Nashville-Related Music Obituaries 2012

As the year closes, we pause to reflect on the music colleagues we have lost.

These past 12 months have seen the departures of three of our Country Music Hall of Fame members and three inductees into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, as well as prominent figures from our pop, bluegrass and gospel communities.

We remember them fondly, knowing that the music they made will live forever. 

PAUL JUSTICE, age unknown, died Jan. 6.
Fiddler in Mel Tillis’s Statesiders band for more than 20 years. Also backed bluegrass star Bill Clifton on Starday Records in 1963, notably on his signature song “Bringing Mary Home.”

DEWEL BULLINGTON, 78, died Jan. 9.
Fiddler in The McCormick Brothers bluegrass band for 55 years. Performed on the group’s discs for Hickory Records, including “Banjo Fling,” which he co-wrote.
BOB STICHT, 83, died Jan. 11.
Longtime Nashville radio personality on WLAC, WSIX and WAMB. Formerly a rock ‘n’ roll disc jockey pioneer at WHB in Kansas City as “Bob Robbin” and an announcer at stations in Memphis, Louisville and New Orleans. Co-host with Snooky Lanson of the nationally syndicated show “The All-Time Greats Parade.” Briefly the owner of WSVT in Smyrna, TN.

CALVIN EVERHART, 84, died Jan. 11.
Once the manager of RCA Studio B on Music Row.

EDNA MATTOX, 87, died Jan. 11.
Former bookkeeper for WKDA Radio.

CHARLIE COLLINS, 78, died Jan. 12.
Grand Ole Opry sideman, a superb flat-top guitarist and sometime fiddler and/or mandolinist who achieved notoriety in Roy Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys (1966-1992), starred in an Opry duo with Brother Oswald (1966-2002) and thereafter backed the Opry Square Dancers. With Oswald, a recording artist for Rounder Records. Also on disc backing Jim & Jesse, Sam Bush, Mark O’Connor and Norman Blake. Formerly in The Pinnacle Mountain Boys, 1960-66.

DANNY EVINS, 76, died Jan. 14.
Founder of Cracker Barrel. Its 600 restaurant/stores are a significant retailer of records, selling CDs created by Dolly Parton, Charlie Daniels, Alison Krauss, The Grascals, Dailey & Vincent, Zac Brown Band, The Oak Ridge Boys, The Statler Brothers, Bill Gaither, Jason Michael Carroll, George Jones, Smokey Robinson, Kenny Rogers, Randy Travis, Wynonna, Ricky Skaggs, Alan Jackson, Montgomery Gentry, Rodney Atkins, Charley Pride, Craig Morgan, Chuck Berry, Chicago, Patsy Cline, Faron Young, The Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd and more.

ROBBIE WILLIAMS, 76, died Jan. 17.
Nashville singer-songwriter. Formerly a member of the New England band The Northern Lights, which had its own radio and TV show during the 1950s on WABI in Bangor, Maine. Also a former DJ on WCMS in Virginia. Advertising and marketing copywriter.
HAL CASEY, 83, died Jan. 17.
Fiddler who was a staff musician at The Louisiana Hayride and The Grand Ole Opry in the 1950s. Six-time New York State fiddle champion.

ETTA JAMES, 73, died Jan. 20.
Soul-singing Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame member. Her landmark 1963 LP Etta James Rocks the House was recorded in Nashville, as was her 1988 comeback LP Seven Year Itch, plus the CDs Stickin’ to My Guns (1990), How Strong Is a Woman (1993) and Love’s Been Rough on Me (1997). Her 1963 hit single “Pushover” was also recorded in Music City. Nashville’s Curb Records issued her two-volume Greatest Gospel Hits CDs in 2002. Renowned for such searing performances as “The Wallflower” (1955), “All I Could Do Was Cry” (1960), “At Last” (1961), “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” (1962), “Stop the Wedding” (1962), “Tell Mama” (1967), “I’d Rather Go Blind” (1967) and “Security” (1968). She was also notable as an interpreter of such country classics as “Almost Persuaded” (1969), “Loving Arms” (1975), “Sweet Memories” (1969), “When I Stop Dreaming” (1969), “Don’t Touch Me” (1997) and “Lovesick Blues” (1978). During the second half of her career, she recorded the works of such Nashville songwriters as Tracy Nelson, Dan Penn, Dobie Gray, Tony Joe White, Russell Smith, Kenny Greenberg, Greg Barnhill, Gretchen Peters, Troy Seals, Fred Knobloch, Steve Bogard, Mike Reid and Al Anderson. Reportedly the daughter of the late Nashville pool-playing legend Minnesota Fats.

Larry Butler

LARRY BUTLER, 69, died Jan. 20.
The only Nashvillian ever named Producer of the Year at the Grammy Awards. Renowned for his multi-million-selling productions of such Kenny Rogers hits as “The Gambler,” “Coward of the County,” “Lady,” “You Decorated My Life,” “Lucille,” “She Believes in Me,” “Sweet Music Man” and more. Produced major 1970s comeback country hits for Dottie West, Billie Jo Spears and Jean Shepard. The head of United Artists Records in Nashville in the 1970s. Also produced Johnny Cash, Charlie Rich, John Denver, Don McLean, Bill Anderson, Mac Davis, Debbie Boone and Waylon Jennings, among others. Formerly in the pop/rock band The Gentrys (1965’s “Keep on Dancing”) and a session pianist for Conway Twitty, Roger Miller, George Jones, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Goldsboro, Tammy Wynette and others. Co-writer of  “Standing Tall” (Billie Jo Spears, Lorrie Morgan), “Ain’t Love Good” (Jean Shepard), “Love Ain’t Gonna Wait for Us” (Billie Jo Spears) and his Grammy-winning “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Done Somebody Wrong Song” (B.J. Thomas). Also a former song-publishing executive.

DICK KNISS, 74, died Jan. 25.
Bass player for Peter, Paul & Mary for five decades. Also a member of John Denver’s band and the co-writer of his 1974 hit “Sunshine on My Shoulders.”

TIM CAMPBELL, 53, died Jan. 31.
Nashville music-business photographer.

ELLIOTT MITCHELL, 67, died Feb.1.
Television producer/director formerly with TNN. Manager for Community Access Television in Nashville. On the community advisory board of WPLN, Nashville’s public radio station.

JERRY GRAY, 78, died Feb. 2.
A 30-year veteran on the Washington, D.C. station WAMU-FM, where he played classic country, bluegrass and western swing. (real name: Gerald Ralph Poulsen).

SNUFFY SMITH, 66, died Feb. 3.
Nationally known banjo repairman who developed the widely used Snuffy Smith Banjo Bridge.

CRYSTAL ROSE, 49, died Feb. 4.
Indie country recording artist who often performed at Nashville charity events. (real name: Christine Brown).

