Bluegrass Star Steve Gulley Dies

Steve Gulley. Photo: Courtesy Mountain Home

Award-winning bluegrass guitarist, songwriter and tenor vocalist Steve Gulley died on Tuesday (Aug. 18). He was 57.

Noted for his work at Kentucky’s Renfro Valley Barn Dance and in the groups Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Mountain Heart, Grasstowne and his own band Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle, the East Tennessee artist was widely liked and admired in the bluegrass community.

Gulley’s death at age 57 came less than a month after he was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas.

He was a native of Cumberland Gap, Tennessee. His father was a country DJ and a member of The Pinnacle Mountain Boys bluegrass ensemble. Gulley initially rose to prominence as a cast member at the Renfro Valley Barn Dance.

He joined the award-winning Quicksilver in 1994. Gulley and fellow Quicksilver bandmembers Jim VanCleve (fiddle) and Barry Abernathy (banjo) formed the basis of Mountain Heart in 1996. The group recorded five albums over the next five years.

Dobro IBMA award winner Phil Leadbetter and acclaimed mandolinist Alan Bibey joined Gulley in forming Grasstowne in 2006. He recorded three albums with the group before leaving it to continue under Bibey’s leadership.

Gulley recorded his solo Sounds Like Home CD in 2006. Next came a 2010 duo album with Tim Stafford titled Dogwood Winter.

He formed Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle in 2014. The group’s disc, Aim High, led to a 2016 IBMA nomination as Emerging Artist of the Year. Other albums have included Time Won’t Wait, Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle, High Peaks and New Ground and Family, Friends & Fellowship.

Steve Gulley was well regarded as a bluegrass songwriter. His works have been recorded by Kenny & Amanda Smith, Blue Highway and Lawson, among others. His “Through the Window of a Train” was named the IBMA’s Song of the Year in 2008.

His cowriter on that song was Tim Stafford. Prior to his death, the two had recorded a second duo album sadly titled Still Here. This has not been released.

During his career, Steve Gulley appeared more than 90 times on the Grand Ole Opry.

In addition to his performing, recording and songwriting activities, Gulley worked as a DJ on WDVX in Knoxville. He was the co-owner of the Curve recording studio.

He is survived by wife Debbie, son Brad and daughters Lyndsey Hunley, Alyson Robinson, Kim Beers and Amber Doss, as well as by 10 grandchildren, his parents Don and Linda Gulley, sister Kristi Laws and his beloved dog Rip.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Steve Gulley’s home church Summey’s Bridge Missionary Baptist Church in his memory. The address is Summey’s Bridge Missionary Baptist Church, 200 Providence Road, Cumberland Gap, TN 37724.

The family will receive friends Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020 from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. with funeral services to follow at 6 p.m. in the Claiborne ~ Overholt Funeral Home Chapel, 1106 HWY 33 South, New Tazewell, TN 37825. Private graveside services will be conducted in the Kibert Cemetery. All in attendance are required to wear a face mask for the protection of everyone in attendance.

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Category: Artist, Featured, Obituary

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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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