As the year draws to a close, we pause to remember the folks we lost in 2014. The senior citizen on this list is groundbreaking black singing cowboy Herb Jeffries, who made it to the age of 100. The tight-knit steel-guitar community lost seven of its members. The Grand Ole Opry said farewell to Jimmy C. Newman and George Hamilton IV.
Three Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame members passed, Paul Craft, Larry Henley and Phil Everly, the last of whom is also a Country, Rock and Rockabilly hall of famer. Other songwriting greats we lost include Bob Montgomery and Arthur “Guitar Boogie” Smith.
The Gospel Music Hall of Fame lost Don Light and Mary Tom Speers. The Bluegrass Hall of Honor lost George Shuffler. Pioneering Nashville female session musicians Velma Williams Smith and Millie Kirkham died. Jazz mainstay Billy Adair, rock sideman Bobby Keys and comics Tim Wilson, Elmer Fudpucker and Bun Wilson left us as well.
Say hail and farewell to this 2014 roll call.
CHIP YOUNG, 76, died Dec. 20, 2014
For over four decades, Chip Young lent his distinctive thumb-style picking to timeless country recordings, including Dolly Parton’s “Jolene,” Elvis Presley’s “Guitar Man,” and Charley Pride’s “Kiss an Angel Good Morning.” As a producer, he helmed recordings by acts such as Delbert McClinton, Jerry Reed, Gary Stewart (“Your Place or Mine”), and Billy Swan (“I Can Help”). More recently, Young played on recordings by My Morning Jacket, Todd Snider and Candi Staton.
WILLIAM McCORMICK, 74, died Dec. 20, 2013
Member of The McCormick Brothers, the bluegrass band that recorded extensively for Hickory Records in the 1950s and 1960s. William played bass in the group, which also included his brothers Kelly, Lloyd, Haskel and Gerald McCormick.
FRANCES LYELL, 72, died Dec. 20, 2013
Singer and multi instrumentalist who performed on the Grand Ole Opry and substituted as a member of Mother Maybelle & The Carter Sisters during the 1960s. (married name: Frances Lyell Blanchette)
JOHNNY SIBERT, 80, died Dec. 21, 2013
Steel Guitar Hall of Fame member. Began career as a teenager on Nashville radio with Big Jeff Bess. Beginning in 1951, he was a key component in the sound of Carl Smith (1927-2010), playing on such hits as “Are You Teasing Me,” “Hey Joe,” “Loose Talk” and “There She Goes.” He also played on such hits as Jimmy Dickens’ “Out Behind the Barn” and Kitty Wells’ “Heartbreak U.S.A.,” as well as on records by Johnnie & Jack, Lefty Frizzell and The Everly Brothers. After a 1959-60 stint in Kitty’s band, he returned to Carl Smith as the star’s bandleader in 1961-69. He then became a longtime security guard at The Tennessean. Later, a mentor to young steel sensation Chris Scruggs.
GEORGE COLLIER, 69, died December 21, 2013.
Record-label executive in sales and marketing with MCA, Atlantic, Capitol, Intersound/Platinum and Infinity/Aspirion. Formerly a musician with dance bands in his native Pennsylvania.
SLIM WILLIAMSON, 86, died December 25, 2013.
Veteran executive in song publishing (Yonah Music) and labels (RCA Records). Notable as the founder of the successful 1962-1975 independent label Chart Records. Chart’s roster in the 1960s and 1970s included hit makers Lynn Anderson, Billy “Crash” Craddock and Lawanda Lindsey; veterans Joe & Rose Lee Maphis, Carl & Pearl Butler, Red Sovine, Bill Carlisle, Grant Turner, Maxine Brown, Lorene Mann and Gordon Terry; instrumentalists Lloyd Green, Hargus “Pig” Robbins and Del Wood; Hee Haw’s Junior Samples and Roni Stoneman: and up-and-comers such as Jerry Lane, Karen Wheeler, Anthony Armstrong Jones, Dave Peel and Connie Eaton. He also discovered Ronnie McDowell. Father of Starstruck executive Cliff Williamson. (real name: Bradley Williamson).
PHIL EVERLY, 74, died Jan. 3.
Member of the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. High-harmony voice in The Everly Brothers. Began career on radio as a child with parents Ike & Margaret Everly and brother Don. Brothers rose to fame in Nashville in 1957-60 with such rockabilly hits as “Bye Bye Love,” “Wake Up Little Susie,” “Bird Dog,” “Problems,” “Claudette” and “Poor Jenny” as well as the timeless ballads “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” “Devoted to You” and “Let It Be Me.” Wrote 1960’s “When Will I Be Loved,” later revived by Linda Ronstadt. Everlys’ 1958 LP Songs Our Daddy Taught Us recreated in 2013 by Billy Joe Armstrong & Norah Jones. Hits of the 1960s included “Cathy’s Clown,” “So Sad,” “Walk Right Back,” “Ebony Eyes,” “Stick With Me Baby,” “Crying in the Rain” and “That’s Old Fashioned.” Co-wrote 1964’s “Gone Gone Gone,” later revived by Alison Krauss & Robert Plant. Co-wrote 1965’s big British hit “The Price of Love,” later revived by Bryan Ferry, The Who and more. Everlys career revived via 1969 LP Roots and 1970 network TV series. Brothers broke up in 1973. Phil solo LPs thereafter were Star Spangled Springer (1973, produced by Duane Eddy), which introduced the future Hollies hit “The Air That I Breathe,” Phil’s Diner (1974), Mystic Line (1975, featuring Warren Zevon), Living Alone (1979) and Phil Everly (1983), which included the Cliff Richard duet “She Means Nothing to Me.” Phil had a 1981 top-10 A/C hit with his self-composed “Dare to Dream Again.” Brothers reunited in 1983, Three albums for Mercury Records yielded six country chart singles, including Paul McCartney’s “Wings of a Nightingale” and the 1986 hit “Born Yesterday.” “Ballad of a Teenage Queen,” recorded with Johnny & Rosanne Cash, nominated for a 1989 CMA Award. Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame 1986. Hollywood Walk of Fame 1986. Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award 1997. Country Music Hall of Fame 2001. Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame 2001. Hugely influential stylist with hit catalog continually revived by hundreds of succeeding artists.
RONNIE GANT, 69, died Jan. 4.
Record producer and song publisher. Affiliated with Acuff-Rose for many years. Produced Eddy Raven, Lorrie Morgan, Don Gibson and Mickey Newbury. Successful plugger of such hits as “Elvira,” “Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind,” “Thank God for Kids,” “Darlene” and more. Signed Skip Ewing, Patty Loveless, David Chamberlain and Donny Kees. Opened own publishing company in 1988, and two years later published “Friends in Low Places.” Joined HoriPro Nashville in 2001 as head of its creative team.
STEVEN FROMHOLZ, 68, died Jan. 19.
Singer-songwriter who was named a Poet Laureate of Texas in 2007. Writer of the 1976 Willie Nelson hit “I’d Have to Be Crazy.” Early member of Stephen Stills’ Manassas. Albums include From Here to There (as “Frommox” on ABC, 1969), A Rumor in My Own Time (Capitol, 1976), Rolicking in the Myth (Capitol, 1977), Jus’ Playin’ Along (Lone Star, 1978), Fromholz Live (Felicity, 1979), Frommox II (Felicity, 1982), Love Songs (Felicity, 1986), Everybody’s Goin’ on the Road (Felicity, 1991), Old Fart in the Mirror (Tried & True, 1995), A Guest in Your Heart (Felicity, 2001) and Live at Anderson Fair (Felicity, 2001). Wildly entertaining in performance, Fromholz was hard to capture on disc. Popular numbers included “Sweet Janey,” “Yellow Cab,” “Just a Waltz,” “Bears” and “Texas Trilogy.” The last named was popularized by Lyle Lovett. Others who recorded Fromholz songs included Jerry Jeff Walker, Michael Martin Murphey, John Denver and Hoyt Axton. In the 1977 Peter Fonda movie Outlaw Blues. National television: Austin City Limits. Playwright and stage actor.
LARRY MOELLER, 75, died Jan. 21.
Veteran manager, talent agent and song publisher. Noted for working with Waylon Jennings and Sammi Smith as well as for a long business relationship with Willie Nelson. Son of famed talent agent Walter E. “Lucky” Moeller (1912-1992).
L.W. LAMBERT, 87, died Jan. 23.
North Carolina banjo legend. Performing career began in 1938. Groups included The Carolina Neighbors, The Murphy Brothers, The Blue River Boys and The Border Mountain Boys.
SETTLE TOWNSEND, 82, died Jan. 24.
Longtime security guard at Warner Music Nashville. The former Meharry University research assistant began working for the label in 1980 and remained there for more than 25 years.
ELMO BOSWELL, 76, died Jan. 25.
Former owner of BMA Records with partners Fuller Arnold and the Opry’s Sam McGee. Singing cowboy who performed “Empty Saddle” at funerals of Rotary Club members in Franklin.
RUSTY YORK, 78, died Jan. 26.
