“Go rest high on that mountain” we sing in Vince Gill’s enduring funeral anthem, and that’s the sentiment for those we lost in 2021.
The Country Music Hall of Fame lost Tom T. Hall and Don Everly. Both of them are members of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, which was also hit by obituaries for Jim Weatherly, Charlie Black and DeWayne Blackwell.
Among those departing are Bluegrass Hall of Fame members Sonny Osborne and Bill Emerson. The span of our losses is illustrated by the farewells we said to the Station Inn’s JT Gray, country-outlaw producer/drummer Richie Albright, Nashville pop/rock visionary Robb Earls, Americana honoree Nanci Griffith, Mexican ranchera music superstar Vincent Fernandez and country-rock pioneer plus video trail blazer Michael Nesmith.
As was the case last year (John Prine, Joe Diffie, Bill Pursell, Charley Pride, Bill Mack, etc.), the COVID pandemic claimed the lives of a number of our colleagues in 2021 — Larry Willoughby, Gene Kennedy, Ed Pearl, Jim Hall, Jeff Lisenby, Kenny Malone and more.
We give thanks for hits that Stonewall Jackson, B.J. Thomas, Jamie O’Hara, Misty Morgan and Ed Bruce sang for us. And we smile at our memories of such great personalities and contributors as Connie Bradley, Bob Moore, Bill Owens, Ron Cornelius and Ken Kragen.
We miss all of them as we offer our annual “hail and farewell” list.
MISTY MORGAN, 75, died Jan. 1.
Singer-keyboardist. Half of 1970s country hit making duo Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan. Hit No. 1 with Grammy-nominated “Tennessee Bird Walk” 1970. Follow-up “Humphrey the Camel” (1970) also a top-10 hit. Fifteen charted singles & seven top-40 successes, including “Somewhere In Virginia in the Rain” (1972), “There Must Be More to Life (Than Growing Old)” (1971), “You’ve Got Your Troubles (I’ve Got Mine)” (1970) and “Just One More Song” (1974). Two charted LPs, Birds of a Feather (1971), Two Sides of Jack & Misty (1972). She and Jack co-produced everything, making her a trailblazing female record producer in Music City. She was also duo’s musical arranger. Recorded for Mercury/Wayside, Mega, Chalice, Epic, United Artists, Playback, Stardust, Omni and own Velvet Saw label. Issued 15 albums and 40+ singles. Later formed jazz trio with her on piano, Blanchard on bass & a hired drummer. Former solo career as “Jacqueline Hyde” & “Maryann Mail.” (real name: Mary Donahue Blanchard).
STAN BEAVER, 71, died Jan. 2.
Rockabilly Hall of Fame member. Cult favorite 1963’s “I Got a Rocket in My Pocket.” Sound engineer for Emmylou, Righteous Brothers, Carl Perkins, Ray Charles, etc. Former staff engineer at Tom T. Hall’s Toybox Studio. Own TV show, recording studio, record label in Chattanooga.
JEFF LISENBY, 65, died Jan. 6.
Nashville accordionist/keyboard player with experience as director of cruise-ship shows, arranger, composer, music educator, Broadway, Opryland, etc. Performed & recorded with John England & The Western Swingers. On Grammy winning CD Songs From the Neighborhood: The Songs of Mister Rogers (2005). Solo album Walkin’ the Winter Wonderland (2013). Scholarship at Lipscomb University in his name. COVID pandemic victim.
TONY FARR, 84, died Jan. 6.
Steel guitarist/singer. Toured with Jeannie C. Riley, Tommy Overstreet, Jerry Wallace, Claude Gray, George Kent, others. Performer on Big D Jamboree in Dallas. Five solo albums. Member of The Swinging Guitars. (real name: Anthony Joseph Fardella III).
BILL RUNKLE, 82, died Jan. 7.
Banjo player noted for tenure in Del McCoury’s Dixie Pals (1970-78), plus stints with Bob Paisley & Southern Grass, Square Deal. Own band Smith Hollow with LP Lonely Tonight. Hosted bluegrass radio show in Pennsylvania for 25 years. Refurbished tour buses for musicians. (full name: William Harvey Runkle).
JAMIE O’HARA, 70, died Jan. 7.
Grammy-winning country songwriter. Recording artist in 1980s duo The O’Kanes. Team’s hits “Oh Darlin’” (1986), “Can’t Stop My Heart From Loving You” (No. 1, 1987) and 1978-88 successes “Daddies Need to Grow Up Too,” “Just Lovin’ You,” “One True Love,” “Blue Love” all collaborations with Kieran Kane. Highly successful songwriter for others. Grammy Country Song of Year for “Grandpa (Tell Me Bout the Good Old Days)” (Judds, 1986). Also wrote “Wandering Eyes” (Ronnie McDowell, 1981), “Older Women” (McDowell, 1981), “Talkin’ to Myself to Again” (Tammy, 1987), “Desperately” (Don Williams, 1988), “You’ve Got to Talk to Me” (Lee Ann Womack, 1997), “The Cold Hard Truth” (George Jones, 2000), “When Love Starts Talkin’” (Wynonna, 1997), “When We’re Gone Long Gone” (Lnda/Dolly/Emmylou, 1999), “Man To Man” (Gary Allan, No. 1, 2001). Also notable for farm-crisis song “Bidding America Goodbye” (Tanya, 1987) and own record/video of Vietnam War elegy “50,000 Names” (1994). Songs recorded by many—Conlee, T.G., Conway, Johnny Lee, Yearwood, Chicks, Randy Travis, Emmylou, McGraw, Sara Evans, Oaks, Pam, Josh Turner, Janie Fricke, Mel McDaniel, Shelby Lynne, Mattea, Wopat, Dave & Sugar and several bluegrass acts. Three O’Kanes albums (1987-1990), three solo albums (1994-2012).
ED BRUCE, 81, died Jan. 8.
Country singer-songwriter. Wrote hits “See the Big Man Cry” (Charlie Louvin, 1965), “The Man That Turned My Mama On” (Tanya, 1974), “Restless” (Crystal, 1974), “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys” (Waylon & Willie, 1978), “Texas (When I Die) (Tanya, 1979). Also wrote own hits “The Last Cowboy Song” (with Willie, 1980), “Girls Women and Ladies (1981), “Everything’s a Waltz” (1981), “Love’s Found You and Me” (1982), “Ever Never Loving You” (1982), “My First Taste of Texas” (1983), “After All” (1984). In all, charted 35 titles as singer, including other songwriters’ works: “You’re the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had (No. 1, 1982), “If It Was Easy” (1983), “You Turn Me On (Like a Radio)” (1985), “When Givin’ Up Was Easy” (1985), “If It Ain’t Love” (1985), “Nights” (1986). Actor in TV commercials, network series Bret Maverick, film Fire Down Below, several TV movies. Hosted cable-TV series Truckin USA, American Sports Cavalcade. Portrayed televised state spokesman “The Tennessean.” Voice in many radio ads. Former background singer in Marijohn Wilkin’s vocal group. Began career on Sun Records as “Edwin Bruce.”
RED CRAVENS, 88, died Jan. 11.
Guitarist/singer in bluegrass band The Bray Brothers & Red Cravens. LP The Blue Grass Gentlemen 1962 (Liberty Records). House band at Bill Monroe’s Brown County Jamboree 1960-63. Weekly radio show on WHOW Clinton, IL with tapes reissued on Rounder Records. (full name: Robert Neal Cravens)
JOHN SPENCER, 60, died Jan. 11.
President & co-founder of BMS Chace & VEVA Sound firms preserving & archiving audio & video. Company serves all major labels in Nashville & hundreds of artists. Active in Recording Academy’s Producers & Engineers Wing, working on its national metadata project. to standardize audio delivery files.
JIMMY COX, 87, died Jan. 11.
Known as “a banjo maker’s maker.” A key figure in popularizing bluegrass music in Maine.
TOM STARR, 56, died Jan. 12.
Warner Records promotion exec. Important in rise of Dan + Shay, Chris Janson, Ashley McBryde, Zac Brown Band, Frankie Ballard & more. Formerly in pop at Interscope, EMI/Capitol, Jive, MCA, Elektra.
DON TUCKER, 76, died Jan. 12.
Former road manager for sister Tanya Tucker.
LARRY WILLOUGHBY, 70, died Jan. 14.
VP of A&R for Capitol Nashville instrumental in signing and/or developing Luke Bryan, Dierks Bentley, Eric Church, others. Previously membership exec at ASCAP and A&R exec at MCA. Originally Guy Clark band member who graduated to recording solo for Atlantic 1983-84. Self-penned singles from LP later successful for Eddy Raven (1985’s “Operator Operator”) and Brooks & Dunn (2006’s “Building Bridges” with Sheryl Crow & Vince Gill, ACM Vocal Event of Year). Songs also recorded by Waylon, Amazing Rhythm Aces, Oaks, Nicolette Larson, Big House and his cousin, Rodney Crowell. A COVID pandemic victim.
JASON “ROWDY” COPE, 42, died Jan. 16.
Co-founder of Nashville-based Southern-rock band The Steel Woods. Group’s albums Straw in the Wind (2017), Old News (2019). Formerly decade-long guitarist for Jamey Johnson on road and on CDs That Lonesome Song (2008), The Guitar Song (2010). Co-wrote Johnson’s “Can’t Cash My Checks.” Session guitarist for Secret Sisters, Lindi Ortega, Brent Cobb, etc.
RANDY PARTON, 67, died Jan. 21.
Singer-songwriter with RCA singles 1981-83, including top-30 hits “Hold Me Like You Never Had Me,” “Shot Full of Love.” The first to record “Roll On (18 Wheeler)” (1982), a No. 1 hit for Alabama two years later. Harmony vocalist with sister Dolly on 1980 No. 1 hit “Old Flames (Can’t Hold a Candle to You).” His songs recorded by Dolly, Stella Parton, others. Played guitar, bass in Dolly’s band. Starred at Dollywood in own show beginning 1986. Duet with Dolly (“You Are My Christmas”) on 2021 Grammy-nominated Xmas LP A Holly Dolly Christmas.
DENNIS GLASER, 92, died Jan. 21.
Georgia newspaper publisher/owner who moved to Nashville & worked in music biz for cousins Glaser Brothers plus Methodist Publishing House in 1970s. Author: Music City’s Defining Decade.
TOM STEVENS, 64, died Jan. 23.
Bass player member of alt-country band The Long Ryders. Nine CDs since 1983, including 2019’s Psychedelic Country Soul. Band influenced evolution of Americana movement.
JAMES WHITE, 81, died Jan. 24.
Founder of legendary Austin honky-tonk The Broken Spoke (1964). Venue appears in Willie movie Honeysuckle Rose (1980) & on jacket of Strait’s Honky Tonk Time Machine CD (2019). Documentary film Honky-Tonk Heaven: Legend of the Broken Spoke (2016).