DAVID HALL, 57, died Feb. 5.
Popular Nashville rock radio personality and show emcee. At WKDF (103.3 FM) in 1980-88, then WGFX (104.5 FM) in 1988-93. Long tenure at WRLT Lightning 100, 1993-2012, included roles as program director, afternoon drive-time personality and host of the broadcast and internet series “Lightning 100 Unplugged” and “Nashville Sunday Night.” Signature phrase and title of his daily afternoon show: “David Hall Rocks Y’all.” Dubbed “THE face and THE voice of Nashville rock radio.”

AL DeLORY, 82, died Feb. 5.
Grammy winning producer/arranger of the iconic Glen Campbell hits “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman,” “Galveston” and “Gentle on My Mind.” Also produced Dobie Gray, The Turtles, Wayne Newton and The Lettermen. Co-writer of the 1960 Larry Verne novelty hit “Mr. Custer.” L.A. studio pianist for The Beach Boys, The Righteous Brothers, Tina Turner and others. Recording artist for Capitol Records with four LPs. Later a Nashville nightclub fixture performing and recording Latin jazz albums. Father of singer-songwriter Donna DeLory.

Jayne Rogovin. Photo: Gina Binkley

JAYNE ROGOVIN, 52, died Feb. 13.
Nashville publicist who represented the Americana Music Association, Sunset Grill, Cabana, Midown Café, Manuel and several recording artists through her company Jayne Gang PR. Formerly in TV news at WTVF and at Pecos Films as a producer/director. Rogovin’s more than twenty-year career also included work in media, marketing and creative services. She was devoted to charitable causes including UPAW (United Partnership for Animal Welfare), and Billy’s Wish Foundation, which helps children with cancer.

DANNY MORRISON, 67, died Feb. 14.
Country songwriter, record producer, music publisher (API) and former manager of Joe Diffie. His songwriting successes include “Blaze of Glory” (Kenny Rogers), “Loving Up a Storm” (Razzy Bailey), “Is It Cold in Here” (Joe Diffie), “You’ve Got a Good Love Comin,’” (Lee Greenwood), “I Ain’t Got No Business Doing Business Today” (Razzy Bailey), “Next Thing Smokin’” (Joe Diffie), “Four Scores and Seven Beers Ago” (Ray Benson), “Nothing But the Radio On” (The Younger Brothers), “Bring on the Sunshine” (Dennis Bottoms), “Friends” (Razzy Bailey) and “She’s Got a Drinking Problem” (Gary Stewart). His “I’ve Seen Better Days” was recorded by Johnny Paycheck, Reba McEntire and George Jones & Tammy Wynette. Cuts by Alabama, Bobby Bare, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings, The Oak Ridge Boys, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Dave Dudley, Sawyer Brown, Sammi Smith, Hank Snow, Conway Twitty, Gene Watson, The Wilburn Brothers and others. Co-author of the guidebook Song Writing From the Inside Out.

RICHARD “PETE” PETERS, 80, died Feb. 19.
Banjo player for bluegrass artists Bennie & Vallie Cain in the 1950s.
Female country pioneer. Fiddler/singer in The Sunshine Sisters, The Coon Creek Girls, The Hoot Owl Holler Girls, The Amber Sisters and Mattie, Marthie & Minnie with her sisters Irene/Marthie (1921-2004), who became Martha Carson and Opal/Mattie (1925-1995), who became Jean Chapel. Recorded for the King and Capitol labels. Also the sister of country entertainer Don Chapel.

JOE THOMPSON, 93, died Feb. 20.
North Carolina old-time fiddler who was one of the last representatives of the pre-WWII black string band tradition. A National Heritage Fellowship recipient from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2007, the year he also performed at the Kennedy Center. Also a winner of a North Carolina Folk Heritage Award. A folk-festival favorite in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Recording artist for Rounder Records. He was a mentor to the Grammy Award-winning modern black string band The Carolina Chocolate Drops.

ROY BAHAM, 74, died Feb. 21.
Songwriter of the 1962 No. 1 Billy Walker hit “Charlie’s Shoes” and of the 1968 Jimmy C. Newman hit “Blue Lonely Winter.” He also wrote songs recorded by Carl Smith, Ray Price, Anita Carter, Lucille Starr, Burl Ives, Jack Greene & Jeannie Seely, Charlie Walker, Skeeter Davis, Bobby Bare, Justin Tubb and many others. Dave Dudley recorded 17 of Baham’s songs and released two of them as singles, 1973’s “Rollin’ Rig” and 1975’s “Fireball Rolled a Seven.”

BILLY STRANGE, 81, died Feb. 22.
Musicians Hall of Fame member. Guitarist, producer, songwriter, arranger. Rose to prominence in L.A.’s “Wrecking Crew” of studio aces. Backed The Beach Boys, Nat King Cole, Everly Brothers, Rick Nelson, Jan & Dean, Love, Johnny Cash, Ventures, Hondells, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley and many more. Co-wrote the Elvis songs “A Little Less Conversation,” “Charro” and “Memories,” as well as Chubby Checker’s “Limbo Rock.” Recording artist with a dozen instrumental LPs on GNP Crescendo. Arranged “These Boots Are Made for Walkin’” and “Somethin’ Stupid” for Nancy Sinatra. Musical director for the first five ACM award shows. Moved to Nashville in the 1970s to work in publishing, then produced George Hamilton IV, Jeanne Pruett, Porter Wagoner, Justin Tubb, Helen Cornelius, Carl Perkins and others.

DUSTY EDWARDS, 49, died Feb. 24.
Music director and disc jockey for 20 years at KREK in Bristow, OK. (real name: Ron Schmidt).

BEV LeCROY, 93, died Feb. 25.
Trombonist in the Nashville Symphony Orchestra and in the big bands of Francis Craig, Beasley Smith and Owen Bradley in the 1940s. Member of the WSM radio & TV band The Waking Crew in the 1950s and 1960s. Later the staff photographer for The National Life & Accident Insurance Company. His photos were used on the famed 1964 r&b LP jacket Etta James Rocks the House. (full name: James Beverly LeCroy).

BILLY D. JOHNSON, 51, died Feb. 27.
Guitarist and bass player who backed Porter Wagoner, Billy Walker, Connie Smith, Jim Ed Brown, Jeannie Seely, Margo Smith and others. Performed on the Opry and on WSMV-TV’s The Morning Show.      

Charlie Lamb receives a plaque during a celebration of his career at BMI on Aug. 29, 2000. Photo: Alan Mayor

CHARLIE LAMB, 90, died March 7.
Founder of Music Reporter, Nashville’s first music industry publication. It thrived in 1956-64. In it, he invented the “bullet” on its charts to denote rapidly rising records. Also the first to publish a country album chart. A journalism award named in his honor is given annually at the International Country Music Conference at Belmont University. Formerly a writer for Cash Box, as well as a record promoter and booking agent in East Tennessee working with Molly O’Day, Carl Story, Kitty Wells and others. Later, the manager of Ed Bruce and Connie Smith. As a performer/emcee, he perfected a comic “double talk” routine. With it, he appeared on Candid Camera, in Ernest Goes to Jail and as the 1992 winner of the America’s Funniest People TV competition. First president of the Nashville NARAS chapter. Founding board member of the CMA and GMA.