Bluegrass banjo player in Cincinnati who worked with duet partner Willard Hale as well as with Jimmie Skinner. Briefly switched to rockabilly music with 1959’s “Sugaree,” which landed him in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. Returned to bluegrass and founded the durable Cincinnati label Jewel Records. (full name: Charles Edward York).
HARRY WEST, 87, died Jan. 25.
Folk/Appalachian and old-time music singer and multi-instrumentalist in the husband-wife duo Harry & Jeanie West. Extensive recording career in the 1950s and 1960s on Folkways, Everest, Prestige, Riverside and other labels. He also backed her on 1960’s Roamin’ the Blue Ridge with Jeanie West (Prestige Records), reportedly the first bluegrass LP by a woman. From 1980 onward they operated their Harry & Jeanie West Fine Musical Instruments store in Statesville, NC, which remains in business.
PETE SEEGER, 94, died Jan. 27.
Singer, banjo player and folk legend who wrote the standards “Turn, Turn, Turn,” “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” and “If I Had a Hammer.” Popularized “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and “We Shall Overcome.” Began career in 1940 traveling with folk-country legend Woody Guthrie (1912-1967), and they became members of The Almanac Singers. Formed The Weavers in 1948, and the group had a top-10 country and pop hit with “On Top of Old Smoky” in 1951. Other big pop hits by the group included “Goodnight Irene” (1950), “Tzena Tzena Tzena” (1950), Guthrie’s “So Long (It’s Been Good to Know Yuh)” (1951), “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” (1951) and “Wimoweh” (1952). Subsequent Seeger solo career included more than 100 albums and the 1964 charting “Little Boxes.” Career-long association with progressive politics including anti-war and environmental activism. Co-founded The Newport Folk Festival in 1959. Books include How to Play the Five String Banjo (1948), Where Have All the Flowers Gone (1993) and many songbooks. Biography How Can I Keep From Singing (1981). Host of TV’s Rainbow Quest in 1965-66. Grammy Awards for Best Traditional Folk Album in 1997 and 2009 as well as for Best Children’s Album in 2011. Half brother of folk singer Peggy Seeger and of New Lost City Ramblers old-time music band member Mike Seeger (1933-2009). Influenced Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, The Byrds, Emmylou Harris, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Peter, Paul & Mary, longtime touring partner Arlo Guthrie and many more. Songwriters Hall of Fame 1972. Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award 1993. Kennedy Center Honor and National Medal of the Arts 1994. Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame 1996.
KIP MARTIN, 56, died Jan. 29.
Bass player, music journalist and composer. He was a sideman for Jimmy Martin, Mike Auldridge and other bluegrass headliners. Composed music for the soundtrack of the 1988 Sandra Bullock/George Plimpton film A Fool and His Money. Founder of the DC Bluegrass Union.
BILLY EASLEY, 88, died Jan. 31.
The first full-time black photographer at The Tennessean. He often documented CMA Week activities as well as numerous concerts at Municipal Auditorium in the 1970s and 1980s.
EDWIN LEE “RIP” NIX, 80, died Feb. 1.
Second husband of June Carter (1929-2003). Father of the late singer Rosie Carter Nix (1958-2003). Former stepfather of Carlene Carter.
SMOKEY SMITH, 91, died Feb. 3.
Member of the Country Disc Jockey Hall of Fame. Longtime air personality on KRNT radio and TV in Des Moines, Iowa. Also one of country music’s preeminent concert promoters of the 1950s and 1960s, presenting shows in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Colorado, Indiana and South Dakota, as well as Iowa. During the 1940s, he was a Mexican “border radio” broadcaster and a recording artist for Crystal Records with “I’m a Fool to Care,” “I Love You So Much It Hurts” and other titles. Co-founder of the Country Music Disc Jockey Association in 1953 as well as a founder of the succeeding Country Music Association in 1958. Formed Smokey Smith Tours in 1974 as a successful holiday bus-tour business. R.O.P.E. International Media Achievement Award 2007. Biography in 2010, Smokey Smith: The Legendary Life of Iowa’s Mr. Country Music. (real name: Donald Charles Smith)
FRANCES MEEKER, 86, died Feb. 6.
One of Nashville’s first female newspaper reporters. She became the religion editor at The Nashville Banner. Co-author of the 1995 biography Country Sunshine: The Dottie West Story.
REV. MORGAN BABB, 84, died Feb. 7.
Gospel-music great. Owner and star of Nashville radio station WMBD-AM since 1983. Before that, the chief announcer on WVOL-AM for nearly 30 years, billed as “Happy Jack.” Lead singer of The Radio Four on Tennessee Records and Republic Records in 1952-53 (reissued on CD in 1999). Also formed The Philco Singers, The Voices of Nashville and The Gospel Five groups. Solo recording artist on Nashboro Records in the 1960s and 1970s (reissued on CD in 1995). Talent scout for several Nashville gospel labels. Writer of Lillian Offitt’s 1957 r&b hit “I Miss You So” on Excello Records. Pastor of the King Solomon Missionary Baptist Church in North Nashville since 1965.
FRANCES HEIGHTON, 83, died Feb. 11.
Gospel songwriter whose works were recorded by Loretta Lynn, Daniel O’Donnell and others.
BILLY ADAIR. 66. died Feb. 18.
Multi-instrumentalist who was a key figure on Nashville’s jazz scene. Director of the big-band group The Establishment. Co-founder of The Nashville Jazz Machine. Vice president of the board of The Nashville Jazz Orchestra. Composer of hundreds of national ad jingles, for which he won more than 150 awards. Department Chairman of jazz and folk music at Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music, he was a key figure in bringing jazz studies to the school. Played on recording sessions by The Oak Ridge Boys, Brenda Lee, Waylon Jennings, Ronnie Milsap, George Strait, Alabama and more. Husband of jazz piano great Beegie Adair.
BRIAN HARRISON, 54, died Feb. 18.
Nashville musician, recording engineer, producer and owner of the studio The Rendering Plant. Known as “Brain,” his bands included The Guinea Horn Quintet and The Hubcap Thieves.
PENNY DeHAVEN, 65, died Feb. 23.
Country singer on United Artists and Mercury labels in the 1970s. Duet partner of Del Reeves (1933-2007) on “Land Mark Tavern” (1970), her biggest hit. Sang country remakes of such pop hits as The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine” (1970), The Everly Brothers’ “Crying in the Rain” (with Reeves, 1972), Marvin Gaye’s “I’ll Be Doggone” (1974) and Billy Joe Royal’s “Down in the Boondocks” (1969). Biggest solo hit, 1969’s “Mama Lou.” Appeared on albums by Porter Wagoner (1927-2007) and Boxcar Willie (1931-1999). In movies Valley of Blood (1973), Traveling Light (1971) and Country Music Story (1972). Sang “Bayou Lullaby” on soundtrack of 1982 Clint Eastwood film Honkytonk, Man. Previously on the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree.
FRANNY BEECHER, 92, died Feb. 24.
Lead guitarist for Bill Haley’s seminal rockabilly band, The Comets, 1955-62. Member Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
TIM WILSON, 52, died Feb. 26.
Georgia-based country comedian who recorded for Atlanta’s Southern Tracks label and for Nashville’s Capitol Records. His albums include I Should Have Married My Father-In-Law, Hillbilly Homeboy, Songs for the Musically Disturbed, Getting’ My Mind Right and Low-Class Love Affair. He made the country charts with “Garth Brooks Has Ruined My Life” in 1993 and “The Ballad of John Rocker” in 2000.
TOM HENDERSON, 87, died Feb. 27.
Host of the long-running “This Is Bluegrass” radio show on WMNF in Tampa, which began in 1971. Also a guitarist who founded The Bluegrass Parlor Band, the training ground for such stellar pickers as Aubrie Haynie, David Crow, Jason Barle, Cory Walker and Jared Walker. Henderson was given an IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award in 1988.
BIRDIE SMITH, 82, died March 3.
Singer and bass player who was a co-founder in 1974 of Nashville’s bluegrass mecca, The Station Inn.
ERNEST F. AUD, 97, died March 4.
Trumpet player in the dance bands of Red McEwen and Owen Bradley in the 1930s, and conductor of the CYO Dance Band in 1940-41. After his 1996 retirement as a food exec and accountant, he resumed playing and made two CDs.
LORNA FLOWERS, 58, died March 5.
Nashville songwriter and producer who had particular success on the Australian and U.K. country charts. She hosted many Nashville songwriter nightclub events. Her co-writers included Roger Cook, Tim Johnson, Brian White, Steve Dean, Michael Puryear, Jim Femino, Arlos Smith, Dwight Liles, John Peoppard and Bob Welch.
BOBETTE DUDLEY, 51, died March 7.
Former CMA Sr. VP, head of the organization’s Events & Special Projects Department. The 25-year CMA vet guided the relocation and growth of the CMA Music Festival. Also planned the CMA Awards staging at Madison Square Garden and its relocation to Bridgestone Arena. She was the annual special’s production manager. Played a major role in he launch of the CMA Country Christmas and CMA Music Festival TV specials. Named one of the top 15 Event Planners of the Year by BizBash magazine.