COLLEEN BAIN TRENWORTH, 74, died Jan. 24.
Fiddler in New Zealand’s The Hamilton County Bluegrass Band since 1966. House band on NZ national TV show Country Touch, 15 albums. Backing band for Aussie county superstar Slim Dusty 1974-76.
BOB MITCHELL, 83, died Jan. 26.
Broadcaster with syndicated Best of Bluegrass radio show. Record reviewer for Bluegrass Now, Louisville Music News, Bluegrass Music Profiles, etc.
DOUG MOFFET, 60, died Jan. 27.
Sax & woodwind player in Nashville Jazz Orchestra. Member Muscle Shoals Horns. Sessions for Paul McCartney, Willie Nelson, Boots Randolph, Tony Bennett, LeAnn Rimes, Ben Folds, Amy Grant, Michael McDonald, Lady A, Faith Hill, Dan + Shay, Sheryl Crow, Jo-El Sonnier, Keith Urban, Bad Company, Buddy Guy, etc. Tours with Vince Gill, Larry Carlton, others.
RUEDI DETTWILER, 75, died Feb. 2.
First five-string bluegrass banjo player in Switzerland. Member The Country Pickers 1962-1992 & on its albums Happy Days (1986), East to West (1990). (full name: Rudolf “Hank” Dettwiler Gloor).
JIM WEATHERLY, 77, died Feb. 3.
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member. Wrote Gladys Knight & Pips 1973-75 hits “Neither One of Us,” “Where Peaceful Waters Flow,” “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,” “Love Finds Its Own Way,” “Midnight Train to Georgia” and 50 cuts by Ray Price, including hits “Storms of Troubled Times” (1974), “Like a First Time Thing” (1974), “Like Old Times Again” (1975), “Roses and Love Songs” (1975), “Farthest Thing From My Mind” (1975), “If You Ever Change Your Mind” (1975), “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” (1973). Also Bob Luman hits “Neither One of Us” (1973), “Just Enough to Make Me Stay” (1974). Other songwriting successes Bill Anderson’s “This Is a Love Song” (19790, Charley Pride’s “Where Do I Put Her Memory” (1979), Glen Campbell’s “A Lady Like You” (1984), Ed Bruce’s “You Turn Me On (Like a Radio)” (1984), Earl Thomas Conley & Gus Hardin’s “All Tangled Up in Love” (1984), Bryan White’s “Someone Else’s Star” (1995). Solo recording artist with No.11 pop hit “The Need to Be”(1974) plus country hits “I’ll Still Love You” (1975) & “All That Keeps Me Going” (1977). Solo albums Weatherly (RCA, 1972), A Gentler Time (RCA, 1973), Jim Weatherly (RCA, 1973), The Songs of Jim Weatherly (Buddah, 1974), Magnolias & Misfits (Buddah, 1975), The People Some People Choose to Love (ABC, 1976), Pictures & Rhymes (ABC, 1976) plus CDs for own Brizac label. Cuts by pop’s Delbert, Etta James, Manhattans, Dionne, Andy Williams, Joan Osborne, Neil Diamond, Temptations, Hall & Oates, Spinners, Dean Martin, Ray Charles, Peter Cetera, Aretha, Julie Andrews, Indigo Girls, Mathis, James Cleveland, Peggy Lee, Widespread Panic and country cuts by Kenny Rogers, Vince, Tanya, Mac Davis, Marie Osmond, B.J., Eddy Arnold, Lynn Anderson, Yearwood, Oaks, Reba, Johnny Lee, Greenwood, Brenda, Wariner, Chesney, Dottie, Goldsboro, Garth, Dan Seals, etc. Formerly in rock group Gordian Knott (Verve Records 1968). Quarterback at Ole Miss with national championship 1962 & SEC champs 1962, 1963. ASCAP Songwriter of Year 1974, national Songwriters Hall of Fame 2014. Autobiography Midnight Train 2018.
CLARENCE HALL, 87, died Feb. 4.
Virginia-based singer, songwriter, instrument maker. Bluegrass banjo player in Mayo River Boys, mainstays of WPAQ radio in Mount Airy, NC. In Dominion Bluegrass Boys for LPs on Grassound, Rebel.
BRIAN TANKERSLEY, 64, died Feb. 5.
Nashville engineer/producer, noted particularly for work with CCM artists Kim Boyce, NewSong, Amy Grant, Israel Houghton, Charlotte Church, Twila Paris, Carman, Petra, David Meece, Michael W. Smith, Wayne Watson, Kim Hill, Steve Taylor, etc. Secular credits include Brooks & Dunn, Sawyer Brown, Shania, Trick Pony, BlackHawk, SheDaisy, Todd Snider, Kirk Whalum, Billy Dean, Wade Hayes, Dusty Springfield, Vern Gosdon, Lorrie Morgan, more.
ED PEARL, 88, died Feb.7.
Founder & driving force behind L.A.’s Ash Grove coffee house. Venue endured 1958-73, hosting Doc Watson, Bill Monroe, Maybelle Carter, Flatt & Scruggs, New Lost City Ramblers, Johnny Cash, Stanley Brothers, Dillards, Kentucky Colonels, etc. COVID pandemic victim.
RICHIE ALBIRGHT, 81, died Feb. 9.
Influential country drummer, founder of Waylon Jennings’ band The Waylors. Known as “right arm” of Country Music Hall of Fame member Jennings (1937-2002), encouraging rock-leaning percussion to forge Outlaw sound. Appeared on many million-selling Jennings LPs, co-wrote Jennings/Hank Jr. duet hit “The Conversation” 1983, produced Jennings 1980 million-selling “Theme From The Dukes of Hazzard (Good Ol’ Boys).” Also produced Jessi Colter, Billy Joe Shaver, Hank Jr. In addition to Jennings, backed Willie, Jessi, Tompall, Cash, Tony Joe, David Lynn Jones, Johnny Rodriguez, Hank Jr., Shaver.
AARON “FROSTY” FOSTER, 28, died Feb. 10.
Bluegrass guitarist in ETSU’s Bluegrass Pride band, Amanda Cook Band and Boone & Foster. The last-named charted with “Country Fool” in 2020.
LEE SEXTON, 92, died Feb. 10.
Banjo player on LPs Whoa Mule, Mountain Music of Kentucky. Briefly in movie Coal Miner’s Daughter.
CARMAN, 65, died Feb. 16.
A CCM trailblazer and GMA Hall of Fame member. In 1985, he released his first No. 1 song, “The Champion.” Billboard named him Contemporary Christian Artist of the Year in 1992 and 1995. In 1993, his album, Addicted to Jesus, earned the distinction of Contemporary Christian Album of the Year. The multiple Grammy-nominee held the world record for having the largest audience at a solo Christian artist concert, set the record for the largest concert at Texas Stadium with more than 71,000 fans, and led more than 80,000 fans in worship in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Died following complications from surgery on a hiatal hernia. (Full name: Carman Dominic Licciardello)
WAYNE DANIEL, 92, died Feb. 16.
Country-music scholar noted for many magazine & journal articles on the history of bluegrass, Southern gospel, country. Published in Bluegrass Unlimited, Old Time Music, Atlanta Journal Constitution, JEMF Quarterly, Journal of Country Music, The Devil’s Box, Radio Digest, Precious Memories, etc. Book: Pickin’ on Peachtree: A History of Country Music in Atlanta, Georgia (University of Illinois, 1990). Also nationally known as PhD, author & professor in Biostatistics.
CURTIS McPEAKE, 93, died Feb. 20.
Nashville banjo master. Stints with Flatt & Scruggs (1955), Bill Monroe (1961-63), Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper (1963), Opry staff band (1960s), Benny Williams/Tennessee River Boys, Danny Davis & Nashville Brass (1969-87). Session musician for George Jones, Melba Montgomery, Willis Brothers, C.W. McCall, etc. Developed 10-string banjo. Also played guitar, dobro, jaw’s harp, steel guitar, mandolin. Began career on Tennessee radio 1941. Continued to record & perform after age 90. Several solo albums. IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award 2018.
NISHA JACKSON, 62, died Feb. 23.
Grand champion on TNN-TV’s country talent competition You Can Be a Star 1987. Black country contender subsequently charted with “Alive and Well” on Capitol.
BETH FLOOD, 77, died Feb. 24.
Landscape designer whose gardening skills were sought after by Nashville’s music industry. Hosted star-studded annual holiday parties. Wife of celebrity financial manager Chuck Flood. (full name: Zora Elizabeth Edelbrock Flood).
PETER OSTROUSHKO, 67, died Feb. 24.
Mutli-instrumentalist musical director at Prairie Home Companion NPR radio show, appearing on 250+ episodes over 40-year span. Toured with Robin & Linda Williams, Chet Atkins, Norman Blake. Prominent on soundtracks of Ken Burns documentaries about Mark Twain, Lewis & Clark. Appeared on Austin City Limits, Mister Rogers Neighborhood, Late Night with David Letterman. More than 15 albums for Red House label (1985-2018).
DUFFY JACKSON, 67, died Mar. 3.
Jazz drummer with Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Sammy Davis Jr., Betty Carter, Illinois Jacquet, others. Teacher at Nashville Jazz Workshop, gigs at Rudy’s Jazz Room, Acme Feed & Seed, etc.
ROSS, MARVIN, 87, died Mar. 8.
Member of Nashville gospel quartet The Ross Brothers.
DAVID C. NEAL, 58, died Mar. 10.
Vocalist in gospel quartet The Elighteners. Multi-instrumentalist on keyboards, guitar, bass.
ROBB EARLS, 69, died Mar. 11.
Nashville pop/rock innovator. Vocalist, songwriter, synthesizer performer, Led acclaimed techno-pop bands Factual, Warm Dark Pocket, Big Bong Theory and This Midnight Stream. Factual made disc debut via tracks on local-rock compilations Never In Nashville (1981), The London Side of Nashville (1982). Debut Factual single “Think to the Beat” / “Your Way” 1982. Four-song, mini-LP Factual (1983). Band headlined multi-act extravaganza Entertainment Expo at Municipal Auditorium 1983. Four-song, techno-pop mini-LP Warm Dark Pocket (with Marilyn Blair) 1986. Psychedelic rock-club band Big Bong Theory. Then This Midnight Stream (with Carole Edwards) issued dance-pop CD Cinematic (2001). Owner of Sound Vortex studio & engineer/producer there for David Olney, Webb Wilder, Lambchop, DeGarmo & Key, Bonepony, Tom House, Doug Hoekstra, Jet Black Factory, Clockhammer, Tom Ovans, Dessau & more.
SCOTT WHITEHEAD, 61, died Mar. 12.
