Confederate Railroad Founding Member Passes

Bass player Wayne Secrest, a mainstay of the hit country band Confederate Railroad, died on Saturday, June 2, at age 68.

Secrest formed the group with lead singer Danny Shirley and band mates Michael Lamb, Gates Nichols, Chris McDaniel and Mark Dufresne in 1967. Confederate Railroad became a local headlining nightclub attraction in the region encompassing Atlanta, northern Alabama and Chattanooga in the 1970s.

During the following decade, the group was the backing band on the road for both David Allan Coe and Johnny Paycheck. Its enthusiastic regional following led to a recording contract with Atlantic Records in 1992. Confederate Railroad’s debut album for the label included six top-40 singles, including the top-10 successes “Jesus and Mama,” “Queen of Memphis” and “Trashy Women,” plus such memorable tunes as “When You Leave That Way You Can Never Go Back,” “She Never Cried” and “She Took It Like a Man.”

As a result, the Confederate Railroad album was certified a Double Platinum seller. Secrest and the other band members were cited in the liner notes, but did not play on this disc. Nevertheless, Confederate Railroad was named Best New Group at the 1993 ACM Awards.

The band’s second Atlantic CD, 1994’s Notorious, included a return to the country top-10 with “Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind.” Other memorable tracks included “Elvis and Andy,” “I Am Just a Rebel” and “Three Verses.”

This time, Secrest and the other Confederate Railroaders played on the album. Notorious was certified Platinum for a million in sales. The group’s third Atlantic CD was 1995’s When and Where. The title tune became the collection’s biggest success. But the charting track “When He Was My Age” was an early songwriting credit for future star Kenny Chesney.

Keep On Rockin’ became the band’s final Atlantic CD in 1998. The label repackaged its hits on 2000’s Rockin’ Country Party Pack. Confederate Railroad reappeared via the Unleashed CD on Audium/Koch in 2001.

Cheap Thrills was issued by Shanachie in 2007. Secrest and the rest of the band were showcased on the 2010 CD Live: Back to the Barrooms.

The group’s final album with Secrest as a member was 2016’s Lucky to Be Alive. He withdrew from the group last year due to ill health.

Wayne Secrest passed away in Lexington, Kentucky. Survivors include son Ricci Stassi, granddaughter Isabella Stassi Secrest, companion Pam Stacy Simons, stepmother Virginia Secrest and stepbrothers David Nagel, Paul Nagel and John Nagel.

At Secrest’s request, no services will be held. He will be cremated and his ashes scattered at his favorite fly-fishing spot on the Snake River in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

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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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