DUKE DANGER, 74, died March 9.
Florida-based blues guitarist and singer who lived in Nashville for a time during the 1970s. In 1973, he recorded an LP in Music City with his band Tennessee Trash. He also spent 13 years as the lead guitarist and front man for Jerry Lee Lewis. He released his final solo CD in 2013. (real name: Harvey Larry Fagler).
NORMAN HOLLAND, 54, died March 10.
Southern-gospel music executive who became Vice President of A&R at Daywind Records. During his 16-year tenure there, he worked with The Perrys, Mark Lowry, The Nelons, Brian Free & Assurance, The Booth Brothers, Karen Peck & New River, Sisters, Barbara Fairchild, Greater Vision, Legacy Five, The Mark Trammell Quartet and more. Previously with The Benson Company and Spring Hill, where he worked with The Cathedrals, Gold City, J.D. Sumner & The Stamps, The Speer Family, The Kingsmen Quartet, Jeff & Sheri Easter, The Martins, Bill Gaither and others. Lifetime Achievement Award from the Southern Gospel Music Guild in 2012.
ELROY KAHANEK, 72, died March 11.
Vice president of country promotion at RCA Records in the 1970s, Sunbird Records in the 1980s and Atlantic Records in the 1990s. At RCA, he promoted singles for the company’s Waylon Jennings, Charley Pride, Dolly Parton and more. At Sunbird, he helped launch the career of Earl Thomas Conley. His radio successes at Atlantic included Tracy Lawrence, John Michael Montgomery, Confederate Railroad, Neal McCoy, Robin Lee and others. In 1998, he became v.p. of artist development at Bang II Records, the home of singer-songwriter Monty Holmes. Also a songwriter, whose works included “Trying to Beat the Morning Home” (T.G. Sheppard, 1975), “The Fool Who Fooled Around” (Keith Stegall, 1980), “She’s Playing Hard to Forget” (Eddy Raven, 1982), “Somebody Paints the Wall” (Tracy Lawrence, 1993) and “I Owe You One” (Josh Logan, 2012).
ELMER FUDPUCKER / HOLLIS CHAMPION, 79, died March 16.
Country comedian noted for adults-only “party” albums. A particular favorite with truckers. Opening act for Ernest Tubb, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Statler Brothers, Marty Robbins and more. He reportedly earned a Gold Record for the LP Elmer Fudpucker at the Nudist Colony. Created a line of novelty products sold at truck stops (bumper stickers, bikinis, t-shrts, glasses and Elmer Fudpucker’s Famous Swamp Root Potion). Began career under his real name, Hollis Champion, in the 1950s. “Old Red Devil” hit in 1960 earned him membership in the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
BOBBE SEYMOUR, 74, died March 19.
Steel Guitar Hall of Fame member. Owner of Steel Guitar Nashville, the only store devoted to the instrument. Formerly a sideman for Johnny Lee Wills, Hank Thompson, Ferlin Husky & Jean Shepard, Stonewall Jackson, Claude Gray, Billy Walker, Ray Price and Johnny Paycheck. Recorded 38 solo albums. Also a prolific session musician (Trisha Yearwood, Tracy Lawrence, Steve Wariner, etc.), record producer and the steel guitar’s most prolific publisher of instruction books.
GAIL KERR, 52, died March 25.
Beloved Tennessean columnist and Nashville media figure. Wife of pop musician Les Kerr of The Bayou Band. Daughter of Peggy McKnight, who starred in TV commercials for Donelson Air Conditioning.
JUDITH LOVIN, 74, died March 27.
Music educator who was a former president of the Nashville Entertainment Association.
RYAN HUIE, 27, died March 30.
Booking agent at The Agency Coalition in Nashville. Formerly with Outback Concerts. Son of CAA executive John Huie.
GLADYS FLATT, 98, died March 31.
Widow of Lester Flatt. They performed together in Charlie Monroe’s band prior to Lester joining Bill Monroe and later forming Flatt & Scruggs. She has songwriting credits on several Flatt & Scruggs numbers.
ARTHUR “GUITAR BOOGIE” SMITH, 93, died April 3.
Famed country instrumentalist. North Carolina Music Hall of Fame inductee in 2010. Wrote and originated the tune “Dueling Banjos,” which he originally titled “Feudin’ Banjos” in 1955. His chart hits include “Banjo Boogie” (1948), the much-performed “Guitar Boogie” (1949), “Boomerang” (1949) and “Tie My Huntin’ Dog Down, Jed” (1963). He recorded for Bluebird, MGM, Starday, Choice, Dot, ABC-Paramount, Super Disc, Monument, CMH and his own Sardis Records imprint. Began career in the 1930s in the group The Carolina Crackerjacks on WSPA in Spartanburg, SC and WBT in Charlotte, NC. Joined The Briarhoppers and The Tennessee Ramblers in the 1940s. Recorded gospel music with The Crossroads Quartet and composed many gospel songs. Pioneer in country television with his own show on WBTV beginning in 1951. The show went into national syndication in 1959, and by 1977 it was airing in 68 markets. Also produced TV shows for Johnny Cash, James Brown, Flatt & Scruggs, George Beverly Shea and others. Became a concert promoter, staging country and gospel “package” shows throughout the South. “Guitar Boogie” revived as “Guitar Boogie Shuffle” by The Virtues (1959), Burt Weedon (1959), The John Berry 7 (1960) and The Ventures (1961). The film Deliverance made “Dueling Banjos” a national hit and Grammy Award winner in 1973, without crediting Smith as its composer. Won prolonged lawsuit, earned delayed songwriting credit and considerable back royalties. Operated his own recording studio in Charlotte, plus other business interests including supermarkets, song publishing, ad jingle production, motels and insurance.
GEORGE CUSTER, 87, died April 4.
Member of The Twin Fiddlers bluegrass act and a sometime sideman for Ray Price. A long-time judge at the Grand Masters’ Fiddling Championship in Nashville.
DAVID LAMB, 35, died April 5.
Half of the Rhode Island-based husband/wife duo called Brown Bird. He and partner MorganEve Swain recorded four Americana albums and performed at the 2012 Newport Folk Festival.
GARY HABER, 68, died April 7.
Business manager and accountant of The Haber Corporation, whose clients have included Carrie Underwood, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Julianne Hough, Peter Frampton, Emmylou Harris, John Prine, Rosanne Cash, Rodney Crowell and Joe Cocker. Founder of the Nashville Screenwriters Conference. A founder and board president of the ACM’s charity Lifting Lives.
GEROGE SHUFFLER, 88, died April 7.
Member of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame. For many bluegrass fans, he was the “third” Stanley Brother, singing the low harmony parts with Carter and Ralph Stanley beginning in the early 1950s. Initially notable for his “walking” style of bass playing, he also helped move the guitar to prominence with his “cross-picking” style, allowing the instrument to have bluegrass solo spots alongside the previously prominent banjo, fiddle and mandolin. Prior to the Stanleys, performed on the Opry with The Bailey Brothers in the 1940s. Also performed with Don Reno & Bill Harrell, with Mother Maybelle & The Carter Sisters, with Jim Lauderdale and with Bryan Sutton.
OTIS HEAD, 94, died April 8.
Bluegrass radio host in Georgia for 60 years. Harmonica player, concert promoter, record producer, prizefighter, stunt performer, retailer, restaurant owner. Member of the Atlanta Country Music Hall of Honor. Produced Raymond Fairchild, Clyde Beavers, others. Promoted shows by Bill Monroe, The Lewis Family, Charlie Louvin, The Bailes Brothers, Randall Franks, etc. Began career in late 1930s, performing in Doc Chamberlain’s Medicine Show with Ramblin’ Tommy Scott.
BOBBY DENTON, 73, died April 9.
Knoxville radio legend at WIVK for four decades. Rose from disc jockey to VP/General Manager and led the station to four CMA Awards as Radio Station of the Year. Also, for 48 years the voice of the Tennessee Vols at UT’s Neyland Stadium: “It’s football time in Tennessee!” Formerly the announcer at Alabama’s Talladega NASCAR Speedway for 16 years.
JESSE WINCHESTER, 69, died April 11.
Acclaimed, Louisiana-bred singer-songwriter who recorded five of his albums in Nashville. A number of his songs became country singles, including “O What a Thrill” (The Mavericks, 1994), “I’m Gonna Miss You Girl” (Michael Martin Murphey, 1987), “Let’s Make a Baby King” (Wynonna, 1994) and “Mississippi You’re On My Mind” (Stoney Edwards, 1975). His songs have also been recorded by Reba McEntire, The Everly Brothers, Jimmy Buffett, George Strait, Gary Allan, Emmylou Harris, Nicolette Larson, Patti Page, Brewer & Shipley, Buddy Miller, Wilson Pickett, Joan Baez, Anne Murray and more. Among his other top titles are “The Brand New Tennessee Waltz,” “Yankee Lady,” “Talk Memphis,” “Say What,” “Nothing But a Breeze,” “Isn’t That So,” “A Showman’s Life,” “Rhumba Girl,” “Defying Gravity” and “Biloxi.” In 2011, he was the subject of a tribute album titled Quiet About It that featured Harris, Buffett, Vince Gill, Rosanne Cash, Lyle Lovett, Rodney Crowell, among others. ASCAP Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.