FLOYD MONROE POINTS, 91, died March 13.
Former bus driver for Ricky Skaggs, The Whites, Garth Brooks and other stars. Also formerly the head of the transportation department of the Opryland Hotel.

BUD McCAIN, 76, died March 17.
Former WSM and Grand Ole Opry radio announcer. (real name: Boyd W. Carender).

ERIC GORODETZKY, 44, died March 20.
Former Nashville recording studio engineer. Son of violinist and string arranger Carl Gorodetzky.

PAUL RICHEY, 72, died March 27.
Country music songwriter, publisher, recording artist, manager and evangelist. Former manager of George Jones. Co-writer of “The Baron” (Johnny Cash) and “Thank the Cowboy for the Ride” (Tammy Wynette, Chris LeDoux). Brother of the late George Richey.

Earl Scruggs

EARL SCRUGGS, 88, died March 28.
Country Music Hall of Fame member. Bluegrass Music Hall of Honor member. Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member. Grand Ole Opry star. His revolutionary, three-finger banjo playing defined bluegrass music when he joined Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in 1945. In Flatt & Scruggs, 1948-69, he was the co-leader of the world’s most popular bluegrass band. Starred in own WSM radio show, had a syndicated TV series and appeared as a regular on The Beverly Hillbillies network show. Hits include “Tis Sweet to Be Remembered” (1952), “Cabin in the Hills” (1959), “Crying My Heart Out Over You” (1960), “Polka on the Banjo” (1960), “The Ballad of Jed Clampett (1962), “You Are My Flower” (1964), “Petticoat Junction” (1964) and “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” (1968). Also popularized “Roll in My Sweet Baby’s Arms,” “Don’t Get Above Your Raising,” “Old Salty Dog Blues,” “I’ll Go Steppin’ Too,” “Head Over Heels in Love with You,” “Gone Home” and “The Martha White Theme.” Brought bluegrass music to college audiences, to the stage of the Newport Folk Festival, to Carnegie Hall and to the soundtrack of the landmark 1967 film Bonnie & Clyde. A key figure in securing the all-star talent lineup for the monumental 1972 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band project Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Entered and explored the country-rock movement of the 1970s with the Earl Scruggs Revue, alongside sons Randy, Steve and Gary. National Medal of Arts and National Heritage Fellowship winner. Four-time Grammy Award winner and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Honoree in 2008.

OZELL SIMPKINS, 84, died April 4.
Former president of Nashville’s premiere record-manufacturing facility, United Record Pressing.

HERBY WALLACE, 64, died April 5.
Member of the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame. He backed Nat Stuckey, Donna Fargo, Leroy Van Dyke, Roger Miller, Dave Dudley, Jody Miller, Billie Jo Spears, Sammi Smith, Roy Clark, Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, Jim Ed Brown, Con Hunley and many others. Did more than 2,000 recording sessions, including ones for his own 14 albums in 1980-99. A regular in the band at Dollywood for seven seasons.

PAT HARRIS, 88, died April 14.
Veteran Nashville entertainment journalist who wrote for the Reuters News Service, The Chicago Sun Times, Music City News, Time magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Christian Science Monitor and others.

Dick Clark

DICK CLARK, 82, died April 18.
Longtime producer of the annual Academy of Country Music Awards. Iconic rock ‘n’ roll pioneer famed for his American Bandstand program, 1956-89. Creator of The American Music Awards (1973) as a competitor to the Grammy Awards. Other properties included Where the Action Is, The $10,000 Pyramid, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes, New Year’s Rockin’ Eve, American Dreams etc. Member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Radio Hall of Fame and Hollywood’s Walkway of Stars. Author of Rock, Roll & Remember, also the title of his radio series.

LEVON HELM, 71, died April 19.
Americana Music Association Artist of the Year winner (2008) and Lifetime Achievement honoree (2003). Grammy Award winner for his 2011, Nashville-recorded Ramble at the Ryman. Portrayed Loretta Lynn’s father in the 1980 Oscar-winning film Coal Miner’s Daughter. Singer of such iconic songs by The Band as “Up on Cripple Creek,” “The Weight” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” As a member of The Band, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1994) and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement awardee (2008). Prior to his career as a solo artist and in The Band, a member of Ronnie Hawkins’ band The Hawks, who recorded such 1959 classics as “Forty Days” and “Mary Lou.” Autobiography: This Wheel’s on Fire (1993).

CHRIS ETHERIDGE, 65, died April 23.
Founding member of The International Submarine Band and The Flying Burrito Brothers. Songwriting collaborator with Gram Parsons. Bass player in Willie Nelson’s band for eight years. Also a member of L.A. Getaway.

FRED WILHELMS III, 62, died April 24.
Nashville music-business attorney.

KENNY ROBERTS, 85, died April 29.
Known as “Yodeling Kenny Roberts” and as “America’s King of the Yodelers.” A star at KMOX in St. Louis, the CBS radio Saturday morning show “Barnyard Frolics,” WLW-TV in Cincinnati, “The Hoosier Hop” in Ft. Wayne, IN, the WCOP “Hayloft Jamboree” in Boston and “The Midwestern Hayride” in Cincinnati. Starred in his own kiddie program The Kenny Roberts Show on WNEM-TV in Saginaw, MI in the 1960s. Recording artist for Vogue, Coral/Decca, Starday, Palomino and Longhorn in 1945-1985. Biggest hits included “I Never See Maggie Alone” (1949), “Wedding Bells” (1949), “Jealous Heart” (1949) and “Choc’late Ice Cream Cone” (1950), all on Coral. Also notable for such songs as “River of Tears,” “I’ve Got the Blues,” “Yodel Polka,” “She Taught Me to Yodel,” “Hillbilly Style” and “Cheer Up, Things Could be Worse.” Helped launch the career of Bill Haley, who was in his band in 1946. Appeared on the network television programs Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts and The Today Show. Father of music executives Bobby Roberts (The Bobby Roberts Company) and Jeff Roberts (Jeff Roberts & Associates).

RAY PATTERSON, 86, died May 2.
With his wife, one half of the Colorado old-time harmony duo Ray & Ina Patterson. Their career began at Southern radio stations in 1947 and included a number of fondly recalled albums for County Records in the 1970s that were throwbacks to the “brother-duet” teams of the 1930s.

