Nashville’s Music Community Remembers Prominent Guitarist Jimmy Capps

Longtime Grand Ole Opry guitarist and session musician Jimmy Capps passed away Tuesday, June 2, at age 81. His signature smooth style of guitar playing has been heard on hundreds of recordings from George Jones, The Oak Ridge Boys, George Strait, Kenny Rogers and more, including classics such as “Amarillo By Morning,” “The Gambler,” “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” and “Stand By Your Man.”

Following the announcement of his passing, tributes and memories poured in from artists, industry executives and others. See a few of the tributes below:

“Jimmy helped define country music for more than one generation of fans. His musicianship will live on every time somebody somewhere plays ‘The Gambler,’ ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today,’ or countless other recordings on which he played. He was an absolute fixture on stage and backstage at the Opry. I personally reveled in walking around the corner from my office before showtime and seeing the namesake of the Jimmy Capps Music Room holding court with his smile and his guitar, talking with longtime friends and newcomers alike. The difficult part of being so close-knit at the Opry is that losses like this cut deep. While the Opry will never be the same, it’s better for Jimmy Capps having played his part in it for more than 60 years.” – Dan Rogers, VP & Executive Producer, Grand Ole Opry

“I am convinced that Jimmy was the most-loved person in Nashville. EVERY artist loved him so much. While his book The Man in Back was a great tribute to him, I thought he deserved even more. So I produced a TV documentary on his life. When he saw it, he cried and cried. He said, ‘It’s kind of like going to your own funeral.’ I replied, ‘I wanted to bring your flowers while you were still here. I wanted you to see how much you mean to everyone.’ When it comes to the greatest men who ever walked the earth…I’d put Jimmy Capps in the top two, just behind another JC, Jesus Christ.” –Scot England / Author, The Man In Back

“When I first came to Nashville Jimmy Capps was already a fixture as one of the great guitar players. I worked with Jimmy many times and I got to know him and his wonderful wife Michele even better these last several years at the Opry. Jimmy was always ready with a smile, a kind word and a great guitar lick. I can’t imagine the Opry without Jimmy Capps. These crazy times are much sadder this morning.” – Crystal Gayle

“I am shocked and very saddened to hear that Jimmy Capps has passed away. He was on 90% of the songs that I’ve recorded and he can never be replaced. He was always one of the most authentic and genuine guys I’ve ever known and has accomplished so much in life. We are all so much better for knowing him. One thing that people will miss is looking over their shoulder and seeing Jimmy there. We will all miss you, Jimmy. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Michele.” – B.J. Thomas

“I will cherish the memories of working so many shows and concerts with Jimmy Capps. I will miss his smiling face. Blessings and prayers to his family.” – Janie Fricke

“I have been blessed to work with Jimmy down through the years. He was a universally loved, Godly man, a double-super cool Nashville cat and you couldn’t ask for a better friend. Sheila and I pray for Michele and the rest of his family at this time. Rest in peace, pal.” – T. Graham Brown

“Sending our love and prayers to Michele Capps. Just heard of the passing of Nashville musician Jimmy Capps. His musicianship was heard at the Grand Ole Opry, Country’s Family Reunion, and as The Sheriff on Larry’s Country Diner. I’ve sailed many music cruises with Jimmy, and I know he was so honored to be inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame. He was always humble and kind, and will be missed by many. Rest In Sweet Peace Jimmy Capps.” – Rhonda Vincent

“I am heartbroken over the loss of our great friend Jimmy Capps. He was and always will be a country music icon. It was an honor and privilege to work with him and call him my friend. He was such an amazingly gifted musician, sweet spirit, tender-hearted and beautiful soul! I know Jesus has welcomed Jimmy with open arms into his Heavenly home. My prayers are with Michele & the family. Rest In Peace Jimmy. We love you.” – Deborah Allen

“What a way to wake up this morning. I just got the message that Jimmy Capps passed away last night. I lost my sister last week and this feels like I lost another family member now. I can’t believe he’s gone. Sending prayers for Michele and their family.” – Johnny Lee

“Jimmy, was so incredibly talented; his playing came from endless experiences—he always knew ‘what to play’ and always elevated the music—just having him in the room made the music sound better. A sweet, sensitive soul who will be greatly missed.” – Michael Bonagura / Baillie & The Boys

“I loved Jimmy Capps. He was one of my mentors. I played alongside him in the studio and at the Grand Ole Opry for over four decades. Even now, when I close my eyes, I can see him walking through the Opry artist entrance, guitar case in hand. He walked slowly—with purpose. He was there to put on the best show he could. He loved the music. It was his life. He was the best rhythm guitar player I have EVER worked with. He was a perfectionist. As good as he was, he continued to practice and hone. That’s what made him so damn good. You could always count on him to know what to play and where to play it. We shared stories and secrets. There were times he treated me like a brother. There were times he treated me like a son. But every time we were together, he treated me like a friend. R.I.P, James D. Thank you for being such a great teacher. I learned from the best—Timbo.” – Tim Atwood