ROBERT GLENN CHAMBES, 49, died April 12.
Host of TV’s The Coin Vault on the Nashville-based Shop At Home Network for more than 25 years. Formerly a radio deejay and sportscaster at WLIK in Newport, TN.
ROD KENNEDY, 84, April 14.
Founder of The Kerrville Folk Festival. This 18-day, annual Texas event, begun in 1972, draws 30,000 attendees and helped launch the careers of The Flatlanders (who showcased in 1972), Lucinda Williams (1974), Steve Earle (1978), Shawn Colvin (1988), Ani DiFranco (1994) and the Dixie Chicks (1998). Others boosted by the fest include Nanci Griffith, Townes Van Zandt, Jerry Jeff Walker, Michelle Shocked (who recorded a 1986 LP live at the festival), Lyle Lovett, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Robert Earl Keen, Hal Ketchum and John Gorka. Kennedy also helped found the Longhorn Jazz Festival and directed the Austin Symphony Orchestra (1958-71), the Austin Ballet Society (1960-63) and the Austin Civic Theater (1959-71), plus served as vice president of KHFI radio (1965-67).
BUTCH CARR, 62, died April 18.
Recording engineer and songwriter in Nashville for nearly 40 years. His engineering credits include CDs by Kenny Chesney, Willie Nelson, Jamey Johnson, Sammy Kershaw, Dolly Parton, Billy Ray Cyrus, John Berry, George Jones, Chely Wright, Van Zant, Richard Marx and Tracy Lawrence, among others. He co-wrote Neal McCoy’s 1997 hit “The Shake” and Marty Stuart’s 1994 cut “That’s When You’ll Know It’s Over.”
KEVIN SHARP, 43, died April 19.
Cancer survivor who became a Platinum-selling country hit maker, thanks to top-10 records like “Nobody Knows” (1996), “She’s Sure Taking it Well” (1997) and “If You Love Somebody” (1997). Other charting singles included “There’s Only You” (1997), “Love Is All That Really Matters” (1998) and “If She Only Knew” (1998). Recording artist for Asylum and Cupit in Nashville. In 1998, ACM New Male Vocalist, CMA/SRO New Male Touring Artist, AMA Favorite New Country Artist, TNN/Music City News Star of Tomorrow. Also a motivational speaker, Make-a-Wish spokesman and author of the 2004 book Tragedy’s Gift.
RAY SHIRLEY, 88, died April 25.
Bluegrass fiddler with The Mayfield Brothers, Benny Thomason, The Ridgerunners, The Blevins Brothers and others.
LESTER ARMISTEAD, 71, died May 2.
Banjo and jug player, humorist, singer and buck dancer who was a founding member of The Tennessee Mafia Jug Band. The group appeared often on The Marty Stuart Show on RFD-TV and also performed at The Station Inn, Kennedy Center and Grand Ole Opry.
DAVID HALEY, 56, died May 3.
Formerly the senior vice president of promotion at both MCA Records and Warner Bros. Records. Later worked at the labels Equity, Tenacity, Edgehill and InstiGator. He promoted 149 singles to the top of the country charts during his career and was instrumental in the careers of Reba McEntire, Vince Gill, Trisha Yearwood, George Strait, Little Big Town, Marty Stuart and more. An ex radio personality in his hometown of Jackson, MS. Leadership Music class of 1999.
BRIAN DAVID SMITH, 46, died May 5.
Award-winning graphic designer of CCM Magazine. Later, a painter who specialized in portraits of music icons such as Johnny Cash, Robert Johnson and Bessie Smith.
SONNY LUDLAM, 79, died May 5.
Bluegrass broadcaster via WFLS radio in Virginia. Also a festival promoter, songwriter and musician.
LOUDILLA JOHNSON, 75, died May 7.
With sisters Loretta Johnson (1941-2009) and Kay Johnson, the founder of the International Fan Club Organization (IFCO). They formed Loretta Lynn’s fan club in 1963. Seeing its success, other artists urged them to establish IFCO in 1965. The organization grew to unify and advise more than 375 fan clubs. Beginning in 1968, its annual fan concerts anticipated Fan Fair by four years. IFCO also put out the monthly Tri -Son News periodical, created a website, published a cookbook and staged talent contests. Sisters won the Ernest Tubb Humanitarian Award at the 2002 R.O.P.E. banquet.
BOB POWEL, 70, died May 8.
One of the leading media figures on the British country scene in the 1970s and 1980s. Former editor of Country Music People magazine and host of the long-running “London Country” radio show on the BBC. Also a journalist and a deejay.
BUCKY DOSTER, 91, died May 19.
Nashville trombonist who performed with the Owen Bradley Orchestra and The Nashville Symphony. Also a session musician on Brenda Lee rock ‘n’ roll records as well as on her first album, 1959’s Grandma What Great Songs You Sang. Later a road musician with Glen Campbell. In the Bill Walker Orchestra in 1969-71 on The Johnny Cash Show on ABC-TV. Also an educator who was band director at Isaac Litton High School and East Junior High in Nashville. In retirement, he performed in the Nashville big-band dance orchestra The Establishment. (real name: James J. Doster)
JOE SILVA, 65, died May 19.
Nashville blues performer who headlined at The Bourbon Street Boogie Bar, B.B. King’s and other venues with his band New Blue. The guitarist/singer/drummer’s 2010 solo CD Blue was produced by David Letterman drummer Anton Fig. Author of the memoir To the City of Angels and Back.
BILL HOLMES, 71, died May 22.
Session musician on bass. Songwriter for Jim Glaser (“Fool Passin’ Through”), Jo-El Sonnier (“Cheatin’ Turns Her On”), Tompall & The Glaser Brothers (“Sweet Love Me Good Woman,” “Nights on the Borderline,” “You’re in Carolina”) and others.
MARGE RHOADS, 82, died May 23.
With her daughter Debby, she performed as The Country Rhoads. They began their harmony-yodeling act in 1980 and kept at it for 20 years, rising to become regulars at Kentucky’s Renfro Valley Barn Dance. Albums include In the Back of Pappy’s Truck (1982) and Double Your Pleasure with Double Talk (1985). Songwriter, guitarist, Sirius radio host and clothing designer.
HERB JEFFRIES, 100, died May 25.
Known as “The Bronze Buckaroo,” Hollywood’s first black singing cowboy star. Began career in 1933 in Erskine Tate Orchestra, rose to fame as vocalist for Earl Himes Orchestra on national radio. Singing-cowboy films were Harlem on the Prairie (1937), Two-Gun Man From Harlem (1938), The Bronze Buckaroo (1939) and Harlem Rides the Range (1939). Self-composed theme song “I’m a Happy Cowboy.” Joined Duke Ellington Orchestra in 1940 and sang its big 1941 hit “Flamingo.” Solo pop hits 1947’s “When I Write My Song” and 1949’s “The Four Winds and the Seven Seas.” Calypso artist in the 1950s. Guest roles on TV series in the 1960s and 1970s. Rediscovered as cowboy singer and brought to Nashville to record 1995 CD The Bronze Buckaroo (Rides Again), produced by Jim Ed Norman. Western Music Hall of Fame 1997. Hollywood Walk of Fame 2004. Western Performers Hall of Fame at National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum 2004. (birth name: Umberto Alexander Valentino or Balentino).
BILL YOUNG, 74. died May 31.
Texas Radio Hall of Fame member. Longtime program director at KILT in Houston named Billboard’s top major-market programmer five times. Also the director of 100+ music videos, including clips for George Strait, Clay Walker, Clint Black and Billy Dean. Directed first concert shot in HD (Strait in Tampa). Produced 50,000 TV commercials for products including Chevy Trucks, Wrangler jeans and Exxon gas.
JERRY SULLIVAN, 80, died May 31.
Bass player for the Alabama gospel act The Sullivan Family who achieved even greater fame as a singer-guitarist in the father-daughter duo Jerry & Tammy Sullivan. The duo was produced by Marty Stuart on three CDs, A Joyful Noise (1991), the Grammy-nominated At the Feet of God (1996) and Tomorrow (2005). Prolific bluegrass-gospel songwriter also recorded with The Sullivan Family in 1960s and 1970s.
WELDON MYRICK, 76, died June 2.
