman of Sony, 1982-95. Also an opera singer.
HUEY P. MEAUX, 82, died April 23.
Houston-based record producer, label owner and colorful entrepreneur. Among the hits he launched are “Before the Next Teardrop Falls” and “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” by Freddy Fender, “She’s About a Mover” by The Sir Douglas Quintet, “”You’ll Lose a Good Thing” by Barbara Lynn, “Talk to Me” by Sunny & The Sunliners, “Big Blue Diamond” by Gene Summers, “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” by Jivin’ Gene, “I’m a Fool to Care” by Joe Barry, “This Should Go on Forever” by Rod Bernard, “My Toot-Toot” by Rockin’ Sidney and a number of early sides by Mickey Gilley and Roy Head.
CHARLIE FACH, 82, died April 25.
Record executive for the Smash, PolyGram, Mercury and Compleat labels. He became president of Smash in 1961, working with Nashville notables such as Roger Miller and Bruce Channel. At PolyGram, he developed the careers of Bachman-Turner-Overdrive, Kool & The Gang and more. He moved to Nashville in 1979 and was the executive producer of such Mercury hits as “I Wish I Was 18 Again” (George Burns) and “If You’re Waitin’ on Me’ (The Kendalls). He formed Compleat Records as his own label in 1982 and issued a string of hits by Vern Gosdin, including “Way Down Deep,” “I Can Tell By the Way You Dance,” “If You’re Going to Do Me Wrong (Do it Right),” “Slow Burning Memory,” “I Wonder Where We’d Be Tonight” and “What Would Your Memories Do.” Also on the Compleat roster were the r&b acts Autumn, Bohannon, The Tams, Joe Simon and Jesse Boyce, plus early sides by British stars such as The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Moody Blues, Humble Pie and The Small Faces. In addition to Gosdin, the label made the country charts with discs by Lew DeWitt and The Bama Band.
LES McINTYRE, 69, died April 28.
Music journalist who contributed many reviews and articles to Bluegrass Unlimited. Also a radio broadcaster over WAMU in northern Virginia.
RONNIE CAMPBELL, 70, died May 3.
Broadcast information officer for the Tennessee House of Representatives. Formerly at WVVQ in Augusta, GA; WMSJ/WRGS in Sylvia, NC; WJES in Johnston, SC; WTLK in Taylorsville, NC and WIVK in Knoxville. For the past 19 years, he was also the host of the Old Time Gospel Singing local TV show in Nashville.
“JOHNNY K” KOVAL, 77, died May 6.
Member of the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame and a longtime air personality on WSM radio.
JOEY KNIGHT, 56, died May 7.
Canadian country star noted for the 1984 hits “Haunting Memories” and “There’s a Song on the Jukebox.” (real name: Joey Vantour).
DOLORES FULLER, 88, died May 9.
Lyricist whose songs include Elvis Presley’s “Rock-a-Hula Baby,” “Do the Clam,” “You Can’t Say No in Acapulco,” “Big Love Big Heartache” and “I Got Lucky,” plus Peggy Lee’s “Losers Weepers,” Tanya Tucker’s “I Love the Way He Loves Me,” Nat King Cole’s “Someone to Tell it To” and Terry Stafford’s “I’ll Touch a Star.” Formerly the actress/girlfriend of notoriously bad director Ed Wood and the star of his films Glen or Glenda and Jail Bait. Label owner whose Dee Dee Records helped launch Johnny Rivers.
RICHARD COWL, 88, died May 9.
Nashville actor and WAMB radio announcer. Formerly in Hollywood in films, commercials and such 1960s TV series as Bat Masterson, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Gunsmoke, The Adams Family, Mr. Lucky and Wrangler.
JACK RICHARDSON, 81, died May 13.
Former producer of the country-rock band Poco, as well as The Guess Who, Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Michael Bolton and The Five Man Electrical Band. Member of the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
DAVE McCASKELL, 58, died May 14.
Singer, songwriter, trumpeter and guitarist. Known as “Amazon Ted.” Performed with The Zipcats, The Happy Wheelbarrow Band, Testament, Crossfire, The Randy Matthews Band, Memphis, Shenandoah, The McCaskells and Zazkill. Former Vanderbilt University football star.
SHANNON CHILDRESS, 46, died May 16.
Producer and songwriter for such Christian artists as The Greenes, The Hoppers, The Beene Family, The Wilburns and The Daniel Edwards Family.
MATTHEW GRAHAM WILLIAMSON JR., 82 died May 20.
Champion fiddle player and former Grand Marshal at Uncle Dave Macon Days in Murfreesboro.
JIMMY DALE WOODARD, 75, died May 23.
Former Bill Anderson band member.
MERCER, JOLENE, 66, died May 28.
Texas-based music publicist who worked with Chris LeDoux, Ricky Lynn Gregg, Janie Fricke, Asleep at the Wheel, Charley Pride, Neal McCoy, Josh Logan, Billy “Crash” Craddock, Mark Nessler and others.
HARLAND POWELL, 70, died May 28.
Guitarist for Sonny James, Boxcar Willie, Tony Douglas and the Big D Jamboree in Dallas.
REGINA MARIE HART, 43, died May 30.
Radio disc jockey who broadcast as “Roxanne” on Lightning 100. Voted Nashville radio’s “Best Newscaster” in 2007.