Business manager for Nashville’s Grassroots Promotion and FanTheJam.com. Formerly songwriter (Acuff-Rose), producer, musician & member of duo Hometown News. Act charted with “Minivan” & “Wheels” (2002), recorded three CDs. Husband & biz partner of Nancy Tunick, co-owner of Grassroots.
TAYLOR DEE, 33, died Mar. 14.
Texas country singer who released her debut single in 2019, “The Buzz.”
TOM ERVIN, 86, died Mar. 17.
President & GM of WTVF NewsChannel 5. Spent 40 years at the CBS Nashville affiliate. Many Emmy & other broadcasting awards.
JT GRAY, 75, died Mar. 20.
Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame inductee 2020. Owner of bluegrass mecca The Station Inn since 1981. Venue launched The Whites, Time Jumpers, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, Dreadful Snakes. Training ground for Dierks Bentley, Alison Krauss, Chris Stapleton, Larry Cordle, many more. Regulars included John Prine, Jim Rooney, Nanci Griffith, Doyle & Debbie, Roland White, Vince Gill, Peter Rowan. Site of music videos, photo shoots, showcases, Gold parties. IBMA Distinguished Achievement Award. Guitarist, bassist, tenor singer for Jimmy Martin (1979-81), Misty Mountain Boys (1971-75), own band Nashville Skyline (1979-2000). Documentary film: The Station Inn: True Life Bluegrass (2004). Solo album: It’s About Time (2005). Presenter on national Grammy telecast 2021. (full name: Earl “JT” Gray).
TOMMY CHAYNE, 32, died March 22.
Country rapper who was newly signed to Nashville’s Average Joes Entertainment. Last song, “Captain America,” was released just days before his passing. (Full name: Thomas Alan Herring)
CONNIE BRADLEY, 75, died March 24.
Leader at Nashville’s ASCAP office for 34 years. ASCAP signed Garth Brooks, Alan Jackson, Rodney Crowell, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Brad Paisley, Kenny Chesney, Chris Young, John Rich, Billy Currington, George Strait during her tenure. Formerly at NewsChannel 5, Famous Music, Dot Records, RCA Records. CMA Board president/chair 1989-90. Nashville Symphony Harmony Award 2006. SOURCE honoree 2012. CMA Irving Waugh Award of Excellence 2018. Wife of Country Music Hall of Fame member Jerry Bradley. Daughter-in-law of Country Music Hall of Fame member Owen Bradley. Stepmother of Clay Bradley. Sister-in-law of Patsy Bradley.
ROBERT DOYLE JACOBS, 89, died March 28.
Nashville country singer-songwriter of the 1950s with own weekly TV show on WBKO in Bowling Green, KY. Often sat in with bands on Lower Broadway in later years.
ANDY SMITH, 83, died March 28.
Nashvillian known as “Jazzman,” an internationally known jazz record collector and historian. Own NPR radio series The Jazzman Show WKMS at Murray State for 20 years. Past president International Society of Jazz Record Collectors. His archive spanned blues & jazz recordings, films, memorabilia. Cornet player.
GENE KENNEDY, 87, died April 1.
Owner of Door Knob Records, Nashville’s longest-lasting indie country label (1976-2015). Label recorded more than 100, including charted acts Wayne Kemp, Bobby G. Rice, Gary Goodnight, Big Al Downing, Tom Carlile, Jerry Wallace, Bonnie Nelson, Perry LaPointe, Jeris Ross, Sonny Wright, Peggy Sue (13 charted singles). Producer, recording artist, songwriter (for Bobby Lewis, Jerry Wallace, Newbeats, Mark Brine, etc.). Formerly head of promotion at Hickory Records, Decca, 4-Star, Ace of Hearts. Founder & lifetime member of R.O.P.E. COVID pandemic victim.
BARBARA MILLER, 86, died April 2.
Widow, co-writer, co-publisher of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Eddie Miller. Formerly duet singer with sister Betty on L.A.’s Hometown Jamboree. (married name: Barbara Miller McCormick).
BILL OWENS, 85, died April 7.
Mentor & early songwriting collaborator with niece Dolly Parton. Wrote 800+ songs, including BMI Award winning “Put It Off Until Tomorrow” (with Dolly) (Bill Phillips 1966; Kendalls 1980, etc.). Also cowrote “Puppy Love” (Dolly), “More Love Than Sense” (Kitty Wells), “Fuel to the Flame” (Skeeter Davis), “The Company You Keep” (Bill Phillips), “I Only Regret” (Bill Phillips), more. Songs also recorded by Tammy Wynette, Bob Beckham, Red Sovine, Al Ferrier, Kris Kristofferson, Loretta Lynn, Porter Wagoner, Jeannie Seely, Ricky Skaggs, Brenda Lee, Willie Nelson, Johnny Dollar, etc. Took Dolly to Cas Walker’s “Farm & Home Hour” show Knoxville 1956, Grand Ole Opry 1959. Co-founded Dolly’s first publishing company, Owepar Music. Produced many aspiring artists – Ralph Loveday, Jim Wyrick, Larry Cooke, Don Handy, Johnny Ringo, Tom Hackney and brother Henry (billed as “John Henry III”). Musical headliner at Dollywood following 1986 opening. Planted 70,000 trees at park. In later years, passionate about reintroducing chestnut trees to Appalachia.
DENNIS PAYNE, 71, died April 8.
Songwriter, sideman, studio engineer, recording artist. Songs include Junior Brown’s “Highway Patrol” (1995) & Vern Gosdin’s “All I Want and Need Forever” (1979). As a lead-guitarist he backed Earl Thomas Conley, David Frizzell, Jimmy Dickens, Cal Smith, Tommy Overstreet, etc. Member of bands Eagle Creek, Bakersfield Boys and Cigars & Cataracts. Began career in Bakersfield on local TV shows of Dave Stogner and Bill Woods. Managed by Buck Owens, protégée of Red Simpson & Tommy Collins, touring guitarist for Wynn Stewart, Joe & Rose Lee Maphis, Eddie Dean. Recorded for Capitol 1975, True Records 1988. Son of Charles Payne of The Light Crust Doughboys. Nephew of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Leon Payne.
JAMES ALLEN COLLINS, 89, died April 8.
Fixture of East Tennessee bluegrass scene for 70+ years. Member Pinnacle Mountain Boys.
RUSTY YOUNG, 74, died April 14.
Founder/leader of country-rock band Poco. Influential Steel Guitar Hall of Fame member. Sang lead on Poco hits “Rose of Cimarron” (1976), “Crazy Love” (1979). Poco colleagues included Jim Messina, Richie Furay, Paul Cotton, Timothy B. Schmitt, George Grantham, Randy Meisner. Formerly on Buffalo Springfield LP Last Time Around (1968). Also in 1996 country supergroup The Sky Kings with Bill Lloyd & John Cowan.
PHIL ZIMMERMAN, 77, died April 16.
Mandolin & banjo player with workshops at bluegrass festivals. Noted photographer who documented first bluegrass festival (Fincastle, VA, 1965), plus fests in Massachusetts, Delaware, New York, Vermont, etc. Book: Bluegrass Time (2008). Photo exhibit at IBMA Museum (2008).
CHARLIE BLACK, 71, died April 23.
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member. SESAC Country Songwriter of Year 1979. ASCAP Country Songwriter of Year 1983 & 1984. More than 20 top-10 country hits, including Anne Murray’s “A Little Good News” (1983), Reba’s “You Lie” (1990), Jennifer Warnes’ “I Know a Heartache When I See One” (1979, revived by Jo Dee Messina 1998). Career launched by Tommy Overstreet top-10 hits “I Don’t Know You (Anymore)” (1971), “Send Me No Roses” (1973), “I’ll Never Break These Chains” (1973), “(Jeannie Marie) You Were a Lady” (1974), “If I Miss You Again Tonight” (1974). Co-wrote Murray hits “Shadows in the Moonlight” (1979), “Lucky Me” (1980), “Blessed Are the Believers” (1981), “Another Sleepless Night” (1982). “A Little Good News” CMA Single of the Year, Grammy Award for Murray and Grammy nomination for Black. Other songwriting hits: “Do You Love As Good As You Look” (Bellamys 1981), “Be There For Me Baby” (Johnny Lee 1982), “Sounds Like Love” (Lee 1983), “Slow Burn” (T.G. Sheppard, 1984), “Another Motel Memory” (Shelly West, 1984), “Honor Bound” (Earl Thomas Conley, 1985), “Strong Heart” (T.G. 1986), “100% Chance of Rain” (Gary Morris 1986), “Someone” (Greenwood 1987), “Timeless and True Love” (McCarters 1988, Jeannie Kendall & Alan Jackson 2003), “Come Next Monday” (K.T. 1990), “Goodbye Says It All” (BlackHawk 1994), “Little Red Rodeo” (Colin Raye, 1998), “Right on the Money” (Alan Jackson 1999). Also Phll Vassar hits “Carlene” (1999), “Six Pack Summer” (2001), “Don’t Miss Your Life” (2012). Songs recorded by Kenny Rogers, Lynn Anderson, Conlee, Crystal, Strait, Andy Williams, Juice, Charlie Rich, Jerry Reed, Osmonds, Bare, Don Williams, Joe Nichols. Husband of songwriter Dana Hunt (Strait’s “Check Yes or No” & “Write This Down”).
PAM BELFORD, 70, died April 22.
Noted as co-writer of George Strait’s “If I Know Me” & “Holding My Own” (1991-92). Other cuts: Connie Francis “Don’t Tell Me Not to Cry” (1981), Leon Everette “Sad State of Affairs” plus Doug Stone, Linda Jordan, Karen Taylor-Good, Blackcreek, Rich McCready, Dean Dillon, Renee Wahl, Anna Marie, Teriri Gibbs, Susan H. Brantley, Michael Dean Church, etc. Solo album: Slow Dancing Cowboys & Strawberry Pie (2015). Vet performer for 30+ years at Bluebird Café, Longtime Nashville Public Library worker.
TOMMY WEST, 78, died May 2.
Producer, songwriter, artist, label exec. Noted as Jim Croce producer, plus Henry Gross, Gail Davies, Mary Travers, Dion DiMucci, Ed Bruce, others. Began career in pop music in doo-wop group The Criterions, then DJ at WRLB-FM (Long Branch, NJ), promoter at Command Records, session singer for Sinatra, Como, Sammy Davis Jr., Mitch Ryder, Connie Francis, others. Formed pop groups Salt Water Taffy and Cashman, Pistilli & West, then Cashman & West (1972’s “American City Suite”). With Terry Cashman (Dennis Minogue) co-wrote songs for Partridge Family, Mama Cass, Manhattan Transfer, Al Martino, Mouth & MacNeal. Co-founded MTM Records on Music Row 1984 & produced most of its artists – Judy Rodman, Holly Dunn, Girls Next Door, Almost Brothers, Voltage Brothers. Later founded High Harmony label. (real name: Thomas Ralph Picardo).