GEORGE LINDSEY, 83, died May 6.
Country humorist known as “Goober” for his portrayal of Goober Pyle on the Andy Griffith Show, 1964-68, then on its spin-off series Mayberry R.F.D., 1968-71. The Nashvillian became further notable for being featured on Hee Haw for 20 years, 1971-93. Lindsey also appeared on such TV shows as M*A*S*H, Gunsmoke, Herbie the Love Bug, The Rifleman, The Twilight Zone and C.H.I.P.S. He appeared on Broadway in productions of Wonderful Town and All-American. His films included The Aristocats, The Rescuers, Take This Job and Shove It and Cannonball Run II. He was a judge for the Miss U.S.A. pageant for years. He also recorded the 1970 album Goober Sings!

EVERETT LILLY, 87, died May 8.
Member of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame and of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame. Fiddler/mandolinist in the acclaimed bluegrass group The Lilly Brothers & Don Stover, who popularized the style in New England, 1952-1970. Formerly a member of the Flatt & Scruggs band and a star on West Virginia radio at WJLS in Beckley. Brother Bea Lilly died in 2005, and thereafter he performed with his sons as Everett Lilly & The Lilly Mountaineers.

MARY “SIS” KING, 91, died May 9.
Founder and manager of Nashville’s oldest continuously operating nightclub, The Starlite Dinner Club on Dickerson Pike. The Starlite celebrates its 60th anniversary on Dec. 24, 2012.

DOUG DILLARD, 75, died May 16.
Member of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. Banjo player in The Dillards, who performed as “The Darlins” on TV’s hit series The Andy Griffith Show. Also a leader of the country-rock movement as a member of Dillard & Clark. An inspiration to fellow banjo men John McEuen, Steve Martin and John Hartford. Session musician for The Beach Boys, Johnny Cash, Linda Ronstadt, Glen Campbell and many more. Cast member of the Music Country USA television show in Nashville in the 1970s.
DONNA SUMMER, 63, died May 17.
Queen of Disco with 14 top-10 pop hits, including “Love to Love You Baby” (1976), “Hot Stuff” (1979) and “She Works Hard for the Money” (1983). Winner of five Grammy Awards. A resident of Middle Tennessee since 1995, she recorded both gospel and pop in Music City. Her co-written “Starting Over Again” was a No. 1 country hit for Dolly Parton in 1980 and a top-20 country hit again for Reba McEntire in 1995. Emmylou Harris recorded Summer’s “On the Radio” in 1983. Swan Ball headline performer in 2005. Nashville Chamber Orchestra performer in 2006. She was also a visual artist whose paintings were shown at The Tennessee State Musuem, the Bennett Gallery and other local spots. Wife of Brooklyn Dreams keyboardist/songwriter Bruce Sudano. Slated for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2013. (birth name: LaDonna Andrea Gaines)

Rusty Walker

RUSTY WALKER, 59, died May 21.
Member of the Country Radio Hall of Fame. During his career, he worked with more than 750 stations. Walker had over 40 years of broadcast experience, including time as a programmer, consultant and on-air personality. He launched his firm in 1983 and grew to be one of the most powerful consultants in country radio. As a personality and Program Director, his stops included WQYK, WQIK, WZZK and KFKF. Walker was named by R&R in a three way tie for “Country Radio’s Greatest Programmer” of the 20th Century in 2000. Named Billboard’s Country “Consultant Of The Year” seven consecutive years out of the eight years the award was given. He also served on the CMA Board of Directors. (real name: Sammy Darwin).

TERRY NEWELL, 61, died May 27.
Video editor and producer with PM Magazine, Crook & Chase, This Week in Country Music, Weekend with Crook & Chase, Funny Business with Charlie Chase, the TNN Music City News Awards, Celebrities Offstage, the CMA Awards Preview Show, NFL Films and others. His 35-year television career was largely spent with Jim Owens & Associates.

DOC WATSON, 89, died May 29.
Grammy Award winning folk/country guitarist and singer. Considered to be one of the most influential acoustic guitar players of the past half century. Newport Folk Festival sensation in the 1960s. Prominent participant on the landmark 1972 LP Will the Circle Be Unbroken. In addition to collaborating with The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on that collection, he also recorded with Bill Monroe, Flatt & Scruggs, Chet Atkins and other Nashville stars. Patriarch of Merlefest, an annual music event in North Carolina that draws 90 artists and 80,000 fans. Winner of a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2004 and a National Medal of the Arts in 1997. Father of the late guitar great Merle Watson (1949-1985), with whom he recorded and toured. They made the country charts in 1973 with “Bottle of Wine” and in 1978 with “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.” (real name: Arthel Watson).

VINCE CARDELL, 73, died May 29.
Formerly the master pianist at the Opryland Hotel. A protégé of Liberace. (real name: Vincent Cardile).

BUDDY ROGERS, 73, died May 30.
Nashville drummer who performed and/or recorded with Danny Davis & The Nashville Brass, Jerry Reed, Marty Robbins, Charlie Rich, The Wilburn Brothers, The Music City Jazz Band, The Tommy Dorsey Band, Jerry Lee Lewis and many others. In the Opry house band for four years. After a 25-year music career, he gained further fame as the founder/owner of Uncle Bud’s Catfish in Franklin, as well as its branches (1980-1989). Named Restaurateur of the Year and president of the Tennessee Restaurant Association.

JACK LAMEIER, 69, died May 31.
Columbia/CBS record-promotion executive for 40+ years. Host of “Jack’s Place,” a weekly  after-work gathering at his office for Music Row folks. Winner of the Country Radio Broadcasters’ President’s Award and the Academy of Country Music’s Mae Boren Axton Award.

BOB WELCH, 65, died June 7.
Nashville-resident rock star, noted for the 1977-79 hits “Sentimental Lady,” “Ebony Eyes” and “Precious Love.” Formerly a 1971-74 member of Fleetwood Mac. Songs recorded by Kenny Rogers, Sammy Hagar, The Pointer Sisters and others.

JAMES BELOTE, 80, died June 7.
Hall of Fame member of the barbershop singing organization SPEBSQSA in Nashville.

ERIC WHITE, 70, died June 7.
Banjo and bass player. In The Country Boys, who appeared twice on The Andy Griffith Show in 1961. Member of various West Coast country groups, including Linda Ronstadt’s band, then a 1973 member of the bluegrass band The New Kentucky Colonels. Brother of Roland White and Clarence White (1944-1973).

Frances Preston. Photo: Richard Patire

FRANCES PRESTON, 83, died June 13.
One of the founders of the Nashville music business. Member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Launched BMI’s Nashville office in 1958 and created the community’s first music-awards banquet. Leader of the CMA and champion of the building of the Country Music Hall of Fame. Built the BMI headquarters on 16th Avenue South in 1962, solidifying that neighborhood’s designation as Music Row. Her BMI vice presidency in 1964 made her the first female corporate executive in the state of Tennessee. Elevated to BMI’s national presidency in 1986. Brought the firm’s entire royalty-distribution division to Nashville in 2004, making BMI the largest employer on Music Row. Recording Academy Trustees Award recipient. Member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Namesake of the Frances Williams Preston Laboratories at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, of BMI’s Frances Williams Preston Song of the Year honor and of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame’s Frances Williams Preston Mentor Award.