JACK LINNEMAN, 89, died June 1.
Founder, in 1963, of Hilltop Studios, one of Nashville’s most enduring recording facilities. Formerly an engineer at Starday/King Records and a member of the bands of Webb Pierce and Carl Story. Resonator guitarist who recorded instrumentals for Starday. Father of Grand Ole Opry musician Billy Linneman.
ANDREW GOLD, 59, died June 3.
Singer, songwriter, producer and multi-instrumentalist. Best known for the 1977 pop smash “Lonely Boy” and for writing “Thank You for Being a Friend,” the theme song of TV’s Golden Girls. He also co-wrote Wynonna’s 1992 chart-topping “I Saw the Light,” the 1994 Trisha Yearwood hit “Better Your Heart Than Mine” and Lila McCann’s 1998 single “Yippy Ky Yay.” Produced and co-wrote Lisa Angelle’s 1999 DreamWorks singles “I Wear Your Love” and “Kiss This.” As a member of Linda Ronstadt’s band in the 1970s, he backed her vocally and instrumentally on such hits as “When Will I Be Loved,” “You’re No Good,” “Love Is a Rose,” “That’ll Be the Day” and “I Can’t Help It If I’m Still in Love with You.” He also produced tracks for Vince Gill, Nicolette Larson, Aaron Neville and many others. Member of the bands Bryndle and Wax. Son of Oscar winning composer Ernest Gold and soundtrack singer Marni Nixon.
FRANKIE TOLER, 59, died June 4.
Drummer for The Allman Brothers Band, Dickie Betts & Great Southern, Gregg Allman and The Marshall Tucker Band.
SPENCER MOORE, 92, died June 5.
Old-time mountain singer recorded by Alan Lomax for folk LPs on Atlantic Records and Prestige Records.
J. HAROLD LANE, 82, died June 6.
Tenor vocalist with The Speer Family for 22 years. Co-founder of The Gospel Harmony Boys. Writer of more than 50 gospel songs, including “I’m Standing on the Solid Rock” and “Touring That City.” Musical arranger for gospel stars The Florida Boys, The Rambos, Jake Hess, The LeFevres and Bill Gaither. Music educator at The Stamps-Baxter School of Music and The Ben Speeer School of Music. Member of the Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame.
PHIL WALDEN JR., 48, died June 7.
Atlanta entertainment attorney and former Nashville Capricorn Records executive. Son of Capricorn founder Phil Walden (1941-2006).
STEVE POPOVICH, 68, died June 8.
Chief of Mercury Records on Music Row in 1986-88, where he signed Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Frank Yankovic, David Lynn Jones, Lynn Anderson, Billy Swan and Johnny Paycheck. Brought Kathy Mattea to the top of the country charts. Head of his own Cleveland International label from 1976 onward, where he guided the country comebacks of B.J. Thomas and Donna Fargo, made a star of Meat Loaf and signed David Allan Coe, Slim Whitman, Ronnie Spector, Southside Johnny & The Asbury Dukes, The Rovers, The Iron City Houserockers and Ellen Foley. Formerly at CBS Records for 20 years, where he signed Michael Jackson, Charlie Daniels, Cheap Trick, Ted Nugent and Boston and promoted pop hits for Charlie Rich, Michael Martin Murphey, Dr. Hook, Dave Loggins, Joe Tex, Janis Joplin, Sly & The Family Stone, Loggins & Messina, The Hollies, Andy Williams, Boz Skaggs, Tony Bennett and dozens more. Member of the Polka Hall of Fame in Cleveland.
SPEEDY KRISE, 89, died June 9.
Pioneering and influential resonator guitar player. Worked at WNOX in Knoxville in the late 1940s backing Molly O’Day on the air and on such records as “Tramp on the Street” and “At the First Fall of Snow.” In 1949, he played on Mac Odell’s “Red Ball Rocket Train.” In 1950-51 he recorded solo for Capitol and backed Carl Butler. Retired 1954. Writer of “Plastic Heart,” “You Plus Me,” “String of Empties,” “Heartbreak Express” and the Mac Wiseman bluegrass classics “You’re Sweeter Than the Honey” and “Going Like Wildfire.” (real name: George E. Krise, Jr.)
BILL HERSH, 63, died June 10.
Canadian country hit maker of the 1970s and 1980s. Star of his own Regina, Saskatchewan TV series A Place Called Home.
TONY LOPACINSKI, 44, died June 15.
Former guitarist for the pop/rock band Train who moved to Nashville in 2005. Bandleader for Josh Gracin and co-writer of his 2007 top-10 hit “We Weren’t Crazy.” Also backed Shelly Fairchild, Bobby Pinson, Sara Evans, Sarah Buxton and Julie Roberts. Member of the band Tailgate South.
BILL JOHNSON, 68, died June 15.
Grammy Award winning CBS Records art director in the 1980s and 1990s. Creator of the iconic logo for Rolling Stone magazine, as well as the logo for MusicRow magazine.
BUDDY ACKERS, 71, died June 22.
Notable Canadian steel guitarist who both backed stars and recorded solo albums. (real name: Andre Shedeger)
FRED STEINER, 88, died June 23.