Steel Guitar Hall of Fame member. In Grand Ole Opry house band for 32 years, 1966-1998, and a prolific session musician on Music Row. A key figure in the sound of Connie Smith, prominently playing on her 1964 breakthrough “Once a Day” and on many of her other classics. Joined Bill Anderson’s Po’ Boys Band in 1963 and played on such Anderson hits as “Bright Lights and Country Music,” “I Love You Drops” and “Eight By Ten.”Other landmark records featuring Myrick include Jeannie C. Riley’s “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” Donna Fargo’s “Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.,” Roy Clark’s “Thank God and Greyhound You’re Gone,” Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles,” George Burns’ “I Wish I Was 18 Again,” Linda Ronstadt’s “Long, Long Time,” Jerry Lee Lewis’s “Middle Age Crazy,” Alan Jackson’s “Chattahoochie,” Cal Smith’s “Country Bumpkin,” Jessi Colter’s “I’m Not Lisa,” Lacy J. Dalton’s “16th Avenue,” Merle Haggard’s “The Way I Am,” Sammi Smith’s “Help Me Make it Through the Night,” Reba McEntire’s “Whoever’s in New England” and George Strait’s “Right Or Wrong.” Backed hundreds of others. Recording artist for Capitol, Dot, Mega, Decca, RCA, First Generation, Hilltop. Member of Grammy-nominated country-rock band Area Code 615. Won Super Picker awards from NARAS annually in 1974-79.
MATTHEW KENNEDY, 93, died June 5.
Classical pianist who was director of The Fisk Jubilee Singers from 1957 to 1980. Under his leadership, the group recorded 1958’s Spirituals in Hi Fi: Concert in Paris for Columbia/Harmony, as well as Eye of the Storm, the 1971 LP that celebrated the singers’ centennial.
DON DEVANEY, 78, died June 6.
Hit country songwriter with the No. 1 hits “Someone Loves You Honey” (Charley Pride, 1978) and “Cry, Cry, Cry” (Highway 101, 1988). Wrote the bluegrass standard “Listening to the Rain,” recorded by The Osborne Brothers (1970), Special Consensus (1996), Pam Gadd (1997), Doc & Merle Watson (1998), Ronnie Reno (2002), Monroe Crossing (2003) and more. Cuts by George Jones, Ray Price, Barbara Mandrell, Jim Ed Brown, Kenny Price, Wilburn Brothers, Johnny Cash, Mary Lou Turner, Rick Trevino, Johnny Russell, others. “Someone Loves You Honey” revived by Brenda Lee (1982), Ronnie Dove (1996), reggae artists June Lodge (2000) and Dwight Pinkney (2002) and by Neal McCoy (2013).
STAN HANKINSON, 94, died June 8.
With his brother Mel, he performed as The Kentucky Twins in 1945-56 over WDAD in Indiana, PA and for several years on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry and on WLAC in Nashville. They toured with Bill Monroe and recorded for the Majestic and Capitol labels.
EVAN CARL, 72, died June 8.
Radio broadcaster on Miami’s WWOK, WIGL and WQAM, among other stations. Emcee of more than 500 bluegrass festivals since 1978.
LLOYD BELL, 85, died June 13.
Formerly of the 1930s kiddie radio act The Bell Children in North Carolina. Sideman guitarist who later worked and recorded with bluegrass stars Carl Story and, for 25 years, Bonnie Lou & Buster.
DON LIGHT, 77, died June 17.
Gospel Music Hall of Fame member. Manager, talent agent, journalist and record producer. Began career in Nashville as a radio DJ and a drummer on the Opry (1961). Worked at Billboard magazine (1962). Founded Don Light Talent in 1965 and booked Happy Goodman Family, Oak Ridge Boys, Jimmie Davis, Lewis Family, Florida Boys, Chuck Wagon Gang, Rambos, Cathedral Quartet and more. Later managed the Oaks, as well as Jimmy Buffett, Delbert McClinton, Keith Whitley, Steve Wariner, Mark Collie, David Olney and Marty Stuart. Also associated with such bluegrass acts as Lester Flatt, Dailey & Vincent, John Hartford and The Steep Canyon Rangers. Involved in NASCAR, managed racer Kyle Petty and created the country/racing collaborative fest Speed & Sound. Co-founder of the Gospel Music Association (1965). Former president of the Nashville chapter of NARAS (1969-70).
ELIZABETH CRAIG WEAVER PROCTOR, 96, died June 20.
Nashville philanthropist, socialite and two-term Mayor of Belle Meade in the 1980s. She began the Nashville Symphony’s Concerts for Children series while a member of the Symphony board. Daughter of National Life executive Edwin Craig (1893-1969), who championed the creation of WSM and the Grand Ole Opry.
JIMMY C. NEWMAN, 86, died June 21.
Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter and Grand Ole Opry star. Top-10 hits included “Cry, Cry Darling” (1954), “Daydreamin’” (1955), “Blue Darlin’” (1955), “God Was Good” (1956), “Seasons of My Heart” (1956), “A Fallen Star” (1957), “You’re Makin’ a Fool Out of Me” (1958), “Grin and Bear It’ (1959), “A Lovely Work of Art” (1960), “D.J. For a Day” (1964), “Artificial Rose” (1965) and “Back Pocket Money” (1966). Over three decades, he charted 33 country titles. Beginning in the 1960s, he began emphasizing his Cajun heritage, performing and recording in both French and English (“Diggy Diggy Lo,” “Colinda,” “Bayou Talk,” “Lache Pas La Patate,” “Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler,” “Boo Dan,” etc.). His 1991 CD Alligator Man was nominated for a Grammy Award. Former co-owner of Newkeys Publishing, which launched Tom T. Hall. Also an early booster of Dolly Parton and Marty Stuart. Former cast member of The Louisiana Hayride, 1954-56. Member of Louisiana Music Hall of Fame and Cajun Music Hall of Fame.
JACK SOLOMON, 71, died June 24.
Former member of The Jones Boys, backing George Jones on guitar. Also a session musician for Jones, as well as Dolly Parton, Marty Robbins, Alabama, Bobby Bare, Ernest Tubb, Pete Drake, Mel Tillis, Webb Pierce, Oak Ridge Boys, Leon Russell, Andy Williams, B.J. Thomas, David Allan Coe, Slim Whitman, Jim Lauderdale, etc.. Husband of Melba Montgomery. Father-in-law of Blake Chancey.
STEPHEN GASKIN, 79, died July 1.
Founder and leader of The Farm, one of America’s most enduring communes. It settled near Summertown, TN in 1971. The hippie organization formed a rock group, which issued double LP The Farm Band in 1972. Second LP, 1973’s Up in Your Thing, was billed as by “Stephen and The Farm Band.” Its third LP release was 1975’s On the Rim of the Nashville Basin. Fourth LP, Communion, appeared in 1977.
J.D. BURKE, 76, died July 1.
Thirty-year employee of Waylon Jennings Enterprises. (full name: James Denver Burke Jr.).
HOPE POWELL, 90, died July 3.
The doyenne of Nashville’s celebrity photographers. Created iconic images of Johnny Cash, George Jones, Larry Gatlin, Donna Fargo, Charlie Rich, Alabama, Tanya Tucker, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson, Jim Ed Brown, Hank Williams Jr., Waylon Jennings, Faron Young and hundreds of others. Won a 1974 GMA Dove Award for her LP jacket of The Blackwood Brothers On Stage. Other album covers include Dolly Parton’s 1974 Jolene and 1976 All I Can Do, Conway Twitty’s 1983 Classic Conway, Tom T. Hall’s 1978 Places I’ve Done Time, Porter Wagoner’s 1979 Porter, the 2004 Vern Gosdin CD Back in the Swing of Things and the 1985 Willie Nelson/Hank Snow LP Brand on My Heart. Her work is featured in such Time-Life publications as Classic Country (2001) and Legends of Classic Country (2000). Official photographer for 38 IFCO concerts. Also a songwriter, a poet and a singer who performed in Christ Church Choir. The group backed Parton on 1989 CMA Awards singing “He’s Alive” and also sang with Bill Gaither, Charlie Daniels, Garth Brooks, Steven Curtis Chapman, Vestal Goodman, The Judds, Carman, Glen Campbell and others, as well as recording several albums of its own. A 2007 SOURCE honoree as a pioneer female in the Nashville music industry.
ALLEN FUQUA, 69, died July 5.
Video cameraman for Channel 2 (WKRN), Channel 4 (WSMV), Opryland Productions, The Nashville Network (TNN) and CMT.
ROY McMILLAN, 84, died July 5.
Bluegrass mandolin player and bandleader of The High Country Boys, which recorded three albums for Rebel Records in the 1970s.
LOIS JOHNSON, 72, died July 7.
Country recording artist for MGM in the 1970s. Top hits included 1975’s “Loving You Will Never Grow Old,” 1977’s “Your Pretty Roses Came Too Late” and 1974’s “Come on in and Let Me Love You.” Duet partner of Hank Williams Jr., notably on 1970’s “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad),” 1972’s “Send Me Some Lovin,’” 1972’s “Whole Lotta Loving” and 1970’s “Removing the Shadow.” In all, she charted with 20 titles. Also a member of Jimmy Martin’s bluegrass band, harmonizing with him on “Prayer Bells of Heaven,” “Moonshine Hollow” and “Tennessee.” Formerly at the WWVA Wheeling Jamboree.
CINDY WILT COLVILLE, 58, died July 10.