RICK MOORE, 62, died June 13.
Singer, songwriter and owner of the Nashville blues label MRL Records. Artists with the company included Jimmy Nalls, John Jaworowicz, Blues Co-Op and his own group Rick Hall & Mr. Lucky.

VELMA LEE McENERY, 83, died June 13.
Texas country radio entertainer. Guitarist, singer and widow of the famed Red River Dave.

DAVID NYE, 53, died June 14.
Grand Ole Opry guitarist for 20+ years, mostly with Jimmy Dickens.

ROD SMARR JR., 65, died June 15.
Guitarist with Dr. Hook, 1978-87. Session musician for Dolly Parton, B.B. King, Isaac Hayes, Carla Thomas, Crystal Gayle and others over a 40-year career.

CHRIS NEAL, 40, died June 17.
Nashville music journalist. Senior editor of Music & Musicians magazine, 10-year veteran of Country Weekly and a freelancer for such publications as The Village Voice, Nashville Scene and Performing Songwriter.

MARTY YONTS, 57, died June 19.
Nashville singer-songwriter whose cuts include “Wake Up America” (C Company & Terry Nelson, 1971), “River” (David Allan Coe, 1974) and “Foolish Feelings” (Con Hunley, 1980). Son of songwriter Naomi Martin. Brother of singer-songwriter Lisa Daniel.

Donna Hilley

DONNA HILLEY, 71, died June 20.
A 31-year veteran of Sony/ATV Tree Publishing, she became its EVP and COO in 1978 and its President and CEO in 1994. Under her leadership, the company quadrupled its size and made such major acquisitions as Acuff-Rose, Little Big Town, Maypop and the catalogs of Conway Twitty, Merle Haggard, Jim Reeves and Buck Owens. Member of the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Recipient of Belmont University’s Robert E. Mulloy Award of Excellence in 2005, the year of her Sony/ATV retirement. Posthumously honored with the Frances Preston Mentor Award by the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Board member of ASCAP, CMA, GMA. Formerly at WMAK radio and in public relations.

SUSANNA CLARK, 73, died June 27.
Songwriter whose best known works include “I’ll Be Your San Antone Rose” (Dottsy, 1975), “Easy From Now On” (Emmylou Harris, 1978), “You’re a Hard Dog (To Keep Under the Porch)” (Gail Davies, 1983) and “Come from the Heart” (Kathy Mattea, 1989). Her songs were also recorded by Miranda Lambert, Jessi Colter, Lacy J. Dalton, Terri Clark, Carlene Carter, Jerry Jeff Walker, Townes Van Zandt, David Allan Coe, Charly McClain, Rosanne Cash and others. An accomplished visual artist, her paintings appeared on such album covers as Willie Nelson’s Stardust, Guy Clark’s Old No. 1, Emmylou Harris’s Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town and Nanci Griffith’s Dust Bowl Symphony. Wife of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Guy Clark.

BERNIE WALDON, 77, died June 27.
Country DJ on WILO, WHOW and WIRE in Indianapolis and WZIP in Cincinnati. Also a steel guitarist who backed a number of country artists in Florida.

AUDREY ALLISON, 89, died June 27.
Ex-wife of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Joe Allison (1924-2002) and his co-writer on the 1959 Jim Reeves mega hit “He’ll Have to Go,” as well as “It’s a Great Life” (Faron Young) and “Teen-Age Crush” (Tommy Sands).

MIKE JONES, 54, died June 30.
Founder/owner of Guardian Angel Driver Service, providing transportation and security for Nashville celebrities. As a limousine driver, he worked for dozens of country music stars, sports figures and politicians as well as Earth, Wind & Fire, The Temptations, Keifer Sutherland, Gen. Tommy Franks, Andy Griffith and Cybil Shepherd. Formerly the full-time limo driver for The Oak Ridge Boys and the personal assistant to producer/executive Jimmy Bowen. Singer-songwriter of the gospel hit “Answered Prayers” (Sparrow Records), which was also recorded by Engelbert Humperdinck. (full name: Michael Lamar Jones).

TOM “CAT” REEDER, 77, died June 30.
Member of the Country Radio Hall of Fame. Broadcaster for more than 50 years in the Washington, D.C. area on WCKW and WAMU.

ANDY GRIFFITH, 86, died July 3.
Actor and singer who became an American icon with his homespun, rural TV series The Andy Griffith Show (1960-68). He was also unforgettable as a charismatic, power-crazed hillbilly singer in the 1957 film A Face in the Crowd. Other “country” film roles included No Time for Sergeants (1958), Onionhead (1958) and Hearts of the West (1975). He initially made his mark as a recording artist with the 1954 recitation on Capitol Records, “What It Was, Was Football.” His albums for Capitol included Just For Laughs (1958), Shouts the Blues and Old Timey Songs (1959) and This Here (1960). Following his portrayal of a country lawyer on the successful TV series Matlock (1986-95), he resumed his recording career as a gospel artist. Signed to Sparrow Records in Nashville, he issued Somebody Bigger Than You and I (1996), the Grammy Award winning I Love to Tell the Story: 25 Timeless Hymns (1996), Just As I Am: 30 Favorite Old-Time Hymns (1998) and The Christmas Guest (2003). Griffith also appeared in Brad Paisley’s 2008 video “Waitin’ on a Woman.” He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

FRANK BUCHANAN, 78, died July 4.
Member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in the 1960s. He recorded 18 songs with Monroe.

BETTY FISHER, 76, died July 7.
One of the first female band leaders in bluegrass music. A lead guitarist, she began her career in the father-daughter duo Buck & Betty in North Carolina in the early 1950s. She retired from music when she married in 1955, but resumed her career and formed Betty Fisher & The Dixie Bluegrass Band in 1972. The group recorded four LPs and toured throughout the 1970s before disbanding in 1980. She briefly resurfaced with a new band and two recordings in the early 1990s and then retired.

DOC HOLLIDAY, 83, died July 10.
Longtime catering-business owner who became a regular on the top-rated WTVF-TV Talk of the Town show in Nashville. Formerly in the music business as a broadcaster, record executive, talent agent and show promoter. A popular DJ in Texas and Tennessee, he was the National Program Director of Connie B. Gay Communications. Board member and activist with R.O.P.E. (real name: Frank David Byer).

PERRY BAGGS, 50, died July 12.
Drummer, songwriter and high-harmony vocalist in the renowned “cow punk” Nashville rock band Jason & The Scorchers. Co-writer of the band’s popular “If Money Talks” and “White Lies” songs. The band received a 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Americana Music Association, which was the last show Baggs played. Also formerly an archivist/librarian with The Tennessean newspaper, 1991-2008.