TV and film composer, noted for the theme music for Perry Mason and the Oscar-nominated score for The Color Purple. Other scores include Gunsmoke, The Twilight Zone, Hogan’s Heroes, Rawhide, Have Gun – Will Travel, Rocky & Bullwinkle, Star Trek, Lost in Space. Father of country-pop songwriter Wendy Waldman (“Fishing in the Dark,” “Baby What About You,” “Letter Home,” “Home Again in My Heart”).
GAYE DELORME, 64, died June 23.
Canadian guitarist and record producer who worked with western star Ian Tyson and comics Cheech & Chong. Co-produced k.d. lang’s 1984 debut album A Truly Western Experience.
BENTON FLIPPEN, 90, died June 28.
Champion old-time fiddle player who won first-place trophies at Galax, Union Grove and Mount Airy. Recorded six albums.
CHARLIE CRAIG, 73, died July 1.
Durable country songwriting great. Songs include “Wanted” (Alan Jackson, 1990), “I Would Like to See You Again” (Johnny Cash, 1973), “She’s Single Again” (Janie Fricke, 1985), “Between an Old Memory and Me” (Travis Tritt, 1994), “Leavin’s Been a Long Time Comin’” (Shenandoah, 1992), “Lay a Little Lovin’ on Me” (Del Reeves, 1973), “The Generation Gap” (Jeannie C. Riley, 1969), “Following the Feeling” (Moe Bandy & Judy Bailey, 1980), “Let’s Get Over Them Together” (Moe Bandy & Bekcy Hobbs, 1983), “Carolina” (Keith Stegall, 1985), “Rainy Days and Stormy Nights” (Billie Jo Spears, 1979). Cuts by Dolly Parton, Conway Twitty, Barbara Mandrell, B.J. Thomas, Don Williams, Kenny Rogers, Porter Wagoner, Reba McEntire, George Strait, Tanya Tucker, Ray Charles, Keith Whitley, Waylon Jennings, Roy Rogers, many others. Wrote songs for and sang on the soundtrack of the Oscar-winning 1983 film Tender Mercies. Own CD The Hitmaker on Gusto in 2008. Autobiography in 2009, Old Memories and Me. Member of the South Carolina Entertainment Hall of Fame.
JOBIE LEONARD, 55, died July 2.
Former bass player for Collin Raye. (real name: Alford Joe Leonard)
GERALD HOUSE, 69, died July 5.
Writer of the top-10 Mel Tillis hits “Midnight, Me and the Blues” (1974) and “I Got the Hoss” (1977). Author of Dial-a-Chord, a guide to the Nashville Number System. Also a violin maker.
BILL McINTURFF, 85, died July 7.
Former owner of the Nashville independent label Comet Records/Goldmont Music.
KENNY BAKER, 85, died July 8.
Member of the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. Highly influential fiddler in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, and the band’s longest serving member. Also a sideman for Josh Graves, The Osborne Brothers, Tom T. Hall. Recorded many solo LPs as well. A 1993 recipient of National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
WILLIE ROBERTSON, age unknown, died July 9.
Co-founder of Robertson Taylor. a firm that offers insurance for live entertainment events.
TRAVIS BEAN, 63, died July 10.
Innovative electric guitar maker whose California creations are highly prized collectibles.
ERIC SEAGRAVES, 39, died July 16.
Lead singer in the Nashville rock band No Good Deed.
BILL MORRISSEY, 59, died July 22.
Grammy-nominated Americana singer-songwriter who recorded for Rounder Records. Once dubbed “the Townes Van Zandt of New England.”
DAN PEEK, 60, died July 24.
Grammy-nominated CCM artist who had top-10 gospel hits with such songs as “All Things Are Possible” (1979), “Doer of the World” (1984), “Lonely People” (1986), “Electro Voice” (1986) and “Cross Over” (1987). Also recorded CCM music as a member of the group Peace in the 1990s. Formerly in the pop group America, where he sang and played on the big hits “A Horse with No Name” (1972), “I Need You” (1972), “Ventura Highway” (1972), “Tin Man” (1974), “Lonely People” (1975) and “Sister Golden Hair” (1975).
JOE PAUL NICHOLS, 69, died July 27.
Texas traditionalist country recording artist, formerly a cast member at the Big D Jamboree in Dallas.
JACK BARLOW, 87, died July 29.
Country singer on Dot Records in the 1960s and 1970s. Top-40 charted titles included “Baby Ain’t That Love,” “Catch the Wind.” Also recorded novelty tunes as “Zoot Fenster” (“The Man on Page 602”). Later a jingle singer for Big Red gum, Busch beer, Budweiser, Chrysler, Dollar General, Kraft, Uncle Ben’s rice, Dodge, Kelloggs. (real name: Jack Harold Butcher)
TRUDY STAMPER, 94, died July 30.
Longtime Artists Relations and Publicity executive at the Grand Ole Opry. She handled cast members’ concert contracts and famously took an Opry troupe to Carnegie Hall in 1947 (Ernest Tubb, Minnie Pearl, The Short Brothers, Rosalie Allen, Radio Dot & Smokey and George D. Hay) and again in 1961 (Patsy Cline, Bill Monroe, Grandpa Jones, Faron Young and Jim Reeves). Formerly a WSM radio performer in soap operas and on a program called “Shopping Around with Judy Brown.” Began WSM career 1941. Retired 1964. Penned liner notes for 1963’s The Patsy Cline Story double LP that compiled the hits of her late good friend and pen pal. It was Stamper who dubbed the Ryman “The Mother Church of Country Music.” Widow of National Life executive John Powell Stamper, the author of WSM’s parent company’s 1968 corporate biography The National Life Story.