JIM PEVA, 92, died May 5.
Photographer, writer who became historian of Bill Monroe’s music park at Bean Blossom, Indiana. Recorded many performances, photographed even more over a 50-year period. Served on Bean Blossom Brown County Jamboree Preservation Foundation board. Book: Bean Blossom: Its People and Its Music (2006).
JIM HALL, 61, died May 10.
Audio engineer & venue sound-system designer. Skilled in public address systems, studio monitors, stage speakers, microphones, lighting systems, digital technology, closed-circuit video, theaters, television production, acoustic installations. Clients included Milsap, Dolly, Oaks, Travis, McGraw, Martina, Merle, Waylon, Gaithers, Dove Awards, Municipal Auditorium, Elite Post, Post Masters, LP Field, Sounds Stadium, Allied Sound, Memphis Symphony, many churches & multipurpose facilities. COVID pandemic victim. (full name: James Norman Hall).
JOHN MITCHEL HICKMAN, 78, died May 11.
Noted for several album collaborations with Byron Berline, solo work on Rounder, banjo player for movies & TV, subject of a film documentary, IBMA award winner. Began career in bluegrass in Columbus, Ohio bands. Relocated to West Coast 1969 & became session musician, banjo teacher, instrument restorer/repairer. Appeared on The Smothers Brothers TV show, then joined Berline in band Sundance 1975-78 (albums on MCA, Takoma, etc.). Solo album Don’t Mean Maybe 1978. Formed Berline-Crary-Hickman trio & issued albums 1981, 1984, 1986, 1989. Formed group California, which won IBMA Instrumental Group awards 1992, 1993, 1994.
RANDY LEE MARTIN, 72, died May 12.
Sculptor, songwriter, ad exec, award-winning wood carver. Album jackets for Merle Haggard, Charlie Daniels, Shenandoah, etc. while at CBS art department.
PATSY BRUCE, 81, died May 16.
Veteran Music Row entrepreneur, artist manager, songwriter, event planner, tourism businesswoman, TV/film exec, publisher. Managed former husband Ed Bruce (1939-2021) in 1970s-1980s & is listed as cowriter on his songs “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys,” “Texas (When I Die),” “After All,” “Ever Never Lovin’ You,” “(When You Fall in Love) Everything’s a Waltz,” “Girls Women and Ladies.” Guided Ed to film & TV roles, branding as “The Tennessean” spokes-character, voice-over work, commercials, as well as managing their talent agency and publishing company. Casting director on TV’s Maverick and movie Urban Cowboy. Served as president of NSAI. Moved into event planning winning honors for massive Super Dome convention gala for Honda. Launched own film & TV production company. Worked in political campaigns, on parole board, as crime-victim advocate. Founded Songbird Tours 2017 with songwriter son Trey Bruce. Also mother of former publishing exec Beau Bruce (1970-2019).
MARY P. FLOWERS, 69, died May 16.
Former journalist whose “Country Music Memo” column was nationally syndicated by King Features.
BISHOP ROBERT L. ROSS, 87, died May 16.
Prominent Black Nashville minister whose services were broadcast on WVOL weekly.
LOU ROBIN, 90, died May 18.
Johnny Cash & June Carter manager 1973-2003. Cash estate manager 2003-2018. Concert promoter, film producer, theatrical producer. More than 4,000 concerts promoted – Streisand, Stones, Beatles, Garland, Joplin, Hendrix, Chicago, Queen, Tony Bennett, Sammy Davis Jr., etc. Former Hollywood Bowl show promoter. IEBA Hall of Fame 2011.
ROGER HAWKINS, 75, died May 20.
Legendary Muscle Shoals drummer, studio owner. Member Musicians Hall of Fame, Alabama Music Hall of Fame. “The heartbeat of the Muscle Shoals Sound” as the drummer of sessions band The Swampers. Backed hundreds on disc, including Milsap, Willie, Toby, Tony Joe, Oaks, Dr. Hook, Joe Tex, Sawyer Brown, Debert, Buffett, Alabama, Rabbitt, Newbury, Jerry Jeff, Stella Parton, Donna Fargo, Ronstadt, Billy Swan, Billy Joe Royal, Paul Davis, plus Aretha, Clapton, Seger, Anka, Baez, Garfunkel, Odetta, Cocker, Traffic, Staples, James Brown, Cat Stevens, Kim Carnes, Paul Simon, Rod Stewart, Leon Russell, Solomon Burke, Wilson Pickett, Etta James, Ry Cooder, Boz Scaggs, Sweet Inspirations, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bobby Womack, Bobby Blue Bland, Slim Harpo, Percy Sledge, Tony Orlando & Dawn, Little Milton, J.J. Cale, Millie Jackson, Herbie Mann, many more. Produced Connie Francis, Orleans, Mel & Tim, Denise LaSalle, Tamiko Jones, Luther Ingram & others. Do-founder of Muscle Shoals Sound Studio.
GLENN DOUGLAS TUBB, 85, died May 22.
Hit country songwriter with “Home of the Blues” (Johnny Cash, 1957), “Next Time” (Ernest Tubb, 1959), “Sweet Lips” (Webb Pierce, 1961), “Tell Her So” (Wilburn Brothers, 1963), “I Talk to Jesus Every Day” (Cash, 1971), “Two Story House” (Jones & Wynette, 1980). Social-commentary classic “Skip a Rope” (Henson Cargill, 1968), a Grammy-nominated No. 1 smash recorded by dozens – Jimmy Dean, B.J., Twitty, Bare, Autry Inman, Lynn Anderson, Harden Trio, Gene Vincent, George Jones, Joe Tex, Patti Page, Jack Reno, Rex Allen, Lawrence Reynolds, Jordanaires, Brothers Four, Kentucky HeadHunters, Marty Stuart, etc. Songs also recorded by Yoakam, Collins Kids, Kitty, Hank Jr., Pride, Dylan, Tennessee Ernie, Hawkshaw, Sonny James, Charlie Louvin, Jan Howard, Nat Stuckey, Gene Watson, Jack Barlowe, Billy Walker, Anne Murray, many more. Tubb also a recording artist for Dot, Decca, Mercury, MGM, others, sometimes billed as “Glenn Douglas” or “Doug Tubb.” LP Heartbreak Alley 1958. Later albums included New Country Psalms, Half and Half, Glenn Douglas, Let Me Cry Alone, Gonna Make My Mark, Aged to Perfection. Appeared on Opry and Ozark Jubilee network TV series. Toured with Cash, Jones, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Marty Robbins & others. In later years, hosted “Midnight Jamboree,” performed gospel duets with wife Dottie Snow (daughter of Opry stars Radio Dot & Smokey Swann). They co-ministered weekly Sunday service “The Kitchen Tabernacle” on Facebook Live & Periscope. Active for seven decades on Nashville music scene, writing & performing until death. Nephew of Country Music Hall of Famer Ernest Tubb (1914-1984), cousin of Grand Ole Opry star Justin Tubb (1935-1998).
TOMMY EDWARDS, 75, died May 22.
Singer/guitarist who co-founded North Carolina band Bluegrass Experience (1971). Group recorded four albums. Edwards also recorded several solo projects.
DEWAYNE BLACKWELL, 84, died May 23.
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member. Noted for “Friends in Low Places,” “I’m Gonna Hire a Wino to Decorate Our Home,” “Honkytonk Man,” “Mr. Blue.” Began performing age 14. Formed family pop group The Blackwells (1958-61). The Fleetwoods 1959 pop smash “Mr. Blue” first song success. Later recorded by Bobby Vee, Johnny Crawford, Bobby Vinton, Pat Boone, Gary Lewis & Playboys, Garth, Dylan, others. Fleetwoods also recorded his “The Last One to Know” (1960). Other early pop successes Billy Fury’s “Love Or Money” (1961), Everly Brothers’ “The Ferris Wheel” (1964), Bobby Vee’s “Hickory, Dick and Dock” (1964), Sam the Sham & Pharaohs’ “Oh That’s Bad No That’s Good” (1967). Early songs also recorded by Orbison, Four Preps, Peggy March, Little Richard, Ventures, etc. Switched to country songwriting via “Mama Come’n Get Your Baby Boy” (Johnny Darrell, 1970), “I’m Gonna Hire a Wino” (David Frizzell, 1982, nominated for a songwriting Grammy), “Honkytonk Man” (Marty Robbins, 1982, title song of Clint Eastwood movie), “Saturday Night Special” (Twitty, 1988), “Friends in Low Places” (Garth, 1990, CMA & ACM Single of the Year, Grammy nominated, ASCAP Country Song of the Year), “Cowboy in a Three-Piece Business Suit” (Rex Allen Jr., 1982), “Turn the Pencil Over” (Porter, 1982), “Tulsa Ballroom” (Dottie, 1983), “A Million Light Beers Ago” (Frizzell, 1983), “Make My Day” (T.G. & Eastwood, 1984), “Still Pickin’ Up After You” (Kendalls, 1987), “When Karen Comes Around” (Mason Dixon, 1988), “Nobody Gets Off in This Town” (Garth, 1989), “Yard Sale” (Sammy Kershaw, 1992). Songs also recorded by Chestnut, Bandy, Oaks, Stampley, Merle, Shelly West, Reba, Confederate Railroad, Daryle Singletary, Michael Peterson, Floyd Cramer, others. Recorded as solo artist 1974 & thereafter. Own restaurant Senor Azul (Mr. Blue) in Ajijic, Mexico.
COTTON IVY, 91, died May 25.
Country humorist with four LPs. Guest star on Hee Haw, Nashville Now, Opry. Also former state legislator, Tennessee State Commissioner of Agriculture, insurance salesman, convention speaker, lay minister. (full name: Lamarse H. “Cotton” Ivy).
BUSTER PHILLIPS, 74, died May 26.
Prolific Nashville session drummer on hundreds of sessions – Milsap, Mandrell, Rabbitt, Tanya, Sylvia, Phil Driscoll, Mylon LeFevre, Con Hunley, David Allen Coe, Levon Helm, Leon Russell, Steve Young, Irma Thomas, James Galway, Michael Clark, Stella Parton, etc. (full name: Charles Furman Phillips Jr.)
B.J. THOMAS, 78, died May 29.