Former vice president of publishing at Word and Benson. Signed and developed CCM greats Cindy Morgan, Clint Lagerberg, Jason Ingram, Matthew West, Jason Walker. Formerly managed Matthew West and was production manager of first four LPs by Steven Curtis Chapman. In 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, she directed ASCAP Foundation’s Christian Songwriters Workshop. Leadership Music 1996.
JOHN HUTCHINSON, 83, died July 10.
Concert promoter noted for The Central Virginia Family Bluegrass Festival in Amelia, VA, now in its 35th year.
JOHN SEIGENTHALER, 86, died July 11.
Former editor/publisher of The Tennessean and editorial director at USA Today. Longtime host of PBS-TV book series A Word on Words.
CHARLIE HADEN, 76, died July 11.
Grammy winning jazz bassist who returned to his country roots with the striking, acclaimed CD Family and Friends: Rambling Boy in 2008. Father of The Haden Triplets. Father-in-law of Jack Black.
JUDITH McCULLOH, 78, died July 13.
Longtime editor at the University of Illinois Press who guided its “Music in American Life” series. Among the 130+ books she developed were titles about Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Tito Puente, Duke Ellington, mining songs, cowboy songs, folk songs, labor songs, John Philip Sousa, Charles Ives, blues music, railroad songs, Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Hazel Dickens, Fiddlin’ John Carson, Aunt Molly Jackson, Robert Johnson and Fred Waring. Lifetime Achievement award from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2010.
LYDIA DIXON HARDEN, 55, died July 15.
Nashville music journalist who became the managing editor of the major fan publication Music City News. Co-author of the books The Stars of Country Music: The Legends and the New Breed (1996) and of New Country Stars (1993).
JACK SMITH, 60, died July 15.
Steel guitarist who was a veteran of The Happy Goodman Family and of Bill Anderson’s Po’ Folks band. Also toured and/or recorded with Johnny Russell, Jim Ed Brown, Ronnie Milsap, Johnny Paycheck, Brad Paisley, Ricky Van Shelton, Ricky Skaggs, Connie Smith, Dolly Parton, Gene Watson, etc. Appeared on the Opry more than 1,000 times.
BILL REHRIG, 74, died July 17.
Fiddler and guitarist who toured with Tanya Tucker Jerry Reed, Dolly Parton and others. Fiddler and road manager of Eddie Rebbitt in 1978-1998. Formerly of the Pennsylvania country bands Twitty Fever and Midnight Special. Later in life, a music teacher.
BUN WILSON, 87, died July 19.
Durable country comedian and musician who starred in later years at Kentucky’s Renfro Valley Barn Dance. Began career on radio in West Tennessee in the mid-1940s, playing fiddle, mandolin, guitar and drums. Moved to Nashville 1956 and toured as a comic in the Phillip Morris Country Music Show of 1957. During the 1950s and 1960s, he toured with Patsy Cline, George Jones, Don Gibson, Jimmy Dickens, Carl Smith, George Morgan, Cowboy Copas and others. Appeared as a drummer on Ernest Tubb’s syndicated TV show. (real name: Billy Bun Wilson).
GEORGE RIDDLE, 78, died July 20.
Country singer, songwriter and sideman. Worked in Don Gibson’s troupe (1960), then founded The Jones Boys, backing George Jones (1960-63). Jones recorded 13 Riddle songs. Melba Montgomery had 1963 hits with Riddle’s “Hall of Shame” and “The Greatest One of All.” Others who recorded his titles include Faron Young, Tammy Wynette, Del Reeves, Mickey Gilley, Ray Charles, Rose Maddox. He recorded for UA, Starday, MGM, Musicor and smaller labels. Released seven LPs. In Bill Carlisle’s band on the Opry (1991-2003). Formerly married to country star Norma Jean. Movie: Country Music on Broadway (1963). In 2005-2014 he hosted the “Classic Country Jamboree” radio show on Indiana station WCJC. R.O.P.E. award winner in 2011 and 2012.
RONNIE FREELAND, 55, died July 20.
Recording engineer who made bluegrass albums with Longview, The Seldom Scene, Tony Trishka, Ralph Stanley, Iind Generation and more, plus non-bluegrass acts such as Nils Lofgren and Danny Gatton. Son of Rebel Records founder Dick Freeland.
LINDA ENGLAND, 67, died July 22.
Champion female bass angler who co-hosted her own TV show on WSMV, On the Line With Linda England and Fredda Lee. Book: Bass on the Line.
DAVID PIERCE, 54, died July 22.
Husband of top Christian comedian Chondra Pierce. Her co-author on the children’s books Tales From the Ark and Tales From the Manger as well as the sole author of several parenting books.
DON LANIER, 78, died July 23.
Director of A&R for MCA Records who found career-defining hits for George Strait, Reba McEntire and more. Co-writer of “Here We Go Again,” a pop hit for Ray Charles in 1967 and for Nancy Sinatra in 1969 and later recorded by Johnny Duncan, Roy Clark and others. Lead guitarist for The Rhythm Orchids, backing Jimmy Bowen on “I’m Stickin’ With You” and Buddy Knox on “Party Doll” in 1957, both of which he also co-wrote. Solo recording artist for Roulette, Dot, Gee and Apt in 1957-62. Session-musician contractor in L.A. in the 1960s and 1970s. Guitarist on records by Lee Hazelwood, Phil Everly, Bill Haley, Dean Martin and more. Nashville song-publishing company in 1989-99, DL Enterprises.
CARL CHATSKI, 75, died July 24.
Multi-instrumentalist who backed Del McCoury, Davis Gisman, Peter Rowan, The Stanley Brothers and others.
PAT SMITH, 90, died July 25.
North Carolina fiddler who mentored bluegrass notables such as Alan O’Bryant and his sons Billy & Terry Smith. Former husband of Nashville media personality Hazel Smith.
VELMA WILLIAMS SMITH, 87, died July 31.
Member of Musicians Hall of Fame (inducted in Jan. 2014). Nashville’s pioneering female session musician. Played rhythm guitar on records by Connie Smith, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Porter Wagoner, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Charlie Rich, Jerry Reed, Bobby Bare, Hank Snow, Don Gibson and more. Can be heard on such pop-crossover hits as Hank Locklin’s “Please Help Me I’m Falling” (1960) and Skeeter Davis’s “The End of the World” (1963). Began career in The Williams Sisters act on Opry, then was bass player in Roy Acuff’s Smokey Mountain Boys beginning in 1942. Later in touring bands of Carl Smith, Jimmy Dickens and Ernest Tubb. Married in 1948 to fiddler, music publisher, booking agent, artist manager, record label entrepreneur and syndicated TV producer Hal Smith (1924-2008).
JIMMY KEY, 87, died Aug. 1.
As president of Newkeys Publishing, he discovered Tom T. Hall, published his 1963-70 songs, arranged for the Mercury Records contract that made him a singing star and got him on the Grand Ole Opry. Newkeys published songs recorded by Dave Dudley, Jimmy C. Newman, Bobby Bare, George Jones, Flatt & Scruggs, Faron Young, Johnny Wright and Burl Ives as well as Hall’s pop-crossover smash, “Harper Valley P.T.A.,” sung by Jeannie C. Riley (1968). Also owned Jimmy Key Talent, which booked concerts for Hall, Dudley, Newman, Bare, Porter & Dolly, Merle Kilgore, Claude King and more, The first Nashville booking agency to open an office in Las Vegas. Formed Rice Records in 1967. Label’s roster included Billy Grammer, Helen Carter, Al Terry, Linda Manning, Chase Webster.
TOM BANKS, 45, died Aug. 4.
Former Sony Music Nashville finance vice president. Joined company in 1997, became v.p. in 2007 and stepped down in 2010.
VERA LAKEY, 71, died Aug. 6.
Singer-songwriter with cuts by Wanda Jackson, Merle Haggard & Leona Williams, Tammy Faye Baker, Loretta Lynn, Janice Maynard, Larry Booth, Sammy Hall and others. Biggest single was 1976’s “Beware of the Woman” by Ruby Falls. Former staff writer for Tree International and Country Bumpkin Music, demo singer for many others. Concert backup singer for Merle Haggard, Mickey Gilley, Johnny Lee and Willie Nelson. (full name: Vera Belle Swarts-Lakey).
EARL WHITE, 78, died Aug. 7.
Grand Ole Opry fiddler in the Opry Square Dance Band. Formerly worked with Marty Robbins, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Boys From Shiloh, Carl Tipton, Cumberland Mountain Boys and The Crook Brothers.
TOM RIGGS, 78, died Aug. 8.
Founder of the bluegrass label Pinecastle Records. Host of the syndicated radio show American Acoustic Country.
SUSAN FERRIMAN, 62, died Aug. 14.
Business manager for Canadian country star Michelle Wright for 30 years. Wife of publisher, manager and Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member Brian Ferriman. (full name: Susanna Maria Kramer Ferriman).
DICK FREELAND, 76, died Aug. 14.
Founder of the bluegrass label Rebel Records, home to The Country Gentlemen, Bill Harrell, Benny & Vallie Cain, The Seldom Scene, Ralph Stanley and more.
LUCILLE GRACE DAVID, 92, died Aug. 16.
