LifeNotes: Services Set For Guitar Great James “Spider” Wilson

James "Spider" Wilson

James “Spider” Wilson

A celebration of the life of James “Spider” Wilson is scheduled for 1 p.m. this afternoon (Monday, March 2) at Woodbine Hickory Chapel.

Wilson was an enduring country guitar great who passed away on Thursday, Feb. 26 at age 79. His career spanned six decades and included a very long stint in the Grand Ole Opry’s staff band, 1953-2006.

He was a Nashville native who listened to the Opry through the windows of the Ryman Auditorium when he was a boy. He first came to prominence as a teenaged member of the band of Little Jimmy Dickens beginning in 1947. His sizzling guitar runs were the star’s sonic trademark in his early years. Wilson also toured with Ray Price. During this era, he reportedly acquired his “Spider” nickname because of his lanky frame.

He became a member of the Opry’s staff band at the age of 18. Wilson was also notable as a session musician on Music Row. In addition to Dickens and Price, he backed such stars as Faron Young, Marty Robbins, Buddy Emmons, Dolly Parton and Bill Anderson on recordings.

Young’s “Sweet Dreams” (1956), Price’s “My Shoes Keep Walking Back to You” (1957) and Skeeter Davis’s “The End of the World” (1962) are among the many hits featuring his guitar work.

Spider Wilson was also a familiar face and sound on television. He spent 29 years in the band of Ralph Emery’s local program The Morning Show on WSMV-Channel 4, frequently trading quips with the host. He was also in the “house band” on the nationally syndicated TV series hosted by singer Bobby Lord.

James “Spider” Wilson is survived by his wife Shirley, by sons David and Darryl, by daughter Julie Hannah, by sister Jo Ann Ferguson, by four grandchildren, one great-grandchild and many other family members and friends.

Woodbine Hickory Chapel is at the Woodbine Funeral Home at 5852 Nolensville Road. Jonas Taylor will officiate at the service. The interment will be at Woodlawn Cemetery.


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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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