Gifted vocalist in pop, gospel, country & soundtracks. Five Grammy Awards. Iconic hits include “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head,” “Hooked on a Feeling,” “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song.” Began career in Texas with band The Triumphs and 1966 swamp-pop hit with Hank Williams classic “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.” Single introduced distinctive vocal style with note slides, ornamented phrasing & jazzy tones. Pop action continued 1966 with Mark Charron songs “Mama,” “Billy and Sue,” “Bring Back the Time.” Rebounded 1968-69 via Mark James’s “Eyes of a New York Woman,” “Hooked on a Feeling,” “It’s Only Love.” Massive 1969 hit with Bacharach & David’s “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” theme song of movie Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (Oscar: Best Song) now in Grammy Hall of Fame. Followed by “Everybody’s Out of Town” (1970), “I Just Can’t Help Believing” (1970), “No Love at All” (1971), “Rock and Roll Lullaby” (1972). Resurgence again via pop smash & first country hit “Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song,” Grammy winner for Best Country Song. Pop success continued via “Don’t Worry Baby” (1977) & “Everybody Loves a Rain Song” (1978), but more prominent in country with hits “Some Love Songs Never Die” (1981), “I Recall a Gypsy Woman” (1981), “Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love” (No. 1, 1983), “New Looks From an Old Lover” (No. 1, 1983), “Two Car Garage” (1984), “The Whole World’s in Love When You’re Lonely” (1984), “Rock and Roll Shoes” (with Ray Charles, 1984), “The Girl Most Likely To” (1985). Substance abuse followed by Christian conversion & gospel success with Grammy winners “Home Where I Belong” (1977), “Happy Man” (1978), “You Gave Me Love” (1979), “The Lord’s Prayer” (1980), “Amazing Grace” (1981). Also gospel Grammy nominations for “Peace in the Valley” (1983), “Miracle” (1982), “Everything Always Works Out for the Best” (1980). Opry cast inductee 1981. Sang “As Long as We’ve Got Each Other” theme song for ABC-TV hit Growing Pains 1985-92). Autobiography: Home Where I Belong (1978). (full name: Billy Joe Thomas)
GEORGE BEASLEY, 89, died June 2.
Country Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame member. His Beasley Media Group owns 62 radio stations. Broadcasters Foundation of America Lifetime Achievement Awardee.
JERRY SMITH, 87, died June 6.
Nashville keyboardist who recorded instrumentals billed as “Jerry Smith & His Pianos,” “Papa Joe’s Music Box,” “Cornbread & Jerry” and “The Magic Organ.” Made country charts with “Truck Stop” (1969), “Sweet & Sassy” (1969), “Papa Joe’s Thing” (1970), Grammy nominated “Drivin’ Home” (1970) and “Steppin’ Out” (1970) for ABC, Decca. Appeared on American Bandstand, Lawrence Welk. Session keyboardist for Jerry Reed, Merle Haggard, etc. Co-wrote and played piano on 1963 pop hit “Down at Papa Joe’s” by The Dixiebelles. Song’s collaborator Bill Justis (1926-1982) was “Cornbread” recording partner on Liberty (“Lil Ole Me,” “Loco Moto”).
TOMMY GARRETT, 77, died June 7.
Former PD/MD at WRNS-FM Greenville, NC. Also a songwriter. (real name: Tommy Harmon).
RONNIE HOBBS, 67, died June 15.
Entrepreneur who developed the Music Valley entertainment district, including The Nashville Palace, alongside partner and brother of John Hobbs. (full name: James Ronald Hobbs).
LARRY SHERIDAN, 69, died June 19.
Music Row publisher, real estate developer and contractor. Owned The Parlor recording studio used by Vince, Chesney, John Michael Montgomery, Amy Grant, etc.
JIM BESSMAN, 68, died June 22.
Veteran music journalist noted for 25+ years freelancing for Billboard. Also wrote for MusicRow, Variety, Cashbox, Spin, Country Rhythms, more. Vast contacts, stretching from Grand Ole Opry to Rock n Roll Hall of Fame, omnipresent at CMA Music Fest, Oral historian for Songwriters Hall of Fame inductions. Books: The Ramones – An American Band and John Mellencamp – The Concert at Walter Reed. More than 80 album liner-note essays. Blogs: centerlinenews.com, jimbessman.com.
BEN EWING, 67, died June 27.
GM of Plowboy Records with CDs by Bobby Bare, Kentucky HeadHunters, Chuck Mead, Paul Burch, Buzz Cason, Ghost Wolves, JD Wilkes & Dirt Daubers, Richard Lloyd, Cheetah Chrome, etc. Began career at Capricorn Records, then affiliations with broadcasting company South Eastern Communications, Artist Envoy Agency, Progression Music Group, Red Dirt Music, Ewing Management.
“MAMA FRANCES” LUNSFORD, 92, died July 5.
Matriarch of Lunsford Family. Muse of artists & songwriters. Co-creator & star of mockumentary film Mama Frances the Family Pope. Widow of prominent fiddler/songwriter Jim Lunsford (1927-1978). Mother of Tomi, Nancy, Teresa who formed Lunsford Family with Jim. Daughter Tomi became solo artist, bandleader, session performer. (full name: Frances Stroup Lunsford).
BYRON BERLINE, 77, died July 10.
Renowned bluegrass fiddler. Two-time national grand champion, 1965 & 1970. Joined Dillards 1964. At Newport Folk Festival 1965. Subsequently joined Bill Monroe (1966-67), Dillard & Clark (1969-70), Dillard Expedition (1970-71). Co-founded Country Gazette toured & recorded 1971-75. Then Sundance (1975-85), Berline, Crary & Hickman (1978-90), L.A. Fiddle Band (1978-93), California (1990-96), Byron Berline Band (1995-2021). Session player for Byrds, Eagles, Rolling Stones, Dylan, John Denver, Elton, Vince, Emmylou, Jethro Burns, John Hartford, Dirt Band, Don Reno, Earl Scruggs, etc. Also on movie & TV soundtracks. Owned Double Stop Music Shop in Guthrie, OK. In Oklahoma Musicians Hall of Fame. IBMA Distinguished Achievement award 2012.
E.D. THOMPSON, 96, died July 10.
Organist who performed on WLAC’s Ranch House Melodies show in 1940s. Performed in various dance bands, then formed Buddy Thompson & The Nashville Knights. Later band director at Hillsboro High, Belmont University. Taught at MTSU, Aquinas College. (full name: Ellis Dillard Thompson Jr.)
DILLON GASCA, 28, died July 10.
Drummer in house band at Jason Aldean’s honky-tonk on Lower Broadway.
WILBUR “ANTHONY” JOYNER, 54, died July 13.
Known as “Smooth Groove,” bass player & backing vocalist on tour with Faith Hill, Shania Twain, Tim McGraw, Lee Greenwood, Cody Purvis, etc. Featured in Bass Player magazine & instructional videos. Also instrumental teacher, music director, road manager, bass-guitar clinician with advanced degrees from Austin Peay, Belmont. Most recently in Tony Sarno Band. Son of gospel drummer Marie Brown, brother of jazz singer Cleve Douglass.
MARTIN KAHAN, 74, died July 18.
Prominent & prolific country video director 1983-2001. Began career with rock clips for Rush, Scandal, Ian Hunter, Clarence Clemons, Bon Jovi, Loverboy, Michael Bolton, Motley Crue, Kiss, Scorpions, Eddie Money, etc. Transitioned to country in early 1980s, creating 1985-88 career-establishing Sawyer Brown videos “Betty’s Bein’ Bad,” “Heart Don’t Fall Now,” “Out Goin’ Cattin,’” “Shakin.’” Acclaim for 1984 Ricky Skaggs videos “Honey (Open That Door)” (with cameo by NY Mayor Ed Koch) and “Country Boy” (Bill Monroe in key role). Won awards for “Chattahoochie” by Alan Jackson (CMA, 1993) and “Sold (The Grundy County Auction Incident)” by John Michael Montgomery (CMT, 1995). Particularly noted for multiple Confederate Railroad videos “Trashy Women,” “Daddy Never Was the Cadillac Kind.” “When You Leave That Way You Can Never Go Back.” Many clips for Neal McCoy – “Wink,” “No Doubt About It,” “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,” others. Also multiple videos for Chesney, including “She’s Got it All” (1997), “That’s Why I’m Here” (1997), “I Lost It” (2000). Other videos ‘Then What” Clay Walker (1998), “Hog Wild” Hank Jr. (1995), “High Powered Love” Emmylou (1993), “Countrified” John Anderson (1986). More than 30 country clients, including David Ball, Billy Dean, T.G. Sheppard, Emilio, Ty England, Gibson Miller Band, John & Audrey Wiggins, Kieran Kane, Dude Mowery, Andy Childs, Buffalo Club, Rick Trevino.
DUSTY HILL, 72, died July 27.
Bassist of legendary rock group ZZ Top. With ZZ Top Hill racked up dozens of hits through the decades and packed arenas with their hard-driving mix of Southern rock and blues. In the 80’s they hit pay dirt when they released a series of albums that added funky synthesizer sounds to their hard-driving guitars, yielding massive hits like “Legs,” the quintessential “Sharp-Dressed Man,” and “Gimme All Your Lovin,’” which sold 10 million copies and remained on the Billboard charts for 183 weeks. Hill and the band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2004. He played with ZZ Top for over 50 years until his death.(Full name: Joseph Michael “Dusty” Hill)
TOM LeGARDE, 90, died July 31.
Lead singer/guitarist in The LeGarde Twins with identical brother Ted LeGarde (1931-2018). After achieving disc stardom in Oz, relocated to L.A. with own KTLA TV series. In Nashville since 1958 as pioneers of Oz country sounds in Music City. Recorded for Dot (“Freight Train Yodel”), Liberty (“Baby Sister”), Bel Canto (“Rock and Roll That Hula Hoop”), debuted on Opry with own tune, “Cooee Call.” Signed management contract with Col. Tom Parker. Became casino stars in Vegas, appeared on Star Trek portraying androids (1967). Debuted on charts with Cole Porter standard “True Love” (1978). Also charted with “I Can Almost Touch the Feelin’” (1979), “Daddy’s Makin’ Records in Nashville” (1980), “Crocodile Man” (1988). Popular on TNN’s Nashville Now & other TV shows. Favorites in Great Britain at Wembley Festival. Aussie Country Hall of Fame induction at Tamworth in Oz 1987. During 1990s, operated LeGarde Twins Country Music Theatre at Twitty City. Relocated to Best Western/Quality Inn Hall of Fame motor inn adjoining Music Row. Noted as top showmen via rope stunts, whip cracking, rifle marksmanship, card tricks, yodeling. Worked with Marty Robbins, Buck Owens, Johnny Cash, Chet Atkins, Roy Rogers, Lassie, Groucho Marx, Dale Robertson, Barbara Mandrell, Nat King Cole, Hopalong Cassidy, Randy Travis, etc. Blazed trail for Keith Urban, Jedd Hughes, Jamie O’Neal, Olivia Newton-John, Kasey Chambers, Catherine Britt, James Blundel, Diana Trask, Sherrie Austin, Morgan Evans & other Australians in U.S. country.