TOM DEAN, 64, died Aug. 3.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist. With his brother Tim, a member of the Nashville music duo The Dean Twins, who entertained and toured for more than 40 years.
MARSHALL GRANT, 83, died Aug. 7.
Bass player in Johnny Cash’s band The Tennessee Two. The “boom” in the superstar’s famous “boom-chicka-boom” sound. He played on almost all of the big Cash hits and was also Cash’s road manager for 25 years. Career-long manager of The Statler Brothers until their retirement in 2004. Author of the 2006 memoir I Was There When it Happened: My Life with Johnny Cash. The Tennessee Two were inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2007.
BILLY GRAMMER, 85, died Aug. 10.
Grand Ole Opry star known as one of country music’s finest flat-top guitar pickers. His 1959 pop-crossover hit “Gotta Travel On” launched the Monument Records label. Other charted titles included “Bonaparte’s Retreat” (1959), “I Wanna Go Home (Detroit City)” (1963), “Bottles” (1966), “The Real Thing” (1967), “The Ballad of John Dillinger” (1968) and “Jesus Is a Soul Man” (1969). In 1957-58 a regular on The Jimmy Dean Show on CBS-TV. Also a top session musician on Music Row. Designer of his own Grammer Guitar model.
BILL PRYOR, age unknown, died Aug. 16.
TV and movie producer, screenwriter, entertainment journalist, motor sports enthusiast, columnist for the Lane Motor Museum newsletter. Husband of the Frist Museum’s Ellen Pryor, a former Music Row publicist.
OWEN DAVIS, 64, died Aug. 19.
Nashville singer-songwriter who wrote the theme song for the acclaimed 1983 documentary film “The Other Side of Nashville,” in which he appeared alongside Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, Hank Williams Jr. and others. Other songs include “Border of the Quarter,” recorded by Leon Redbone, and “Play Me or Trade Me,” a minor 1982 hit duet by Mel Tillis & Nancy Sinatra. Also worked in tourism and for Stage Hand Productions.
JERRY LEIBER, 78, died Aug. 22.
Co-writer of the country duet standard “Jackson,” as well as country hits for Billy “Crash” Craddock, Mickey Gilley and Elvis Presley. His pop standards include “Stand By Me,” “Kansas City,” “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Charlie Brown,” “Is That All There Is,” “I’m a Woman,” “I (Who Have Nothing),” “Love Potion #9,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Yakety Yak,” “Love Me,” “Loving You,” “Treat Me Nice,” “There Goes My Baby” and “On Broadway.”
PAUL DAVID SMITH, 78, died Aug. 22.
Contest-winning Kentucky old-time fiddler who recorded for Rounder Records. Former winner of the Mike Seeger National Folk Alliance Award.
FRANK DILEO, 63, died Aug. 24.
Legendary music business executive, based in Nashville during the latter years of his career. Leadership Music graduate (2008) noted for managing superstar Michael Jackson and working with Taylor Dayne, Jodeci, Laura Branigan, Prince, Bon Jovi’s Richie Sambura and others. Formerly with CBS Records and in the 1970s in Nashville with Monument Records. After moving to Nashville in January 2007, he formed the Dileo Entertainment Group and worked with singer-songwriter Galen Griffin and other new talents.
HAROLD SHAFER, 76, died Aug. 27.
Founder of Lofton Creek Records, home of Keith Bryant (“Riding with the Legend”), Heartland (“I Loved Her First”), Mark Chesnutt (“Rollin’ with the Flow”), Adam Fisher (“Cotton Town”), Lance Miller (“George Jones and Jesus”), Will Peppers (“Cheaper Than a Shrink”), Shawn King, Carmen Rasmussen, Cook & Glenn, Jenny & Ashley, The Drew Davis Band and other country artists. Music Row’s Mid-Sized Label of the Year in 2008.
GEORGE GREEN, 59, died Aug. 28.
John Cougar Mellencamp’s cowriter on more than a dozen songs, including the hits “Hurts So Good,” “Crumblin’ Down” and “Rain on the Scarecrow.” Also the cowriter of the 1985 Oak Ridge Boys hit “Come On In (You Did the Best That You Could Do),” as well as songs for Ricky Skaggs, Lacy J. Dalton, Dwight Yoakam, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Gary Morris. Also a songwriting collaborator with Kenny Chesney on several tunes.
DON WAYNE, 78, died Sept. 12.