“I’ll always cherish the memories of any time that I was blessed to share the stage with Jimmy Capps. He is the epitome of a classic country music guitarist and one of the nicest people I ever met. RIP Jimmy Capps—we all love you dearly!” – Shane Owens

“My thoughts are with the family of Opry Legend/guitarist Mr Jimmy Capps. What an incredible legacy he will leave behind. One of Nashville’s most well respected guitarists. I had the honor of meeting him backstage at the Opry last year. He was soft-spoken and so humble. I will never forget asking him ‘How many times have you played the Opry in your career?’ He looked at me and grinned and said ‘way too many to count ha ha!’—Treasured memory of Jimmy. God bless him.” – J.D. Shelburne

“The loss of Jimmy Capps will be felt on so many levels… certainly at the Opry, on so many recording sessions, Larry’s Country Diner, Country Family Reunion, the Musician’s Hall of Fame…and most of all by his family and many, many friends and fans. He will be remembered not only as a great musician, but as one of the most wonderful men you could ever know. My heart goes out to my friend Michele, with the assurance I will be there for her. I feel it is ironic and yet appropriate that the CMA hashtag today said #theshowmustbepaused, yes Jimmy it must.” – Jeannie Seely

“What a great loss of one of our finest gentlemen in country music and one of our best and most consistent musicians. It will be hard to see the Grand Ole Opry stage without Jimmy Capps on it! He was a dear friend and will be dearly missed. Thank the Lord we have his music on so many hit recordings and Opry shows. Our prayers are with his living wife, Michele and his whole family!” – Connie Smith

“My love and prayers go out to his wife, Michele, and all his family and friends, the Grand Ole Opry folks and more. Jimmy was much loved by all and will be missed.” – David Ball

“Along with legions of other friends and fans.. my heart breaks at the loss of our ‘Sheriff’.. Jimmy Capps. He shared his talents and heart for decades.The reservoir of music that he leaves us is a blessing. But, the MAN will be greatly missed. My prayers are with Michele and with Mark and the entire Capps family. The Country Music Family has lost a great brother. RIP Jimmy Capps.” – Linda Davis

“Like so many, my heart is hurting over the loss of Jimmy Capps. One of the greatest musicians ever who started out playing with the Louvin Brothers and remained current and successfully reinvented himself a few times. But, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Jimmy is a humble, kind and caring soul. I also think of his soul mate, Michele. They were quite a team and were the definition of true Love.”–Bobby Tomberlin

“I always felt extremely lucky, and a bit awed, to be around Jimmy – he was the ultimate guitar player—Mr. Smooth! More importantly, he was a real gentleman—one of the nicest, most humble musicians I’ve ever met. And, he and Michele obviously had a great, loving relationship; it was apparent from being around them. RIP, Jimmy! Love to Michele, Mark, and his family. Another great one gone.” –Marlon Hargis / Exile

“Oh boy. This is a hard one to hear. The Country Music world knows how gifted Jimmy was, but those of us who knew his warmth and generosity were the true lucky ones. Condolences to Michele. RIP.” – JP Pennington / Exile

“Waking up to this sad news has hit very hard! Meeting Jimmy Capps on the Opry was an honor and a thrill and then actually getting to know him and experience his warmth, humor and amazing talent was an absolute joy! There are certain individuals who are, or become, legends and in this business he was all that and more. We are heartbroken at his passing and extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Michele, his son Mark, family and all who loved him. The Heavenly choir has gained a CPA, (certified guitar picker!) RIP Jimmy.” –Sonny LeMaire / Exile

“Jimmy was a big man in more ways than stature alone. He left us at a time when the world needs more like him.” – Steve Goetzman / Exile

“When we found out the world lost another musical legend and friend in Jimmy Capps our hearts were broken. What an honor it was for us to get to play with and know Jimmy and his wife Michele over the last few years. Y’all know him not only as Jimmy Capps…but also the Sheriff on Larry’s Country Diner. The mark he left on our lives and in the music industry will always be cherished. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Michele, their family and the collective Grand Ole Opry family during this difficult time.” –Darin and Brooke Aldridge

“It goes without saying, Jimmy Capps was one of the musical greats…a legend. But far more importantly, Jimmy was one of the finest people I have ever had the privilege to know. Humble, Kind, Gracious and Warm. Just being around him made you want to be a better person. His wife Michele not only shares a birthday with Jimmy, but she also shares the same qualities that made all who knew, loved and admired her husband. My deepest condolences go out to her, Mark and all the Capps family. Stage left, at the Opry, will be forever empty.” –Dallas Wayne / SiriusXM



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About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at [email protected]

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