CLARENCE DOBBINS, 64, died July 31.
Nashville classic R&B/blues singer, songwriter and producer. Solo CDs Soul of the Man (2005), The Uprising (2008). Formerly lead singer of The Kadillacs (1977). Founder/leader of The Clarence Dobbins Revue (1979).
ROBERT HUTCHINSON, 72, died Aug. 2.
Bluegrass singer & banjo player. Member of Hutchinson Brothers duo with sibling John for two albums on Vetco in Cincinnati (1975, 1977). Then with son Robert Jr. as The Hutchinsons on Vetco 1993.
JIM FEMINO, 69, died Aug. 3.
Songwriter, producer, singer, publisher, label owner. Songs recorded by Faith, Toby, Milsap, John Michael Montgomery, Craig Morgan, Jamie O’Neal, Steve Azar, others. Biggest hit via James Otto “Just Got Started Lovin’ You” (2008). Began career as pop artist/performer for 25 years.
RAZZY BAILEY, 82, died Aug. 4.
Singer-songwriter who placed more than 30 singles on the country charts in 1976-89, including five No. 1 smashes, including “Midnight Hauler,” “Lovin’ Up a Storm” and “She Left Love All Over Me.” In 1976, Dickey Lee scored a major country hit with Bailey’s song “9,999,999 Tears.” The following year, Lee also hit the charts with Bailey’s “Peanut Butter.” Bailey earned top-newcomer awards from Cash Box and Record World, as well as an ACM nomination. He was named Billboard’s No. 1 country chart artist of 1981. Bailey was noted for mentoring new songwriters and aspiring country performers. This kept him active as a record producer well into the 2000s. (Full name: Erastus Michael Bailey)
NANCY DUNNE, 90, died Aug. 5.
Longtime office manager of Danny Davis & The Nashville Brass. Managed country and gospel singers. (real name: Nancy Fenstermaker).
CHARLES WYATT, 78, died Aug. 6.
Principal flutist with Nashville Symphony for 25 years. Author of three books of poetry, several collections of short fiction. Taught creative writing at universities.
SPENCER NITCHIE, 57, died Aug. 6.
Publisher of valued bluegrass magazine Banjo Newsletter.
NANCI GRIFFITH, 68, died Aug. 13.
Folk/Americana singer-songwriter described as “folkabilly.” Wrote country hits “Love at the Five & Dime” (Kathy Mattea, 1986) & “Outbound Plane” (Suzy Bogguss, 1992). Grammy for LP Other Voices, Other Rooms (1993). Songs recorded by Willie, Emmylou, Bruce Springsteen, Kasey Chambers, Chieftains, Tom Russell, Dwight, Ronnie Hawkins, Lynn Morris, Juice Newton, Maura O’Connell, Chad Mitchell, Jonathan Edwards, etc. Published & first popularized Julie Gold song “From a Distance” as international peace anthem (later a pop smash for Bette Midler). More than 20 solo albums. Americana Music Association’s Lifetime Achievement Trailblazer Award 2009. Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame 2021.
CRAIG KARP, 76, died Aug. 15.
Nashville songwriter who co-wrote “If It Don’t Come Easy” (No. 1 for Tanya Tucker, 1988), “There’s No Stopping Your Heart” (Np. 1 Marie Osmond, 1985), “Honey I Dare You” (No. 5 Southern Pacific, 1989), “Second Hand Heart” (No. 7 Gary Morris, 1984), “All Is Lost” (No. 19 A/C for Southern Pacific, 1989). Songs also recorded by T.G. Sheppard, Lynn Anderson, Dave Gibson, Burrito Deluxe, Eddy Raven, Jimmy Fortune, Matt King, Rob Crosby, James House, Wayland Patton. Indie Artists Carla Monday & Rustie Blue charted with Karp songs. More than two dozen other indie-artist cuts, 1980-2020, several European artists.
RON CORNELIUS, 76, died Aug. 18.
Session guitarist, bandleader, producer, publisher. Noted as bandleader for Leonard Cohen through four LPs, six world tours, documentary. Session guitarist on seven Dylan albums, plus records by Cash, Flatt & Scruggs, Marty Robbins, Loudon Wainwright III, Hoyt Axton, more. In Nashville since 1980. Professional manager for Pete Drake Music & A.T.V. Had own Cornelius Companies since 1986 administering catalogs of Charlie Daniels, Lowery Music, etc. Began career as teen guitarist in California backing Chubby Checker, Martha & Vandellas, Miracles, Sonny & Cher, Jackie Wilson, Jan & Dean, Mary Wells, Glen Campbell, Bobby Rydell. Own bands The Untouchables on Dot (1961), West on Epic (1967). Solo albums on A&M, Polydor. In Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit “Dylan, Cash & The Nashville Cats” (2015-18). Later a country producer for Colt Prather, Summer Schappell, Cooper Berry, Miko Marks, etc. Book: The Guitar Behind Dylan and Cohen.
TOM T. HALL, 85, died Aug. 20.
Country Music Hall of Fame, Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame. Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Grand Ole Opry member. Created indelible “Harper Valley P.T.A.” (Jeannie C. Riley), “Little Bitty” (Alan Jackson), “How I Got to Memphis” (Bobby Bare). Recording artist with 50+ singles on country charts 1967-87, including 21 top-10 hits. Joined Kentucky bluegrass band at age 15. DJ in Kentucky & Virginia signed to Newkeys Music 1963 when Jimmy C. Newman had “D.J. For a Day” as top-10 country hit. Moved to Nashville Jan. 1, 1964. Dave Dudley hits “Mad” (1964), “What We’re Fighting For” (1965) and eight other Hall songs, including No. 1 “The Pool Shark” (1970). Newman top-10 hits “Artificial Rose” (1965), “Back Pocket Money” (1966). Johnny Wright No.1 with “Hello Vietnam” (1970). Own hits launched with “I Washed My Face in the Morning Dew” (1967). Riley’s 1968 “Harper Valley P.T.A.” topped pop & country charts, sold six million, won Grammy & CMA awards, inspired movie & TV series. Own hits resumed with top-10s “Ballad of Forty Dollars,” “Homecoming” (1969), No. 1 “A Week in a Country Jail” (1970). Bare hit with “(Margie’s At) The Lincoln Park Inn,” “The Town That Broke My Heart,” “How I Got to Memphis” 1968-70. Last-named covered by many – Buddy Miller, Rosanne Cash, Solomon Burke, Eric Church, Ronnie Dunn, Avett Brothers, Kelly Willis, Lee Hazelwood, Deryl Dodd, etc. Hall hit No. 1 with 1971’s “The Year That Clayton Delaney Died” (1971), “(Old Dogs, Children and) Watermelon Wine” (1973), “I Love” (1973) & top-10 hits continued with “Ravishing Ruby,” “County Is,” “I Like Beer,” “Faster Horses,” “Fox on the Run,” “Your Man Loves You Honey.” Voted into Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame 1978, then more hits with “I Wish I Loved Somebody Else” (1978), “What Have You Got to Lose” (1978), “The Old Side of Town” (1980). TV host of nationally syndicated Pop Goes the Country (1980-83), commercial spokesman for Tyson Chicken, Chevy Trucks. Discovered Johnny Rodriguez. Promoted Billy Joe Shaver via 1983’s “Old Five and Dimers Like Me,” “Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me.” Teamed with Earl Scruggs on 1982 LP including future Alabama No. 1 hit “Song of the South.” Sang with Johnny Cash on “The Last of the Drifters” (1988). Album in 1996 included “Little Bitty,” later a No. 1 for Jackson. Storyteller, Poet, Philosopher issued as boxed-set tribute 1995. Published six books, including novel The Laughing Man of Woodmont Cove, short-story collection The Acts of Life and autobiographical The Storyteller’s Nashville. Inducted into Country Hall of Fame 2008. BMI Icon award 2011. Married to lyricist & former Music City News journalist Dixie Dean (Iris Violet May Lawrence) (1934-2015). In 1990s-2000s collaborators on more than 500 bluegrass recordings of their songs. Both inducted into Bluegrass Hall of Fame 2018. Classic songs credited with helping to transform country music.
NORMA MORRIS, 82 died Aug. 20.
Music Row publicist whose clients included Exile, Time Jumpers, Vince Gill, Pete Huttlinger, Nefesh Mountain, Steve Wariner, Ralph Stanley, Waylon Jennings, Paul Overstreet, Merle Haggard, Jim & Jesse, Teea Goans, Maxine Brown, Jesse Winchester, sometimes in collaboration with Alison Auerbach. Co-owned Morris Public Relations. Also a photographer whose works appeared in People, TV Guide, Billboard, Bluegrass Unlimited, Amusement Business, etc. Co-authored Free & Low-Coast Publicity for Your Musical Act. Subject of 2021 book by husband Ed Morris: Stardust: An Alzheimer’s Love Story. Formerly a college textbook author and stage performer in musicals. Wife of journalist Ed Morris, mother of music publisher Jason Morris & publicist Erin Morris Hutlinger. (full name: Norma Ann Chapman Morris)
PHIL VALENTINE, 61, died Aug. 21.
Conservative radio talk-show host in Nashville on 99.7 WWTN. nationally syndicated for 12 years. Formerly a rock musician, songwriter, music DJ and morning-show host on WLAC-FM. COVID pandemic victim.
BILL EMERSON, 81, died Aug. 21.
Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame member. Singer & banjo player noted as co-founder of The Country Gentlemen. Stints with Jimmy Martin, Red Allen, Mac Wiseman, Stonemans, Bill Clifton. Appeared on Opry, Wheeling Jamboree, Louisiana Hayride, Golden Nugget saloon in Vegas. Five albums with Country Gentlemen. Three duo albums in 1960s with Cliff Waldron billed as Emerson & Waldron. They pioneered reinterpreting pop tunes as bluegrass – “Fox on the Run,” “If I Were a Carpenter,” “Proud Mary,” etc. In U.S. Navy 20 years & led navy band Country Current. Two solo albums. Formed his own band Sweet Dixie 2007, recording CDs for Rebel, Rural Rhythm. His banjo work heard on more than 400 songs in lifetime. Virginia Country Music Hall of Fame 1984. Bluegrass Hall of Fame 2019. (full name: William Hundley Emerson Jr.)
LISA LEE, 52, died Aug. 21.
Senior VP of Creative/Content for ACM. Producer of annual ACM Honors awards show at Ryman. Oversaw ACM Tempo magazine, ACM & Lifting Lives websites, CBS-TV awards specials & awards program books. Author of This Is Country: A Backstage Pass to the Academy of Country Music Awards (2014). Formerly reporter/producer at TNN Country News plus other Jim Owens & Associates shows (1995-99). Correspondent/producer at CMT/cmt.com/CMT Insider (2000-07). Began career in news at Cabot Star Herald newspaper in Arkansas, then KTAL-TV, the CBS affiliate for Shreveport/Texarkana. Leadership Music class 2014.