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member noted for such hits as “Country Bumpkin” (Cal Smith, 1974) and “Saginaw, Michigan” (Lefty Frizzell, 1964). Other notable copyrights include “The Belles of Southern Bell” (Del Reeves, 1965), “It’s Time to Pay the Fiddler” (Cal Smith, 1975), “What In Her World Did I Do” (Eddy Arnold, 1979), “If Teardrops Were Silver” (Jean Shepard, 1966), “She Talked a Lot About Texas” (Cal Smith, 1975), “Nashville” (David Houston, 1971), “The Marriage Bit” (Lefty Frizzell, 1968) and “Hank” (Hank Williams Jr., 1973). “Walk Tall,” a 1965 top-10 hit for Faron Young, later became an underground rock favorite via recordings by Stiff Little Fingers and The Popes. Val Doonican made it a huge hit in Great Britain. His songs were also recorded by Loretta Lynn, Conway Twitty, Connie Smith, The Osborne Brothers, Jerry Garcia, Tanya Tucker, Tex Ritter, Jack Barlow, Jim & Jesse, Sheb Wooley, Hank Thompson, Ernest Tubb, Doug Kershaw, Tommy Cash, The Wilburn Brothers, Hank Snow, Burl Ives, George Jones, Bobby Bare, The Browns, George Morgan and Dick Curless, among many others. (real name: Donald William Choate).
WADE MAINER, 104, died Sept. 12.
America’s oldest country star. In Mainer’s Mountaineers, he recorded “Maple on the Hill” in 1935, one of the biggest country hits of the Great Depression. “Take Me in the Lifeboat” another popular Mainer number from this era. Group is regarded as paving the way for bluegrass music. Mainer invented an influential two-finger style of five-string banjo playing. Formed Mountaineers with his fiddling brother J.E. (Joseph Emmett) Mainer (1898-1971). After rising to fame on WBT in Charlotte, the group recorded prolifically for RCA’s Bluebird label in 1935-39. He also recorded as a duo with Zeke Morris. Formed Wade Mainer & The Sons of the Mountaineers and continued recording for Bluebird in the 1940s. This group was responsible for his other major hit, 1939’s “Sparking Brown Eyes.” Entertained Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt at the White House in 1941. In 1943, Alan Lomax booked him on BBC radio alongside Woody Guthrie, Burl Ives and others. He recorded for King Records in 1947 and 1951. Retired from music 1953-72. Began performing again in the 1970s, frequently with wife Julia Brown Mainer. As “Hillbilly Lilly,” she was also a country radio veteran. During this “second” career, he recorded LPs for Old Homestead, June Appal and other labels, and the couple toured on folk and bluegrass circuits. Staged his debut on Grand Ole Opry in 1995. In 1997, he and Julia were featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C., and he won a National Heritage Fellowship. Grand marshal and Heritage Award honoree at Uncle Dave Macon Days in Murfreesboro in 2002, when he again appeared on the Opry. Subject of Dick Spottswood’s 2010 book Banjo on the Mountain: The First 100 Years of Wade Mainer. Considered to be the last survivor of country music’s “golden age,” the days of Jimmie Rodgers, The Carter Family and Uncle Dave Macon.
WILMA LEE COOPER, 90, died Sept. 13.
Once billed as “The She Roy Acuff” because of her forceful, wailing Appalachian delivery. Along with Ralph Stanley, the last remaining mountaineer stylist in the Grand Ole Opry’s cast. Famed for her work in Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper and The Clinch Mountain Clan. The band helped to popularize the dobro. Recorded for Rich-R-Tone, Columbia, Hickory, Decca, Starday, Rounder, Rebel and other labels. Notable Columbia recordings of the late 1940s and early 1950s included “Thirty Pieces of Silver,” “Sunny Side of the Mountain,” “Walking My Lord Up Calvary Hill,” “You Tried to Ruin My Name” and “Legend of the Dogwood Tree.” Charted titles on Hickory were “Cheated Too” (1956), “Johnny My Love” (1960) and the top-10 hits “Come Walk with Me” (1958), “Big Midnight Special” (1959), “There’s a Big Wheel” (1959) and “Wreck on the Highway” (1961). Rose to fame at WWVA Wheeling Jamboree. Joined Opry cast in 1957. Husband Stoney Cooper (1918-1977) was fiddler and bandleader. She was lead vocalist. Following his death, she continued as a solo performing and recording artist. Member of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. Daughter Carol Lee Cooper leads the Opry’s backup vocal group.
BOB SULLIVAN, 59, died Sept. 15.
Music-business attorney with Loeb & Loeb. Clients included Johnny Cash, B.B. King, Thompson Square, EMI Publishing, John Prine, Waylon Jennings, Peter Frampton, Lynyrd Skynyrd. Taught intellectual property and copyright law at Belmont and Nashville School of Law.
ART CELSIE, 94, died Sept. 22.
Leader of the pioneering Canadian country band The Singing Plainsmen.
BOBBY DIAMOND, 78, died Sept. 22.
Banjo player and fiddler who worked or recorded with Del McCoury, Red Allen, Bill Monroe and Reno & Smiley. (real name: Robert F. Rook, Jr.)
PAUL KIRBY, 48, died Sept. 25.
Co-founder and lead singer of the Nashville rock band Walk the West as well as the country-rocking group The Cactus Brothers. Both groups recorded for Capitol/EMI/Liberty. The latter appeared in the 1993 George Strait movie Pure Country. Son of the late songwriter Dave Kirby (“Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” “Memories to Burn,” “There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang”) and stepson of singer-songwriter Leona Williams (“You Take Me for Granted,” “The Bull and the Beaver,” “Someday When Things Are Good”)
JESSY DIXON, 73, died Sept. 26.
Leader of the gospel group The Jessy Dixon Singers, who notably backed Paul Simon on 1975’s “Gone at Last.” His songs have been recorded by Amy Grant, Natalie Cole, Cher, Diana Ross and others and include the church classics “Sit at His Feet and Be Blessed,” “These Old Heavy Burdens,” “I Love to Praise His Name” and “I Am Redeemed.”