Kitty Wells

KITTY WELLS, 92, died July 16.
The Queen of Country Music. Country Music Hall of Fame member. Winner of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award. The first solo female with a No. 1 country hit. Country’s leading woman artist from 1952 to 1966. Her outspoken 1952 breakthrough, “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” is a country standard. She also issued the first versions of such standards as 1954’s “Release Me,” 1958’s “I Can’t Stop Loving You” and 1955’s “Makin’ Believe.” Her career totals include 81 charted singles and 35 top-10 hits. Notable hits include “Paying for That Back Street Affair” (1953), “Hey Joe” (1953), “Cheatin’s a Sin” (1954), “There’s Poison in Your Heart” (1955), “I’ve Kissed You My Last Time,” “Searching” (1956), “Repenting” (1957), “Three Ways” (1957), “She’s No Angel” (1958), “Jealousy” (1958), “Mommy for a Day” (1959), “Your Wild Life’s Gonna Get You Down” (1959),” “Amigo’s Guitar” (1959), “Left to Right” (1960), “Heartbreak U.S.A.” (1961), “Unloved Unwanted” (1962), “Will Your Lawyer Talk to God” (1962). “We Missed You” (1962), “This White Circle” (1964), “Password” (1964), “I’ll Repossess My Heart” (1965), “You Don’t Hear” (1965), “Meanwhile Down at Joe’s” (1965) and more. Duets with Roy Acuff, Red Foley, Webb Pierce and husband Johnnie Wright (1914-2010), who was a member of the hit duo Johnnie & Jack. Career museum in 1983-2000. Cookbook author. Nationally syndicated TV show beginning in 1968. Mother of singers Bobby Wright, Carol Sue Sturdivant and Ruby Wright (1939-2009). (real name: Muriel Ellen Deason Wright).

BOB BABBITT, 74, died July 16.
Member of the Musicians Hall of Fame. Recipient of a star on Music City’s Star Walk. Legendary bass player in Motown’s studio band The Funk Brothers. Featured in the film Standing in the Shadows of Motown. His playing can be heard on Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed & Delivered,” The Temptations’ “Ball of Confusion,” Marvin Gaye’s “Mercy Me” and “Inner City Blues,” The Miracles’ “Tears of a Clown,” Diana Ross’s “Touch Me in the Morning,” Edwin Starr’s “War,” Undisputed Truth’s “Smiling Faces” and many more. Outside of Motown, he’s on “Midnight Train to Georgia” by Gladys Knght & The Pips,” most of Del Shannon’s hits, “Cool Jerk” by The Capitols, “Oh How Happy” by The Shades of Blue, “I Got a Name” by Jim Croce, “Mama Can’t Buy You Love” by Elton John, several of the big hits by The Spinners, “Never Can Say Goodbye” by Gloria Gaynor, “Kiss and Say Goodbye” by The Manhattans and hits by Alice Cooper, Barry Manilow, Frankie Valli, Engelbert Humperdinck, The Platters, The Parliaments, etc. He performed a notable and influential extended solo on “Scorpio” by Dennis Coffey. A Nashvillian since 1986. (real name: Robert Kreinar)

ROBERT LEE CRIGGER, 69, died July 21.
Guitarist who backed Bobby Bare, Jean Shepard, Tom T. Hall, Donna Fargo and others.

DON COX, 78, died July 24.
San Jose, CA nightclub entrepreneur whose venues included Cowtown and The Three Flames. Also a country singer and bandleader for many years in the San Francisco bay area known as “The Crazy Gringo.”

CHRIS DUFFY, 64, died July 24.
Australian recording artist who was also a promoter of bluegrass tours Down Under.

RITA LEE, 73, died July 27.
Known as “Miss Rita,” she and husband Buddy Lee (Joseph Arthur Pinhal, 1932-1998) co-founded the prominent Nashville booking agency Buddy Lee Attractions. Established as Aud-Lee Attractions in 1964, it was initially a partnership with Audrey Williams that booked Hank Williams Jr. In 1968, Rita and Buddy assumed full control and changed the name. The agency eventually represented Garth Brooks, Willie Nelson, George Strait, Dixie Chicks and other top country stars. She was formerly professional wrestler “Rita Cortez, The Mexican Spitfire,” a protégée, then rival of champion “The Fabulous Moolah,” Buddy’s previous wife. (birth name: Yolanda Gutierrez)

STUART SWANLUND, 54, died Aug. 4.
Longtime lead guitarist in the Southern rock group The Marshall Tucker Band.

STEPHEN HILL, 55, died Aug. 5.
Gospel singer and songwriter who was a regular on Bill Gaither’s “Homecoming” videos, CDs and concerts. Teacher at Ben Speer’s Stamps Baxter School of Music in Nashville.

DINO ZIMMERMAN, 67, died Aug. 11.
Longtime member of K.T. Oslin’s band. He both toured and recorded with her. Also on the road with Holly Dunn, Mila Mason and others. Formerly a member of the Malaco Rhythm Section in Mississippi in the 1970s with James Stroud, Don Barrett and Carson Whitsett. Owner of the Dino’s Demos recording strudio. (real name: Dennis Zimmerman).

EVERETT J. CORBIN, 80, died Aug. 18.
Champion of traditional country music. Author of the colorful, conspiracy-theory 1980 book Storm Over Nashville.

One of Nashville’s first female sound engineers, running sound at Opryland and TPAC, understudy of Jim Williamson at Sound Emporium. Later a developer of high-end audio recording consoles at Harrison Systems.

GENE THOMAS, 74, died Aug. 26.
Houston-based swamp-pop singer of 1961’s “Sometimes” and 1963’s “Baby’s Gone.” Also “Gene” of Gene & Debbie, whose biggest hit was 1968’s “Playboy.” Acuff-Rose staff songwriter in 1967-72. His “Lay it Down” was recorded by Kenny Rogers, Waylon Jennings and Tina Turner. Songs also recorded by George Jones, Don Gibson, Everly Brothers, Dean Martin, Eddy Raven, Freddy Fender, Roy Orbison, Carl Smith, Mickey Gilley, Connie Smith, Johnny Lee, Charlie Louvin, Dottie West and Paul Revere & The Raiders. (real name: Gene Thomasson).

DAMON FREEMAN, 57, died Aug. 28.
Cameraman and/or video engineer at Channel 5, Opryland Productions, TNN and CMT.

BRAD BAKER, 58, died Aug. 31
Sound man at the Nashville nightspot The End. Previously a touring technician with REO Speedwagon, Journey, Loverboy, Prince, and others. Writer of the Great White hard-rock song “Wasted Rock Ranger.”