Classically trained alto who toured and recorded with The Robert Shaw Chorale in 1949-53. Concert vocalist in Germany in 1953-56. Vocal teacher at Nashville’s Peabody College in 1956-1979.
ED CREE, 80, died Aug. 18.
Nashville entertainer in the pop-music and comedy nightclub act Dennis & Cree. Their albums included The Nashville Sounds of Dennis & Cree, Two Sides of Dennis & Cree, Side By Side and The Funny Side of Dennis & Cree. (full name: William Ed Cree).
PENNILANE, 85, died Aug. 22.
Hair stylist to the country stars. She did hair for Jeannie Seely, Mother Maybelle & The Carter Sisters, Tammy Wynette, Johnny Cash, Jan Howard and others. Hairdresser for The Johnny Cash Show on ABC-TV, 1969-71. Also a songwriter (“Gone to Denver,” “I Just Love Being a Woman,” “Go On Home,” etc.). Frequent collaborator with Barbara Fairchild and The Harden Trio. Former wife of songwriter Red Lane. (real name: Helene DeLaughter).
GREG CORBETT, 41, died Aug. 23.
Banjo player, notably with Charlie Waller & The Country Gentlemen in 1992-2004.
BRIAN FARMER, 53, died Aug. 24.
Nashville luthier, guitar tech, equipment manager and sound man whose guitar expertise aided Vern Gosdin, Johnny Cash, Marty Stuart, The Allman Brothers, Mother Maybelle & The Carter Sisters, Warren Haynes and, especially, Gov’t Mule. His fans were called “Farmer Freaks.”
RON MURPHY, 67, died Aug. 25.
Bluegrass banjo player who worked with The Hotmud Family, The Katie Lauer Band, Wheatstraw and others. Recorded for Vetco with his own group, Muddy River.
MAGGI PLATT BOWDEN, 63, died Aug. 28.
Actor, director and producer for the Nashville theater groups The Circle Players and Act One.
PEGGY BENSON, 80, died Aug. 28.
Religious author and public speaker. Widow of Christian-music executive and Gospel Music Hall of Fame member Bob Benson (1930- 1987). Biography: Moving Miss Peggy.
RICHARD WARREN MAYS, 63, died Aug. 29.
Bass trombonist with The Nashville Symphony. Also backed Paul Anka and Gladys Knight & The Pips and worked in the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra. Later a church organist in Georgia.
MARY ELIZABETH SPENCER, 89, died Aug. 29.
Matriarch of the bluegrass-gospel group The Spencer Family. Also its chief songwriter.
JOAN HOLLOWAY, 84, died Aug. 31.
Nashvillian who was formerly a dancer, singer and actress in New York. She appeared in the musicals Can-Can (1954) and Shangri-La (1956), in the film Diary of a Bachelor (1964) and on such TV programs as The Ed Sullivan Show, The College Bowl and Paul Whiteman’s Goodyear Revue. (full name: Joan Ann Holloway Russell)
RICHARD “TONY” D’ANTONIO, 67, died Sept. 10.
Former record promoter who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the 1989 murder of 23-year-old Cash Box chart manager Kevin Hughes and the attempted murder of singer Sammy Sadler.
DELMAR DELANEY, 83, died Sept. 14.
Member of the bluegrass group The Windy Mountain Boys, which recorded for the Rebel and Wedge labels.
MARY TOM SPEER, 89, died Sept. 16.
Gospel Music Hall of Fame member as a singer in The Speer Family. She performed with her parents, sister and brothers in the 1930s and 1940s. Left group to marry and raise children, 1954-1969, then rejoined as a part-time member until the group retired in 1998. Also secretary of Ben Speer Publishing and a staff member of the Stamps-Baxter Music School. Active in the Gaither Homecoming video series of the 1990s. Inducted into Alabama Music Hall of Fame 1997, Gospel Hall of Fame 1998 and Southern Gospel Hall of Fame 2006. (married name: Mary Tom Speer Reid).
GEORGE HAMILTON IV, 77, died Sept. 17.
Grand Ole Opry star known as “Country Music’s International Ambassador.” Began career in pop music with such hits as “A Rose and a Baby Ruth” (1956), “Only One Love” (1957), “Why Don’t They Understand” (1958), “Now and For Always” (1958) and “The Teen Commandments” (with Paul Anka & Johnny Nash, 1959). Own ABC-TV series in 1959. Switched to country with 1960’s “Before This Day Ends” and joined Opry cast that year. Signature song became 1963’s “Abilene.” Other key singles included “Break My Mind” (1967), “Truck Driving Man” (1965), “Three Steps From the Phone” (1961), “To You and Yours” (1961), “If You Don’t Know I Ain’t Gonna Tell You” (1962), “Fort Worth, Dallas or Houston” (1964), “She’s a Little Bit Country” (1970), “Steel Rail Blues” (1966) and “Anyway” (1971). Frequent performer on Billy Graham Crusades. Noted as the first country star to embrace such folk-pop songwriters as Gordon Lightfoot (with 1966’s “Early Morning Rain”), Joni Mitchell (1967’s “Urge for Going”), Buffy Ste. Marie (1968’s “Take My Hand for Awhile”) and James Taylor (1969’s “Carolina In My Mind”). Toured Europe, Australia, the Far East, Russia and elsewhere. The first American to record an LP in Eastern Europe. Starred for six seasons on his own Canadian TV show and also hosted his own BBC-TV series in England. Taped two specials in Israel. Placed 40 singles on the country charts during his career. Father of singer George Hamilton V, also billed as Hege V. Autobiography: George Hamilton: Ambassador of Country Music in 2000.
LARRY McPEAK, 67, died Sept. 18.
Member of The McPeak Brothers with bluegrass albums in the 1960s and 1970s including Pathway to Heaven, You Won’t Ever Forget Me and Bend in the River. Inducted into the Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
DOUG WURST, 71, died Sept. 22.
Guitarist and vocalist in the 1960s Tennessee rock band The Uncalled For. The group reunited and played Bonnaroo in 2011.
DICKY OVERBEY, 72, died Oct. 4.
Steel Guitar Hall of Fame member who recorded with Darrell McCall, Connie Smith, Hank Williams Jr., Ronnie Milsap, Johnny Paycheck, George Jones and Justin Trevino and also worked with Faron Young, Johnny Bush, Marty Robbins and others. Songwriter of McCall’s records “Sally Bryson” (1968) and “Hide and Go Cheat” (1970). Also recorded solo steel instrumental albums. Step-father of Texas honky-tonk vocalist Amber Digby, with whom he also recorded.
JOHNNY LEE VINCENT, 73, died Oct. 5.
The banjo-playing leader of the family band The Sally Mountain Show. Group recorded several LPs and included wife Carolyn, plus children Rhonda, Darrin and Brian. Since 1986, the host of the bluegrass festival at Sally Mountain Park in Missouri. Daughter Rhonda became known as “The Queen of Bluegrass.” Son Darrin is also an award winning bluegrass star, in Dailey & Vincent.
PEE WEE JOHNSON, 84, died Oct. 9.
Owner of the Nashville nightspot Pee Wee’s Place in 1960-85. Road manager for George Jones in 1985-2000. Notable for his many connections with Nashville politicians, law enforcement personnel and country-music entertainers. Formerly a racecar driver at the Nashville Speedway at the Fairgrounds. (real name: Bertie Dean Johnson).
ISAIAH OWENS, 38, died Oct. 14.
Rock keyboard player who was a member of Jack White’s band. Formerly with The Mars Volta.
PAUL CRAFT, 76, died Oct. 18.
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame 2014 inductee. Hits include Bobby Bare’s “Dropkick Me Jesus” (1976), Moe Bandy’s “Hank Williams You Wrote My Life” (1976), Gail Davies’ “Blue Heartache” (1980), Mark Chesnutt’s “Brother Jukebox” (1991), T. Graham Brown’s “Come As You Were” (1989) and Ray Stevens’ “It’s Me Again Margaret” (1985). Also wrote the standards “Midnight Flyer” (The Osborne Brothers, The Eagles), “Keep Me From Blowing Away” (Linda Ronstadt, The Grascals, Willie Nelson) and “Teardrops Will Kiss the Morning Dew” (Allison Krauss, The Osborne Brothers). More than 200 of his songs were recorded by bluegrass artists. Cuts by Trisha Yearwood, John Anderson, The Whites, Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty, Del Reeves & Billie Jo Spears, Charlie McCoy, Kenny Rogers, David Ball, Jack Greene, Skeeter Davis, Sam the Sham, Randy Travis, Keith Whitley, Don Everly, J.J. Cale, Joe Stampley, Jerry Lee Lewis and more. Publisher of “The Gambler” (Don Schlitz), as well as songs by Mark Germino, Bruce Burch, Jon Ims, Tim O’Brien and John Starling. Former member of Jimmy Martin’s bluegrass band. Recording artist for RCA and other labels. Charted in 1977-78 with “We Know Better,” “Lean on Jesus” and “Teardrops in My Tequila.” Albums include Warnings (1986), Brother Jukebox (1998), Raised By the Railroad Line (2006) and Too Bad You’re No Good (2007).