JOHNNIE WRIGHT, 97, died Sept. 27.
Rose to fame in the Grand Ole Opry duo Johnnie & Jack with partner Jack Anglin (1916-1963). Their big hits include “Poison Love” (1951), “Cryin’ Heart Blues” (1951), “Three Ways of Knowing” (1952), “(Oh Baby Mine) I Get So Lonely” (1954), “Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight” (1954), “Stop the World (And Let Me Off)” (1958) and the much-revived 1951 classic “Ashes of Love.” The duo was notable for injecting Latin rhythms into country music. After partner Jack Anglin’s death in 1963, Wright launched a solo career that included such hits as “Walkin’ Talkin’ Cryin’ Barely Beatin’ Broken Heart” (1964) and “Hello Vietnam” (1965). Husband of Queen of Country Music superstar Kitty Wells, with whom he recorded such duets as 1968’s “We’ll Stick Together.” He reportedly chose the hit songs that Kitty recorded solo. With their children Ruby, Carol Sue and Bobby, the couple toured for many years as The Kitty Wells – Johnnie Wright Family Show and starred in a similar syndicated television series.
COUNTRY JOHNNY MATHIS, 80, died Sept. 27.
Country recording artist for Chess, Columbia, D, Mercury, Decca, United Artists, Little Darlin,’ Hilltop and other labels. Began career in 1949. Hit the big time as one half of the duo Jimmy and Johnny (with Jimmy Lee Fautheree, 1934-2004) and the 1954 smash hit “If You Don’t Somebody Else Will.” The song also charted for Ray Price (1954) and Carl Smith (1976). Biggest subsequent solo success was “Please Talk to My Heart” in 1963, which he co-wrote. Ray Price (1964) and Freddy Fender (1980) later revived it on the charts. Writer of more than 200 songs, recorded by stars such as George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Paycheck, Charley Pride, Johnny Horton, Jimmy Dean, Webb Pierce, The Whites, Elvis Costello and Jim Lauderdale. During the 1950s, a cast member of The Louisiana Hayride. In gospel music from the 1970s onward.
“BIG” JOHN BECHTEL, 74, died Sept. 28.
Steel guitarist who worked the road with Billy Walker, Charlie Louvin, Ray Pillow and other Grand Ole Opry stars.
CHUCK IRVIN, 82, died Sept. 30.
Canadian country-music pioneer, the cousin of Canadian country legend Wilf Carter/Montana Slim. Irvin biggest singles were “The Real You” and “Losing You Is Not the End,” both penned by Ray Griff.
GWEN YEARWOOD, 73, died Oct. 1.
Trisha Yearwood’s mother and the co-author of her cookbooks.
SKIP McQUINN, 64, died Oct. 2.
In Nashville 1977-90 as a recording engineer, producer, artist manager, studio owner. Later successful in Memphis as a music publisher, concert sound engineer and audio-video system designer/installer.
WALTER SMITH, 82, died Oct. 3.
Nashville music publisher in the 1960s and 1970s.
STEVE JOBS, 56, died Oct. 5.
He revolutionized the entertainment world with the iPod, iPad, iPhone, Macintosh computer and iTunes music store.
BILLY BARTON, 81, died Oct. 8.
Writer of such hits as “A Dear John Letter” (1953 by Ferlin Husky & Jean Shepard, 1965 by Bobby Bare & Skeeter Davis), “Forgive Me John” (1953, Husky & Shepard), “I Love You” (1954 Jim Reeves & Ginny Wright) and “You’ll Come Back” (1958 Webb Pierce). Also a performer on the Louisiana Hayride and a recording artist for Abbott, King, Sims, Vidor, Gulf Reef, Fire and other small labels. (real name: John Grimes).
GEORGE “PEE WEE” ROGERS, 76, died Oct. 11.
Steel guitarist for Jimmy Dickens for 29 years. On the Opry for 40 years, he also backed Porter Wagoner, David Houston and Jack Greene.
TAZ DiGREGORIO, 67, died Oct. 12.
Longtime keyboardist and vocalist in The Charlie Daniels Band. He was in the band for more than 40 years and co-wrote many of its hits, including “The Devil Went Down to Georgia, “The Legend of Wooley Swamp” and Simple Man.” (Full name: Joel “Taz” DiGregorio).
REBECCA BAIN, 58, died Oct. 15.
A Nashville radio-broadcasting veteran of more than 30 years on WPLN. Among her many on-air activities was hosting the talk show about authors and books, The Fine Print.
MICKEY GOLDSEN, 99, died Oct. 19.
Veteran music publisher, the founder of Criterion Music.
THE BAT POET, 59, died Oct. 22.
Nashville cab driver Joey Bowker, who on weekends transformed himself into the colorful, eccentric, bizarre and wildly original star of the No. 1 show on Nashville’s public-access TV show (CATV, Channel 19) for 14 years.
BILLIE JEAN DORRIS FINDLEY, 83, died Oct. 26.
Co-host of The Noon Show on WSM-TV in the 1950s and 1960s.
LIZ ANDERSON, 85, died Oct. 31.