HAL DAVID, 91, died Sept. 1.
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member. Best known for many huge pop hits by artists such as Dionne Warwick, Gene Pitney, Dusty Springfield and B.J. Thomas that he co-wrote with Burt Bacharach. Their Broadway musical Promises, Promises won Tony Awards, and “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” earned them an Oscar. David’s catalog also includes a string of country successes, including “The Story of My Life” (Marty Robbins), “Sea of Heartbreak” (Don Gibson & many others), “Only Love Can Break a Heart” (Sonny James), “Twenty Four Hours from Tulsa” (Randy Barlow), “I Say a Little Prayer” (Glen Campbell & Anne Murray), “It Was Almost Like a Song” (Ronnie Milsap) and “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” (Willie Nelson & Julio Iglesias). Bacharach/David pop classics include “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” “Alfie,” “Anyone Who Had a Heart,” “Walk on By,” “What’s New Pussycat,” “This Guy’s in Love with You,” “(They Long to Be) Close to You,” “Make it Easy on Yourself,” “The Look of Love,” “Don’t Make Me Over,” “Wives and Lovers,” “Wishin’ and Hopin’,” “Blue on Blue,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” “I Just Don’t Know What to Do With Myself,” “A House Is Not a Home,” “Always Something There to Remind Me,” “Message to Michael,” “One Less Bell to Answer,” “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and more. David served as the president of ASCAP in 1980-86. Inducted into the national Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1972, given a 1997 Trustees Award by the Recording Academy, received star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2011 and presented the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize by President Obama in 2012.

GARRY HARRISON, 58, died Sept. 4.
Old-time fiddler who published the folk-song book Dear Old Illinois and recorded CDs based on it.

Joe South

JOE SOUTH, 72, died Sept. 5.
Hit songwriter, pop star, record producer and session-guitar great. As an artist, he had big pop hits with his self-penned “Games People Play” (1969) — which earned him Grammy Awards for pop Song of the Year and overall Song of the Year — “Don’t It Make You Wanna Go Home (1969), “Walk a Mile in My Shoes” (1970) and “Children” (1970). He both wrote and produced “Untie Me” (1962) for The Tams, plus “Down in the Boondocks” (1965), “I Knew You When” (1965), “Yo-Yo” (1966) and “These Are Not My People” (1967) for Billy Joe Royal. He also produced “Something I’ll Remember” for Sandy Posey (1968) and co-produced “Reach Out of the Darkness” for Friend & Lover (1968). As a guitarist, South recorded with Bob Dylan, Eddy Arnold, Marty Robbins, Aretha Franklin, Tommy Roe, Wilson Pickett and others in the studios of Nashville and Muscle Shoals. His song catalog includes the Lynn Anderson hits “Rose Garden” (1970), “How Can I Unlove You” (1971) and “Fool Me” (1972). In 1969-70, Freddy Weller had country hits with “Games People Play,” “These Are Not My People” and “Down in the Boondocks.” South’s “Hush,” first recorded by Royal in 1967, became a rock standard after Deep Purple scored a big hit with it in 1968. “Yo-Yo” was revived by The Osmonds in 1971. Other notable songs include The Raiders’ “Birds of a Feather” (1971), Gene Vincent’s “Gone Gone Gone,” (1963) and Royal’s 1987 country hit “Old Bridges Burn Slow.” Member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. (real name: Joseph Alfred Souter).

DEBBIE PIERCE, 58, died Sept. 5.
Solo recording artist for Decca and MCA in the 1970s, then a member of Chantilly, the country all-female group who charted seven times in 1982-84. With her father Webb Pierce, a member of the father-daughter duet team The Pierces on Plantation Records in 1979. Later a member of the security personnel at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

ROLLIN SULLIVAN, 93, died Sept. 7.
“Oscar” in the long-running Grand Ole Opry music/comedy duo Lonzo & Oscar. With first “Lonzo” Lloyd George (1924-1991), he had the million-selling 1947-48 novelty hit “I’m My Own Grandpa” and became the first country act with its own custom tour bus. With the second “Lonzo,” brother Johnny Sullivan (1917-1967), he had the 1961 hit “Country Music Time,” Hee Haw appearances, a syndicated TV series and featured roles in several films, including 1958’s Country Music Holiday. With the third “Lonzo,” David Hooten, he had the 1974 non-comedy hit “Traces of Life.” Lonzo & Oscar were Opry cast members from 1947 to 1985. The team recorded for RCA, Columbia, Capitol, Decca, Dot, GRC, Starday, Chalet and Nugget. Popular stage songs included “Hole in the Bottom of the Sea,” “Take Them Cold Feet Outta My Back,” “Did You Have to Bring That Up While I Was Eating” and “You Blacked My Blue Eyes Once Too Often.” In the role of “Lonzo” in later years were Cleo C. Hogan and Billy Henson. Henson bought the rights to the Lonzo & Oscar name from Sullivan when the latter retired in 1999. Since then, Henson has switched to performing as “Oscar” with Ron Ryan portraying “Lonzo.”

JIMMIE WILLIAMS, 80, died Sept. 9.
Singer and mandolin player with Mac Wiseman, The Stanley Brothers and The Lonesome Pine Fiddlers. With Red Ellis, he also recorded Holy Cry From the Hills as a bluegrass-gospel duet LP for Starday Records, as well as a number of singles.

GARY LUMPKIN, 59, died Sept. 17.
Country musician, entertainer and songwriter whose frequent collaborators included Carmol Taylor, Dave Hall and John Riggs. Best known for co-writing the George Jones/Lacy J. Dalton 1985 duet hit “Size Seven Round (Made of Gold).”

PATTI DENISE BRYANT, 58, died Sept. 23.
Former Nashville harmony vocalist in the trio Three of a Kind. They backed Roy Clark and Tommy Overstreet in Las Vegas and worked with other stars. Also a performer at Opryland. Later, a special projects writer and producer for Gaylord’s TNN cable channel.

ANDY WILLIAMS, 84, died Sept. 26.
Megastar pop crooner of “Moon River,” “Love Story,” “Dear Heat” and “Days of Wine and Roses” fame, plus TV. Began career in country music in The Williams Brothers quartet on WHO’s Iowa Barn Dance in Des Moines and the WLS National Barn Dance in Chicago. Went solo in 1952. In early recording career, 1955-61, frequently relied on Nashville songs such as Carl Belew’s “Lonely Street,” Wayne Walker’s “Are You Sincere,” Roger Miller’s “(In the Summertime) You Don’t Want My Love” and Melvin Endsley’s “I Like Your Kind of Love” for hit singles. Later recorded pop LPs on Music Row.

DAVE FRANER, 68, died Sept. 26.
Owner of Hillside Records, an independent country label that recorded Curtis Potter, Jody Nix, Kenny Serratt, Ray Sanders, Billy Armstrong, Jolie Holiday and other traditional stylists. The company and its artists were particularly well liked in Europe.

