Nashville music industry stalwart Charlie Lamb died in the early morning hours of March 7, 2012. He was 90 and had been battling pneumonia. Lamb was a celebrated journalist who also worked as a manager and later as an entertainer.
Born June 21, 1921, Charles Stacy Lamb’s colorful career began in hometown Knoxville, Tennessee, where he was a carnival barker—it came naturally, his mother was a trapeze artist and his father was a magician, ventriloquist and animal trainer. As a young man Lamb went on to work as a military policeman during the 1940s, and entered the worlds of journalism and music business via jobs at the Knoxville Journal and radio stations WKGN and WROL.
In 1951 Lamb moved to Nashville and began writing for Cash Box magazine. He went on to found the first Nashville-based trade publication, Music Reporter, known for establishing an all-genre top 100 chart, the first country album chart, and utilizing bullets to indicated quickly rising singles. The magazine shuttered in 1964. A year later, the liner notes he penned for Father & Son—Hank Williams Sr. & Jr. earned a Grammy nomination. Today his writing is celebrated with a journalism award named in his honor, which is presented annually at the International Country Music Conference.
“When somebody like Charlie Lamb passes, it’s like a library burning down,” said longtime friend and fellow historian Robert Oermann. “He was a wonderful source of historical anecdotes and one of the most charming conversationalists I’ve ever met. Charlie was also one of the last of the great Music Row ‘characters’—they don’t make execs nearly as colorful nowadays. He was also a million laughs, and I’m going to miss our lunches together a whole lot.”
“He was probably the midwife at Nashville’s birth as a major recording center,” Brenda Lee once proclaimed.
According to the Encyclopedia of Country Music, his varied journey included management of Ed Bruce and Connie Smith, and work with Kitty Wells, Elvis Presley, and Bill Anderson.
“Charlie took my original TNT Record of ‘City Lights’ to Chet Atkins at RCA simply because he liked the song and believed it was a hit,” Anderson recalled. “Chet cut it with an artist named Dave Rich. Ray Price heard Dave Rich’s record on the radio, and I guess the rest is history. I’ve often wondered what my life would have been like had it not been for Charlie Lamb. He opened the first door in Nashville for me. Rest in peace, my friend….and thanks.”
Lamb was an active supporter of Nashville’s music trade organizations. He was a member of the original boards of the Gospel Music Association, and the Country Music Association, and was a lifetime member of the latter. He also served as the first president of the Nashville chapter of NARAS.
He was an actor and entertainer known for his “double-talk” style, and appeared on television shows including Candid Camera, and in films including Ernest Goes To Jail.
MusicRow sends condolences to the Lambs, as this is the second death in the family in recent months. Charlie Lamb’s son Gary Lamb passed away Nov. 21 at age 63. Both were preceded in death by wife and mother, respectively, Frances A. Lamb.