Country singer-songwriter whose “Just Between the Two of Us” (1964), “(My Friends Are Gonna Be) Strangers” (1965) and “The Fugitive” (1966) helped launch Merle Haggard’s hit-making career. Also wrote “Flattery Will Get You Everywhere” (Lynn Anderson, 1968), “Be Quiet Mind” (Del Reeves, 1961), “Ride, Ride, Ride” (Lynn Anderson, 1966), “Guess My Eyes Were Bigger Than My Heart” (Conway Twitty, 1966), “Pick of the Week” (Roy Drusky, 1964), “If I Kiss You” (Lynn Anderson, 1967), “Keeping Up Appearances” (Jerry Lane & Lynn Anderson, 1967), “I Cried All the Way to the Bank” (Norma Jean, 1965), “Tell Me I’m Only Dreaming” (Lorrie Morgan, 1979), “Big Girls Don’t Cry” (Lynn Anderson, 1968) and “Mother May I” (Liz Anderson & Lynn Anderson, 1968). Songs recorded by Tammy Wynette, Jerry Lee Lewis, Connie Smith, Waylon Jennings, Ernest Tubb, Bonnie Owens and others. As an RCA and Epic Records artist, she charted with her own songs “”Go Now, Pay Later” (1966), “So Much for Me, So Much for You” (1966), “The Wife of the Party” (1967), “Mama Spank” (1967), “Tiny Tears” (1968), “Like a Merry-Go-Round” (1968), “Me, Me, Me, Me, Me” (1968), “Cry Cry Again” (1968), “Husband Hunting” (1970), “All Day Sucker” (1970), “It Don’t Do No Good to Be a Good Girl” (1971) and “Astrology” (1972). Scored biggest hit with “The Game of Triangles” (1966) in a trio with Bobby Bare & Norma Jean. Co-star, with husband Casey, of the award-winning TNN travel series Two for the Road in the 1980s. Co-founder of the NSAI. Mother of Lynn Anderson.
PATSI BALE COX, 66, died Nov. 5.
Co-author of autobiographies and memoirs by Tanya Tucker, Loretta Lynn, Ralph Emery, Georgette Jones, Tony Orlando, Pat Benatar and Wynonna Judd. Also the author of 2009’s The Garth Factor: The Career Behind Country’s Biggest Boom.
REV. T.J. GRAHAM, 50, died Nov. 7.
Nashville talk-radio star on WVOL. His Open Forum show was colorful and controversial, and he had been called “the Democrats’ answer to Rush Limbaugh.” Formerly at WDBL in Springfield, TN. (real name: Anthony Hyde)
JACKIE WILBURN, 74, died Nov. 18.
Patriarch of the Southern-gospel family group The Wilburns.
WAYNE SCOTT, 77, died Nov. 18.
Country singer-songwriter who issued his acclaimed debut CD, This Weary Way, at age 70 in 2005. Father of stellar songwriter, singer and instrumental Darrell Scott.
PAUL YANDELL, 76, died Nov. 21.
Guitar virtuoso who toured with The Louvin Brothers, Kitty Wells George Hamilton IV and Jerry Reed, then became an accompanist, bandleader, disciple and close associate with Chet Atkins for 25 years. As a session musician, he played on discs by The Everly Brothers, Dolly Parton, George Strait, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Perry Como and others. One of only six people given the Atkins honor as C.G.P. (Certified Guitar Player). In addition to Atkins and Yandell, they are Steve Wariner, Jerry Reed, Tommy Emmanuel and John Knowles.
GEORGE W. CLINTON, 68, died Nov. 23.
Former co-owner of Nashville’s Bayou Recording studio.
BEN WEATHERBY, 75, died Nov. 23.
Canadian country singer, songwriter, recording artist, producer and TV personality. House producer for Arc Records for Harry Hibbs, Shot Jackson and Dick Nolan, among others. His biggest hit as a vocalist was “You Can’t Fool a Newfoundlander.”
CHARLIE DOUGLAS, 78, died Nov. 24.
Country Radio Hall of Fame member. At WWL in New Orleans, he created the first all-night radio show geared toward long-haul truck drivers. He spent 13 years at WSM and served two terms as president of the Country Radio Broadcasters (CRB). He and partner Paul Loveless founded Compact Disc Express (CDX) in 1991, and this remains as a vital promotion service today. (real name: Doug China)
TOM ROADY, 62, died Nov. 27.
Nashville percussionist who recorded on more than 1,000 albums by stars from genres as diverse as r&b, folk, rock, bluegrass, Christian, pop, classical and country. Also a touring musician with James Taylor, The Fifth Dimension, John Denver, Ricky Skaggs and others. His own recording, Zendrum: One Tribe led to his music being featured on many national cable channels. Member of the We the People Folk Group.
DAVID SANJEK, 59, died Nov. 29.
Music educator. Formerly the head of the BMI Archives. Son of the late RCA and BMI executive Russ Sanjek. Brother of Nashville music entrepreneur Rick Sanjek.
TIM DEAN, 64, died Nov. 29.
Singer, songwriter, guitarist. With his brother Tom, a member of the Nashville music duo The Dean Twins, who entertained and toured for more than 40 years. His twin and entertainment partner, Tom, died August 8.
JOHN LINCOLN WRIGHT, 64, died Dec. 3.
