Prominent Nashville session vocalist Hurshel Wiginton has died at age 79.
As a member of The Nashville Edition, Wiginton sang on hundreds of hits in the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s and was familiar to millions via the group’s long tenure on TV’s Hee Haw from 1969 to 1988.
Wiginton sang backup on records by a who’s-who of Nashville’s country recording artists, including Hank Williams Jr., George Jones, Brenda Lee, Tammy Wynette, Ronnie Milsap, Waylon Jennings, Eddy Arnold, Mel Street, Gary Stewart, Gene Watson, Johnny Cash, Hank Snow, Charlie Rich, Johnny Paycheck, Tom T. Hall and Merle Haggard. The Nashville Edition also backed such pop stars as Henry Mancini, Elvis Presley, Bobby Goldsboro, Nancy Sinatra, Dave Loggins, Tommy James and Bobby Vinton.
The group sang on more than 12,000 recordings during its heyday. Among the many hit titles where the vocal ensemble can be heard are Charley Pride’s “My Eyes Can Only See As Far As You,” Dottie West’s “Country Sunshine,” Marty Robbins’ “El Paso City,” Tanya Tucker’s “Delta Dawn,” Lynn Anderson’s “Rose Garden,” Freddie Hart’s “Easy Lovin,’” Barbara Mandrell’s “The Midnight Oil,” Melba Montgomery’s “No Charge,” Steve Young’s “Seven Bridges Road” and Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You.”
Hurshel Wiginton was The Nashville Edition’s bass singer. Group member Joe Babcock believed that Wiginton was the best bass vocalist in the music industry.
Wiginton was born Jan. 28, 1938 in Hamilton, Alabama. His earliest singing was at the Poplar Log Free Will Baptist Church, which was next door to his family’s home.
After his high school graduation, he made his way to Muscle Shoals, Alabama. One of the earliest hits he sang on was 1966’s “When a Man Loves a Woman” by soul singer Percy Sledge. Following a brief stint on the Memphis recording scene, Wiginton moved to Nashville.
He and Babcock became founding members of The Nashville Edition, along with Dolores Edgin and Ricki Page. The quartet stepped into the slot vacated by the mixed-voice backup group The Anita Kerr Singers, who had disbanded when leader Kerr departed Nashville.
By the mid-1970s, The Nashville Edition was performing on four recording sessions a day. The group won Superpicker Awards from the Nashville chapter of The Recording Academy in 1975, 1977 and 1978 due to its prominence on Music Row recordings.
The Nashville Edition was so successful with recording-session work that Wiginton had to persuade the others to take the Hee Haw television job. It turned out to be a long-running and lucrative sideline for the quartet.
Hurshel Wiginton died on Monday, March 6, following several years of declining health. His survivors include wife Doris, son Barry and daughters Jo Swafford, Anna Wiginton and Tina Goodrow, plus two grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Also surviving are brothers James and Roger and sister Adgil Marie Lovett.
Arrangements are being handled by the Hamilton Funeral Home in Alabama. The funeral service will be conducted in the singer’s boyhood church, Poplar Log Baptist.
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