DON EVERLY, 84, died Aug. 21.
Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. Country Music Hall of Fame. Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Lead singer & songwriter of Everly Brothers, one of the most influential acts in pop-music history. Sold more than 40 million records. Toured globally for six decades. Wrote “Cathy’s Clown,” “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad),” “(‘Til) I Kissed You,” more. Debut as radio performer 1945 as “Little Donnie” on KMA Shenandoah, Iowa. Don & high-tenor sibling Phil Everly (1939-2014) became The Everly Brothers 1949, relocated to WROL Knoxville 1953. Don scored as writer of Kitty Wells hit “Thou Shalt Not Steal” 1954. Anita Carter recorded Don’s “Here We Are Again.” Duo signed with Columbia Records 1955 “The Sun Keeps Shining”/ “Keep A Lovin’ Me,” both Everly originals. Justin Tubb recorded “The Life I Have to Live” 1957. Signed by Acuff-Rose Publishing & Cadence Records. Debuted with Boudleaux & Felice Bryant’s “Bye Bye Love,” to which Don applied rollicking Bo Diddley beat 1957. Rocketed to top of pop, R&B, country charts. Flip side, Everly original “I Wonder If I Care As Much” also charted, later covered by Dickey Lee, Johnny Winter, Robin & Linda Williams, Tracy Nelson, Andy Kim, Ricky Skaggs (1987 country hit). Even bigger follow-up single “Wake Up Little Susie” (Bryants) with Don original on flip “Maybe Tomorrow” (later covered by Don Gibson, The Browns, Englebert Humperdinck, Richard Leigh, Del Shannon, etc.). Bryant-penned Everly Brothers hits 1957-59 “All I Have to Do Is Dream,” “Bird Dog,” “Devoted to You,” “Problems,” “Take a Message to Mary,” “Poor Jenny.” Everly-penned “Should We Tell Him” 1958 revived by Flying Burrito Brothers 1990. Don’s “(‘Til) I Kissed You” top-10 Everly hit 1959, now a Million-Air BMI song via covers by Tom Wopat, Kenny Rogers, Connie Smith (top-10 1976), The Angels, Johnny Rodriguez, Gary Lewis & Playboys, Sue Thompson, Sandy Posey, Anne Murray. Acclaimed 1958 LP Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. Following eight million-selling singles 1957-59, duo first artists offered a million-dollar contract, Warner Bros. 1960. “Cathy’s Clown” sold three million, covered by Pat Boone, Shadows, Williams Brothers, Springer Brothers, Neil Sedaka, Dee Dee Ramone, Reba McEntire (giant country hit led to BMI Country Song of the Year 1990). “So Sad (To Watch Good Love Go Bad)” follow-up single later hit for Hank Williams Jr. & Lois Johnson (1970), Connie Smith (1976), Emmylou Harris (1983), also recorded by Tammy Wynette, Del Reeves, Frank Ifield, Dillard & Clark, Mott the Hoople, Steve Wariner, Albert Lee, Louise Mandrell, Sweethearts of Rodeo, Bryan Hyland, John Prine, more. Don’s “Since You Broke My Heart” (1960) revived by Searchers, Chocolate Watchband, Terry Jacks, Dino, Desi & Billy. Big British Everly successes 1961-64 “Walk Right Back,” “Ebony Eyes,” “Temptation,” “Stick with Me Baby,” “Don’t Blame Me,” “Crying in the Rain,” “How Can I Meet Her,” “No One Can Make My Sunshine Smile,” “The Ferris Wheel.” Don & Phil co-wrote 1964’s “Gone, Gone, Gone,” later covered by Ventures, Surfaris, Crow, Fairport Convention, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss (on Raising Sand Grammy Album of Year 2007). Everlys also co-wrote “The Price of Love” (No. 1 British hit 1965), later recorded by The Move, Bryan Ferry, Status Quo, Poco, Nighthawks, Roxy Music, Cactus Brothers, Kinleys, BR5-49, Buddy Miller. Roots LP 1968 regarded as a seminal country-rock record. TV variety series on ABC, Johnny Cash Presents The Everly Brothers 1970. RCA albums Stories We Could Tell (1972) and Pass the Chicken and Listen (1973). Brothers broke up 1973. Don solo albums Don Everly (1971), Sunset Towers (1974), Brother Jukebox (1977) & charted country singles “Yesterday Just Passed My Way Again,” “Since You Broke My Heart,” “Brother Jukebox” 1976-77. Everlys re-teamed 1983. Reunion concert in London’s Royal Albert Hall aired worldwide on HBO. Paul McCartney wrote 1984 comeback single “On the Wings of aNightingale.” Don’s song “Born Yesterday” returned duo to country top-20 1986, plus hit video. Mercury albums 1984-88. His “Following the Sun” (1984) & “You Make It Seem So Easy” (1986) inspired music videos. Everly Brothers among 10 inaugural selections into Rock Hall of Fame (1986) alongside Chuck, Fats, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Buddy, James Brown, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Little Richard. Everlys’ final chart appearance “Ballad of a Teenage Queen” with Johnny Cash, Rosanne Cash (1989). Heartaches and Harmonies four-CD, boxed-set 1994. Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award 1997. Tour with Simon & Garfunkel 2003-04 farewell for both duos. Phil died 2014. Don voted into Musicians Hall of Fame 2019. Subjects of 1988 musical Bye Bye Love and books Living Legends: An Illustrated Discography (1985), Ike’s Boys (1988), The Everly Brothers: Ladies Love Outlaws (1991), The Everly Brothers: Walk Right Back (1998).
WAYNE “COWBOY” SPEARS, 70, died Aug. 22.
Longtime foreman at the tourist attraction Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Hurricane Mills, TN. Flood disaster victim.
SHIRLEY LEE LORD, 82, died Aug. 22.
Country songwriter/performer. As “Shirley Wood” wrote Connie Smith top-20 hit “Cry, Cry, Cry” (1968), Jean Shepard’s “Coming Or Going” (1967), James O’Gwynn’s “It’s Not the Best Way to Love” (1967). As “Shirley Adams” recording artist on Shue Records with “In Case I Ever Cross Your Mind” (1971), “Sunday Morning We’ll Be Singing” (1972), “Plastic Saddle” (with John L. Sullivan, 1972), etc. Also billed as “Shirley Spears.”
RIP PATTON, 81. died Aug. 24.
Music City jazz/blues drummer & vocalist who recorded with Keb Mo, Bonnie Raitt, performed with Lou Rawls, Roy Ayers. Noted as Freedom Rider during Civil Rights era. Expelled from TSU due to protesting at lunch counters for equality in Nashville. Compelling, entertaining stage storyteller. (full name: Ernest “Rip” Patton Jr.)
KIM TRIBBLE, 69, died Aug. 25.
Hit country songwriter. Catalog best-of includes “I’m On Your Side” Patty Loveless (1990), “Addicted to a Dollar” Doug Stone (1994), “Guys Do It All the Time” Mindy McCready (1996), “Out With a Bang” David Lee Murphy (1996), “I Can Still Feel You” Collin Raye (1998), “It’s My Time” Martina McBride (2001), “On a Mission” Trick Pony (2003), “Loco” David Lee Murphy (2004), “Beer Or Gasoline” Chris Young (2006), “A Feelin’ Like That” Gary Allan (2007), “One in Every Crowd” Montgomery Gentry (2009), “Let There Be Cowgirls” Chris Cagle (2013). Several BMI & SESAC awards. Highly prolific, with cuts by Shania, Aldean, Tippin, Dirt Band, Chesney, Journey, Ricochet, Randy Travis, Ty Herndon, Restless Heart, Randy Houser, Eric Heatherly, Craig Morgan, Brooks & Dunn, Chad Brock, James Otto, Colt Ford, George Fox, Lisa Stewart, etc.
CHARLIE DAVIS, 68, died Aug. 25.
Nashville booking agent at Paradise Artists. Clients included Steppenwolf, Joan Jett, Weird Al Yankovic, Gary Puckett & Union Gap, REO Speedwagon, Tommy James & Shondells, Bad Company, Blood Sweat & Tears. IEBA board member. Began career road managing Peter Frampton, managed Chubby Checker for 30 years.
KENNY MALONE, 83, died Aug. 26.
Legendary Music City percussionist. Creativity on assorted rhythm instruments, as well as traditional drum kit. Noted for hand drumming. Hit-making sessions with Dolly, Waylon, Milsap, Prine, Amy Grant. One of the most recorded drummers in Nashville history – Haggard, Whites, Crystal, Bare, Mandrell, Cash, Pride, Paycheck, Dottie, Emmylou, Skaggs, Wanda, Ray Charles, Carl Perkins, George Jones, Janie Fricke, Don Williams, Dobie Gray, Donna Fargo, David Allen Coe, Moe Bandy, Floyd Cramer, Kenny Rogers, Dr. Hook, Lynn Anderson, Michael Johnson, New Grass Revival, Bela Fleck, B.J. Thomas, John Anderson, Lacy J. Dalton, Barefoot jerry, John Hartford, many more. Noted for ebullient disposition. COVID pandemic victim.
RANDY “BAJA” FLETCHER, 73, died Aug. 27.
Inaugural winner CMA Touring Lifetime Achievement Award 2017. Production Manager of the Year award 2019. Known for creative staging, lighting, sound, shipping. Credited with innovations ranging from concert load-in to wiring boards and speakers. Tour production manager for ZZ Top, Waylon Jennings, Randy Travis, Brooks & Dunn, Keith Urban. Began career with Bill Deal & The Rondels. Fell from stage during Urban tour stop in Ohio.
TIM AKERS, 59, died Aug. 30.
Keyboard player, session & touring musician, songwriter, arranger, producer. Formerly musical director of TNN’s Prime Time Country 1997-99. Conductor/arranger/bandleader for Stevie Wonder, Patti LaBelle, Donna Summer, John Legend, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Christopher Cross, Earth Wind & Fire, more. Touring keyboardist with Rascal Flatts, LeAnn Rimes, Faith Hill, Amy Grant, Vince Gill. Recording sessions for Keith Urban, Megadeth, Michael Bolton, SHeDAISY, Jewel, Trace Adkins, Glen Campbell, Barry Manilow, Pam Tillis, Joss Stone, Wynonna, Kid Rock, Josh Gracin, as well as Hill, Rimes, Loggins, McDonald, LaBelle, Rascal Flatts, Many others. On movie soundtracks for Chicken Little, Evan Almighty, Herbie Fully Loaded, The Prince of Egypt, We Were Soldiers, Kissing Jessica Stein, Anastasia, Cheyenne. Also TV music for Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, Late Night With Conan O’Brien, Lois and Clark. Leader of 17-piece R&B band Tim Akers & The Smoking Section. With Ben Nye founded AHP Records soul band Hubcap Moses.