New England’s most popular country singer-songwriter. Winner of many Massachusetts Music Awards. Songs covered by Joe Sun, Vernon Oxford and others. Initially the lead singer in the rock band The Beacon Street Union, on MGM Records with the 1968 LPs The Eyes of The Beacon Street Union and The Clown Died in Marvin Gardens. Formed own country band The Sour Mash Boys in 1972. Country albums include Takin’ Old Route One (1975), You Can’t Get There From Here (1981), That Old Mill (1990) and Honky Tonk Verite (1991), the latter two distributed by Rounder.
BARBARA ORBISON, 60, died Dec. 6.
Nashville music publisher with the highly successful Orbison Music/Still Working Music companies. The firm won BMI’s Country Song of the Year award in 2010 for “You Belong with Me,” sung by Taylor Swift. In 2009, she developed and marketed her own perfume, Pretty Woman. Winner of a 2011 SOURCE Award. Widow of Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame member Roy Orbison. She managed his career and estate and produced the 2008 boxed set Roy Orbison: The Soul of Rock and Roll for Sony Legacy.
DOBIE GRAY, 71, died Dec. 6.
Nashville pop, soul and country artist. He launched his chart career from L.A. with 1963’s “Look at Me” and 1965’s “The In Crowd” and “See You at the Go-Go.” Moving to Nashville, he recorded the giant 1973 hit “Drift Away.” Later that year, he introduced the much-recorded standard “Loving Arms.” He made the pop and/or soul charts five more times in the 1970s. Switching to country music, he charted with 1986’s “That’s One to Grow On,” “The Dark Side of Town” and “From Where I Stand” and 1987’s “Take It Real Easy.” He recorded for MCA, Capricorn, Infinity, Capitol and other labels. As a Music Row songwriter, he had cuts by George Jones, Ray Charles, Conway Twitty, Johnny Mathis, Don Williams, Exile, Etta James, John Denver, Three Dog Night, Charley Pride, Julio Iglesias, John Conlee, Tammy Wynette, B.J. Thomas, Brook Benton, David Lee Murphy, Wayne Newton, Tom Wopat, Red Allen Jr., Dave & Sugar and Razzy Bailey, as well as himself. He also wrote and sang ad jingles, notably “Momma’s Got the Magic of Clorox 2.” Collaborating with Uncle Kracker, he scored a hit with “Drift Away” again in 2003.
BEE SPEARS, 62, died Dec. 8.
Bass player in Willie Nelson’s band for more than 40 years. Played on Nelson’s top-selling LPs such as Red-Headed Stranger and Stardust. Also recorded with Waylon Jennings, Leon Russell, Guy Clark and Jerry Jeff Walker. Appeared in the films Honeysuckle Rose and Songwriter. Performer in the Nashville club band Travelin’ Light. (real name: Dan Edward Spears)
BILLIE JO SPEARS, 74, died Dec. 14.
With 16 top-20 hits, one of the most consistent female country hit makers of the 1970s. Hugely popular in the U.K. – she had more hits there than any other female country artist in history. Noted for working-girl anthems early in career and country-disco fusion tunes following her mid-1970s comeback. Top-10 hits were “Mr. Walker It’s All Over” (1969), “Blanket on the Ground” (No.1, 1975), “What I’ve Got in Mind” (1976), “Misty Blue” (1976), “I’m Not Easy” (1977) and “If You Want Me’ (1977). Other notable singles included “Stepchild” (1969), “Marty Gray” (1970), “Never Did Like Whiskey” (1976), “Too Much Is Not Enough” (1977), “I’ve Got to Go” (1978), “57 Chevrolet” (1978), “Love Ain’t Gonna Wait for Us” (1978), “I Will Survive” (1979), “Livin’ Our Love Together” (1979), “Standing Tall” (1980) and “Your Good Girl’s Gonna Go Bad” (1981). Noted for tangy, Texas-accented vocal delivery and feisty attitude. Winner of the ACM Most Promising Female Vocalist Award in 1976.
TERRY CLIMER, 60, died Dec. 18.
Television and video editor, formerly at WCOR radio in Lebanon, TN.
WARREN HELLMAN, 77, died Dec. 18.
Member of Jimmie Dale Gilmore’s band The Wronglers. Founder of the highly successful Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco. Also a financial backer of the Bay Area music venues Slim’s, The Great American Music Hall and Freight & Salvage.
SHORTY EAGER, 70, died Dec. 19.
Bluegrass banjo player who was formerly a member of Jimmy Martin’s Sunny Mountain Boys. (real name: Edward William Eager)
RICK “CRABBER” CRABTREE, 57, died Dec. 21.
Former road manager for Ricky Van Shelton, Tammy Cochran, Lorrie Morgan, Tanya Tucker and Johnny Paycheck. Also an ex production manager at The Wildhorse Saloon and the Mohegan Sun Casino.
BILL HALL, 65, died Dec. 23.
Iconic WSMV television personality, noted as a weatherman, gardener, cook, fisherman and outdoorsman.
- Hit Producer & MGM Exec Jim Vienneau Dies At Age 97 - November 20, 2023
- DISClaimer Single Reviews: Mickey Guyton Gives ‘A Thrilling Take’ On Tina Turner Hit - November 16, 2023
- DISClaimer Single Reviews: Luke Combs ‘Keeps You On The Edge Of Your Seat’ With New Single - November 9, 2023