Banjo, guitar and fiddle player who performed with The Misty Mountain Boys and The Pinnacle Boys, as well as in Porter Wagoner’s band The Wagonmasters.

FARRELL MORRIS, 74, died Oct. 4.
Nashville percussionist noted for his multi-instrumental abilities in the studio with Kris Kristofferson, Mickey Newbury, Dan Fogelberg, J.J. Cale, Johnny Cash, George Jones, Kenny Chesney, Dolly Parton and many more during a session career that stretched from the 1960s to the 1990s. Also performed with The Nashville Symphony and taught at the Blair School of Music. (full name: Richard Farrell Morris).

CONNIE GATELY, 83, died Oct. 15.
Singer and guitarist in the durable bluegrass band Connie & Babe and The Backwoods Boys. The group was active from 1952 to 1993 and recorded for Republic, Starday and Rounder. He co-wrote all of its most popular songs, including “Toil, Tears and Trouble,” “Lonely Years,” “How Will the Flowers Bloom,” “Roll On Blues,” “Grave on the Rolling Hillside” and “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” the last of which was later recorded by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman.

ISAAC “DICKIE” FREEMAN, 84, died Oct. 16.
Revered bass singer of the Nashville gospel group The Fairfield Four. Member of the Gospel Music Hall of Fame. Grammy Award winner for the group’s 1999 CD I Couldn’t Hear Nobody Pray. Featured in the movie O Brother Where Art Thou as well as on its million-selling soundtrack album. In the 1940s, the group had its own radio show on WLAC, which was broadcast nationally via the CBS Radio Network. Over the years, The Fairfield Four recorded for Bullet, Dot, Champion, Delta, Old Town, Nashboro, Dead Reckoning, Blue Plate and Warner Bros. Records. Founded in 1925, The Fairfield Four is one of the most enduring and influential harmony groups in gospel-music history.

NELL DRIVER, 92, died Oct. 18.
Formerly of the bluegrass group The Driver Family Band. Also the registrar for 15 years of the famed Smithville Jamboree.

Tim Johnson

TIM JOHNSON, 52, died Oct. Oct. 21.
Nashville songwriter with more than 100 recordings of his works. Hits include Diamond Rio’s “God Only Cries,” Jimmy Wayne’s “Do You Believe Me Now,” Mark Chesnutt’s “Thank God for Believers” and Daryle Singletary’s “I Let Her Lie.” Also Alan Jackson’s “To Do What I Do,” Joey + Rory’s “Remember Me” and “That’s Important to Me,” Jeannie Kendall’s “Out of Loneliness,” Joe Nichols’s “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” Rockie Lynne’s “I Can’t Believe It’s Me,” Tracy Lawrence’s “Up to Him,” Blaine Larsen’s “The Best Man,” Doug Stone’s “Nice Problem” and The Song Trust’s “Bring Him Home Santa” are among his credits. Producer of Blaine Larsen. Highly active in NSAI as a mentor and advocate.

BILL DEES, 73, died Oct. 24.
Roy Orbison’s co-writer on such favorites as “Oh Pretty Woman,” “It’s Over,” “Breaking Up Is Breaking My Heart,” “Fastest Guitar Alive,” “Ride Away” and “Crawling Back.”

JOSEPH E. ROSS, 80, died Nov. 3.
Country entertainer for 60+ years. Began career in 1949 in the award-winning Tennessee group the Wimauma String Band. Organized and hosted the Music Jam at the Murfreesboro Senior Center in the 1990s.

FRANK PEPPIATT, 85, died Nov. 7.
Co-creater of Hee Haw, the most successful country television series in history. Peppiatt and John Aylesworth (1928-2010) launched the program in 1969. On CBS, in syndication and on TNN, the show endured for 25 years.

FRANK DYCUS, 72, died Nov. 23.
Country songwriter whose catalog includes “Lilacs and Fire” (George Morgan, 1970), “Charley’s Picture” (Porter Wagoner, 1971), “He Can’t Fill My Shoes” (Jerry Lee Lewis, 1974), “Is Forever Longer Than Always” (Porter Wagoner & Dolly Parton, 1976), “Unwound” (George Strait, 1981), “Down and Out” (George Strait, 1981), “Marina Del Ray” (George Strait, 1982), “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair” (George Jones, 1992) and “Gonna Get a Life” (Mark Chesnutt, 1995). SESAC’s 1995 Songwriter of the Year. (full name: Marion Frank Dycus)

ED STRATTON, 101, died Nov. 25.
Veteran of 48 years in ad sales with WSIX radio. Owner and president of the Merry Sounds ad agency in Nashville. Locally famed as the “Superlative Florist” voice of Emma’s Flowers.

JIM McKELL, 60, died Nov. 27.
Recording engineer and producer formerly at Creative Workshop Studios. Clients included The Judds and Kenny Rogers. A Grammy nominee for co-producing the Kenny Rogers comeback hit “Buy Me a Rose.”

RICK BLACKBURN, 70, died Nov. 30.
Country record-label executive with two decades of experience on Music Row. Head of the Nashville offices of CBS, Columbia and Epic, 1980-1987. Head of the Nashville office of Atlantic Records 1989-1999. Formerly with Monument in Nashville, CBS in New York, Ode in L.A. and Mercury in Chicago. Past president and chairman of the board of the CMA. Founding council member of Leadership Music.

AMBER JACOBSON, 33, died Nov. 30.
Executive Director at CountryWired, a Nashville-based entertainment internet consulting agency.

NORMAN MILLER, 69, died Dec.3.
Christian-music executive with record-label, management and producing experience. Grammy Awards for the Andrae Crouch Tribute Album and for Soulful Celebration (a gospel version of Handel’s Messiah). Former executive director of Word Music in Europe. Founder of Proper Management, representing Casting Crowns, Anthem Lights, Francesca Battistelli, Nichole Nordeman, The Afters and more. Artists whose careers were guided and/or affected by him include Brandon Heath, Michael W. Smith, Natalie Grant, Newsboys, NewSong, Point of Grace, Steven Curtis Chapman, Third Day and tobymac. Miller assembled the popular CCM acts Avalon, ZOEgirl, Jump5 and PureNRG.

WILLIE ACKERMAN, 73, died Dec. 13.
Longtime drummer on the Grand Ole Opry, on Hee Haw and on Music Row recording sessions. Member of the AFM local for 50 years. (full name: William Paul Ackerman)

MARTHA HUME, 65, died Dec. 17.
Noted journalist and author. Former managing editor at Country Music magazine. Author of the books You’re So Cold I’m Turnin’ Blue: Martha Hume’s Guide to the Greatest in Country Music (1982) and Kenny Rogers: Gambler, Dreamer, Lover (1980). Wife of CMT columnist Chet Flippo.


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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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