DONNA RAGAN SIEGEL, 66, died Oct. 18.
Singer, actor and comedian who worked for Opryland for nearly 25 years. Leader of the gospel recording group Three of a Kind, which also sang backup for Roy Clark and had its own Opryland shoiw. Played the “Mother” character in Opryland’s Christmas show, was production manager of the Rockettes’ Opry House Christmas shows and a producer for Opryland’s talent agency putting on industrial and convention shows. President of Nashville’s Meeting Planners International. As an actor and/or singer, her credits include General Hospital, I-40 Paradise, The Porter Wagoner Show, The Nashville Palace, My Body My Child, Framed, Dawn of the Dead and All Night Radio. Commercials for Toyota, HCA and American Ace Coffee. Created the “Teletune” singing-telegram business. Many lead parts in Nashville community-theater productions. Former member of The Goundlings improvisational comedy troupe in L.A.
ANN STAHLMAN HILL, 93, died Oct. 19.
Former president, secretary and board member of the Nashville Children’s Theatre for nearly 50 years. Its main auditorium is named for her. Founder of the International Association of Theatre for Children and Youth. President of the Southeastern Theatre Conference, the Theatre Association of America and American Theatre Association. Founder of the Tennessee Theatre Association. Board member of the Nashville Symphony Guild and the Nashville Arts Council.
ERNEST FERGUSON, 96, died Oct. 19.
Mandolin player who recorded and toured with Bailes Brothers, Johnnie & Jack and other country stars of the 1940s and 1950s.
STAN JAY, 71, died Oct. 22.
Co-founder of Mandolin Brothers in 1971. The Staten Island company’s customers included Jimmy Buffett, Bob Dylan, Judy Collins and many bluegrass players.
LOUIS WALTER JUMONVILLE JR., 86, died Oct. 29.
Past personnel manager at WSM and director of general services at Opryland USA.
REBECCA ROMER WYSS, 65, died Nov. 1.
Former second-chair violinist in Nashville Symphony Orchestra.
JAN STOKES JONES, 69, died Nov. 8.
Blind instrumentalist who became president of the Nashville Steel Guitar Association.
JACK VAUGHN, 77, died Nov. 9.
Retired president of the hospitality division for Gaylord Entertainment. Mastermind of Opryland Hotel & Convention Center.
ANN SOYARS, 67, died Nov. 15.
Longtime fixture at Nashville’s bluegrass mecca The Station Inn. Greeter, ticket taker and enduring fan/booster of many. One of the first to champion the music of Dierks Bentley.
PEGGY COLLIER BEATTY, 74, died Nov. 17.
Gospel vocalist who performed in The Singing Beattys and The Music City Singers.
TONY HARLEY, 66, died Nov. 21.
Co-founder of Affiliated Publishers and Image Management, working with Danny Morrison, Johnny Slate, Joe Diffie, Tim McGraw and Ty Herndon. Formed TMR2 as a management company for McGraw’s career. Former CEO of Tanasi Music Group working with Chalee Tennison and Ed Arnold. Also a music-business consultant.
DARLA KENT DORRIS, 77, died Nov. 24.
Longtime employee of Jim Reeves Enterprises.
LARRY ALLEN WILSON, 84, died Dec. 1.
Steel guitarist for Don Gibson, Johnny Cash, Mel Tillis, David Houston, Bob Luman, Stonewall Jackson and others.
GARY “BUD” SMITH, 55, died Dec. 1.
Music Row session keyboard player who backed Ricky Skaggs, Chase Rice, The Gaither Vocal Band, Dolly Parton, Rodney Dillard, Lathan Moore, Chris Cagle and many others. Solo CD in 2014: Country Piano Hymns (Green Hill Productions).
BOBBY KEYS, 70, died Dec. 2.
Music City saxophonist who toured and recorded with The Rolling Stones for decades. He can be heard on such Stones LPs as Sticky Fingers, Let It Bleed and Exile on Main Street, as well as on such hits as “Brown Sugar.” Also recorded with John Lennon, Joe Cocker, B.B. King, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, George Harrison, Chuck Berry, Etta James, Delaney & Bonnie, Harry Nilsson, Marvin Gaye, Ringo Starr, Yoko Ono, John Hiatt, Sheryl Crow and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Backed or toured with Bobby Vee, Buddy Knox, Little Eva, King Curtis, Buddy Holly, Elvis Presley, Warren Zevon, Joe Ely, J.J. Cale, Leon Russell and more. Author of the 2012 memoir Every Night’s a Saturday Night.
JACKIE PILLERS, 53, died Dec. 2.
Nashville media personality who spent nearly 20 years in television at WSMV, Channel 4. Previously at WTVF, Channel 5, and at WKRN, Channel 2.
BOB MONTGOMERY, 77, died Dec. 4.
Songwriter of such classics as “Misty Blue” (Dorothy Moore, Wilma Burgess, Eddy Arnold, etc.), “Love’s Made a Fool of You” (Buddy Holly), “Back in Baby’s Arms” (Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, etc.), “Wishing” (Buddy Holly) and “Two of a Kind” (Sue Thompson). Producer of Bobby Goldsboro (“Honey,” “Summer the First Time,” etc.), Johnny Darrell (“With Pen in Hand,” etc.), Del Reeves (“Good Time Charlie’s,” etc.), Janie Fricke (“It Ain’t Easy Being Easy,” etc.), Joe Diffie (“John Deere Green,” “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox,” etc.), Vern Gosdin (“Chiseled in Stone,” “Set ‘Em Up Joe,” etc.), Marty Robbins (“Some Memories Just Won’t Die”), Austin Roberts (“Rocky”) and Razzy Bailey (“Midnight Hauler,” etc.), plus records by Waylon Jennings, Merle Haggard, B.J. Thomas, Shelby Lynne and more. Publisher with own companies Talmont and House of Gold. The latter’s songwriters included Kenny O’Dell (“Behind Closed Doors”), Larry Henley (“The Wind Beneath My Wings”), Danny Morrison, Steve Pippin, Van Stephenson and Sam Lorber. Executive at Tree International and at CBS Records. Former singing partner of Buddy Holly and engineer for producer Norman Petty.
NEIL RESHEN, 75, died Dec. 6.
Former manager of Waylon Jennings, Linda Ronstadt, Jessi Colter and Willie Nelson. Also worked with Miles Davis, Frank Zappa and others.
DAWN SEARS, 53, died Dec. 11.
Country vocal great best known as the singer in the Grammy- nominated Rounder Records band The Time Jumpers. Formerly signed as a solo artist to Warner Bros. Records and Decca Records. Background vocalist in Vince Gill’s touring band. Wife of Time Jumpers fiddler Kenny Sears.
MILLIE KIRKHAM, 91, died Dec. 14.
Nashville recording session vocalist whose soaring soprano can be heard on Elvis Presley’s “Blue Christmas,” Ferlin Husky’s “Gone,” Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet,” George Jones’s “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” and Kris Kristofferson’s “Why Me,” among hundreds of other hits. Former member of the Anita Kerr Singers and an adjunct member of The Jordanaires. Backed more than 30 members of the Country Music Hall of Fame, including Patsy Cline, Johnny Cash, Charley Pride, Bobby Bare, Mac Wiseman, Hank Snow, Chet Atkins, Porter Wagoner, Connie Smith, Jim Reeves, Reba McEntire, Roger Miller, Willie Nelson, Tom T. Hall, Eddy Arnold, Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn. Pop stars including Paul Anka, Little Richard, Bob Dylan, Perry Como, Gordon Lightfoot, Roy Orbison, Brook Benton, Andy Griffith, Carl Perkins, Duane Eddy, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bobby Darin and Leon Russell all had records with her vocal harmonies. Featured in Country Music Hall of Fame tribute series “Nashville Cats” in 2012.
LARRY HENLEY, 77, died Dec. 18.
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member who co-wrote the Grammy, ACM and CMA Song of the Year “The Wind Beneath My Wings” (Gary Morris, 1983; Bette Midler, 1989), plus “Til I Get it Right” (Tammy Wynette, 1973), “Lizzie and the Rainman” (Tanya Tucker, 1975), “He’s a Heartache” (Janie Fricke, 1983), “The World Needs a Melody” (Johnny Cash, 1972), “You’re Welcome to Tonight” (Lynn Anderson & Gary Morris, 1983), “Is it Still Over” (Randy Travis, 1989), “When Love Cries” (Donna Summer, 1991), “Come on Phone” (Jean Shepard, 1974), “As Long as I Can Wake Up in Your Arms” (Kenny O’Dell, 1978), “If it’s All Right with You” (Dottie West, 1973) and other hits. Previously the lead singer of the Nashville rock ‘n’ roll group The Newbeats, whose hits included “Bread and Butter” (1964), “Break Away” (1965), “Everything’s Alright” (1964) and “Run Baby Run” (1965). Solo recording artist for Atco, Capitol, Hickory, Epic labels. Album on Capricorn Records, 1975’s Piece a Cake.
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