LINDA GAYLE DENNY, 77, died Sept. 2.
Owner of booking agency Country Music Spectacular. Daughter of Opry manager & Cedarwood Music’s Country Music Hall of Famer Jim Denny (1911-1963), sister of former music publishers John Denny (1940-2020) & Bill Denny, aunt of real estate & publishing exec Kurt Denny. Business partner of singer-songwriter Margie Singleton.
JOYCE MILSAP, 81, died Sept. 6.
The “eyes” of superstar Ronnie Milsap, her husband. She was his unofficial manager, A&R consultant and career advisor and his unquestionable champion and muse.
STAN MORESS, 83, died Sept. 6.
Renowned manager of Eddie Rabbitt, Tammy Wynette, Roger Miller, K.T. Oslin, Lorrie Morgan, Don Williams, Clint Black, Mindy McCreedy, Ronnie Milsap, Donna Summer, at various times. Led Gloria Estefan & Miami Sound Machine from Florida nightclubs to international acclaim. Later a partner in The Consortium, offering management/direction/consulting to Sherrie Austin, Joe Diffie, Tammy Cochrane, Mandy Barnett, Catherine Britt, more. Helped launch Broken Bow Records. Also involved in publicity, A&R work. Mentor to many, including Clarence Spalding, Al Schltz. Former CMA board member.
DON MADDOX, 98, died Sept. 12.
Last surviving member of pioneering honky-tonk & rockabilly band The Maddox Brothers & Rose. Group popularized flashy rhinestoned “Nudie” suits as country-star attire, recorded hillbilly versions of R&B hits, created wildly entertaining, manic stage show. Hugely popular, particularly on West Coast 1937-56. Recorded for 4-Star, Columibia. Biggest hit Woody Guthrie’s “Philadelphia Lawyer” 1949. Known as “Don Juan,” the group’s fiddler & comic. Performing siblings were Cliff (1912-1949), Cal (1915-1968), Fred (1919-1992), Don (1922-2021), Rose (1925-1998) & Henry (1928-1974), who replaced deceased Cliff. After breakup, Rose went solo with a dozen top-20 country hits. Don reemerged as solo act 1990s. Opened for Big & Rich 2005, performed at festivals 2010-12, appeared on Marty Stuart’s TV show & record album, earned standing ovation at Opry, featured in “Bakersfield” exhibit at Country Music Hall of Fame 2012-14, headlined at Vegas Rockabilly festival 2014, showcased in Ken Burns PBS Country Music documentary 2019, recorded three solo albums.
BARRY BAIRD, 62, died Sept. 12.
Former Sales Manager at gospel’s Benson Company who became VP at Thomas Nelson/Harper Collins Christian Publishing.
GEORGE WEIN, 95, died Sept. 13.
Founder of Newport Folk Festival, which brought country stars to collegiate audiences. Johnny Cash, Flatt & Scruggs, Highwomen with Dolly Parton, Stanley Brothers, Maybelle Carter, Jim & Jesse, Kris Kristofferson, New Grass Revival, Emmylou Harris, Bill Monroe, Old Crow Medicine Show, Wanda Jackson, Roy Acuff, Rodney Crowell, Grandpa Jones, Alison Krauss, Merle Travis, Everly Brothers, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Doc Watson, Cousin Emmy, Carl Perkins, among those who showcased. Wein also founded Newport Jazz Festival (1954), becoming the patriarch of all multi-day outdoor music festivals. Recording Academy Trustees Award 2015 for Lifetime Achievement.
BARRY SIEBEL JR., 74, died Sept. 14.
Veteran, 26-year, Music Row employee at BMI (1978-2004) who was the “life of the party” on the fifth floor. Self-dubbed “The Original B.S.”
JOHN RIGGS, 80, died Sept. 17.
Country singer-songwriter. Noted as the right-hand man to WSM radio star Ralph Emery in 1960s, 1970s. Songs recorded by Conway & Loretta (“How High Can You Build a Fire”), George Jones (“Getting Over the Storm,” later covered by UB40), Red Jenkins, Dave Dudley, Billy Walker, Mel Street (“Forbidden Angel”), Jim Mundy, Red Simpson, Charley Pride, Barbara Fairchild, Nashville Superpickers, Liz Lyndell, etc. Memoir: A Songwriter’s Journey With Nashville Stars (2017).
BOB MOORE, 88, died Sept. 22.
Musicians Hall of Fame member. Prolifically recorded Nashville sessions bass player, a member of the fabled A-Team that put Music City on the map as a recording center. Played on more than 17,000 records, including such classics as Patsy’s “I Fall to Pieces,” Kenny Rogers “The Gambler,” Loretta’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Marty Robbins “El Paso,” Brenda’s “I’m Sorry,” Conway’s “Hello Darlin,’” Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” Elvis’ “Are You Lonesome Tonight,” Sammi Smith’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night.” Nashville native began career as pre-teen on WSIX radio. On the road at age 15, performing with Jamup & Honey, Paul Howard, Jimmy Dickens, Cowboy Copas, Flatt & Scruggs. In Red Foley house band on TV’s Ozark Jubilee. Rockabilly pioneer on sessions for Elvis, Orbison, Brenda, Wanda, Johnny Burnette, Bobby Helms, Gene Vincent. Countless country sessions – Eddy Arnold, Ernest Tubb, Kitty, Faron, Webb Lefty, Floyd Tillman, Chet, Cash, Tom T., Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins, Connie Smith, George Jones, Willie, Waylon, Don Gibson, Ray Price, Stonewall, Wilburns, Donna Fargo, John Anderson, etc., plus pop acts Bobby Darin, Connie Francis, Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, George Burns, more. Partner with Fred Foster in Monument label. Led the Bob Moore Orchestra in 1961 international instrumental hit “Mexico” on Monument. Sound prefigured Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass. Also recorded his band for Hickory. A-Team inducted into Musicians Hall of Fame 2007. Father of cult-fave singer/songwriter R. Stevie Moore and of vocalist Linda Moore in all-female country group Calamity Jane.
SUE THOMPSON, 96, died Sept. 23.
Western-swing singer turned “teen” pop star of the 1960s. While signed to the Acuff-Rose affiliated label Hickory Records in Nashville, Thomson scored big pop hits with “Sad Movies” (1961), “Norman” (1962), “James (Hold the Ladder Steady)” (1962) and “Paper Tiger” (1965). With a pert bright quality in her voice that made her sound much younger than a 36-year-old, Thompson became a “teen” pop star in 1961 with the whimpering ballad “Sad Movies.” She also appeared on Hullabaloo, Shindig, American Bandstand, Where the Action Is, Hollywood A Go-Go and other pop TV shows.
KEN SEAMAN, 79, died Sept. 23.
Banjo player with Bluegrass Patriots (1980-2011). Promoter of Midwinter Bluegrass Festival in Colorado (1986-present), Ozark Mountain Bluegrass Festival in Missouri (1990-2005).
COMMANDER CODY, 77, died Sept. 26.
Novelty band leader noted for retro country, rockabilly, western swing, boogie-woogie. Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen scored with remakes of “Hot Rod Lincoln” (1972), “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! That Cigarette” (1973), “Don’t Let Go” (1975), “Best Me Daddy Eight to the Bar” (1972). Band appeared in 1976 movie Hollywood Boulevard & TV series Police Woman and was subject of 1977 book Star Making Machinery. Also noted as award winning video/film maker & painter. (real name: George Frayne).
McDONALD CRAIG, 90, died Sept. 26.
Black country traditionalist. Specialized in Jimmie Rodgers music. In 1978, became first and only Black winner of annual talent contest staged during Jimmie Rodgers Days in Meridian, MS. Began career in fiddling father Newt Craig’s family string band, a favorite at square dances in West Tennessee in 1940s. Solo singles in 1960s. Solo CDs in 2001 (Yodeling McDonald Craig), 2002 (McDonald Craig Sings Traditional Country Music). Tennessee State Legislature commendation as “Legendary Country Music Performer” 2009.
BETTY AMOS, 87, died Sept. 30.
Country singer, banjo player, songwriter noted for tenure in The Carlisles (1951-54), performing on hits “Too Old to Cut the Mustard” (1952), “No Help Wanted” (1953), “Knothole” (1953), “Iz Zat You Myrtle” (1953). Solo artist on Mercury (1954-56) and on KWKH Louisiana Hayride (1954-57). Toured with Elvis 1955. Formed “all-girl band” The Rhythm Queens (1960-70) with sister Jean (bass) and “Judy Lee” (Alice Schreiber, lead guitar). Group recorded for Starday (“Franklin County Moonshine,” “Eighteen Wheels a-Rolling”). Wrote “Second Fiddle” hit for Jean Shepard (1964). Songs also recorded by Loretta, Tubb, Willis Brothers, Bonnie Owens, Valerie Smith. In 1970s, Betty Amos Show featured reunions with Judy Lee. Later published romance novel Wayward and Searching & performed with Hendersonville band The Nashville Kit Kats.
JIM LIGHTMAN, 57, died Oct. 3.
Grammy-nominated Nashville recording engineer. Credits include Rissi Palmer, Confederate Railroad, Hank Williams III, Jim Horn, BarlowGirl, India.Arie, Jack Ingram, etc. Also session guitarist on projects by Tim Montana, Darren Hincks, Brandon Desayer, Tim Wilson, more.
RON “SNAKE” REYNOLDS, 76, died Oct. 5.
Musicians Hall of Fame member. Renowned studio engineer worked on more than 100 million-selling albums & 60 No. 1 hits – George, Tammy, Toby, Elton, Charlie Rich, Keith Urban, Dave Loggins, Elvis Costello, Earl Thomas Conley, etc., including Shania’s 12-million-selling The Woman in Me. Also producer for Merle, Marcy Brothers, Tony Joe White, more. Songs recorded by John Anderson, Sonny James, Johnny Cash, Neal McCoy, Levon Helm, Johnny Rodgriguez, Billy Joe Royal, others. Began career as artist on Nugget Records 1965. Staff engineer for Columbia Records 1972-83. Freelance thereafter. Many Grammys. ACM Engineer of Year 2004. Lifetime Achievement Award from Audio Engineering Society & Musicians Hall of Fame induction 2016.
JUNE GLASER, 82, died Oct. 11.
Bookkeeper for WSM, WSMV-TV, National Life, & Grand Ole Opry. Office manager for Music Row’s “Hillbilly Central” studio where country’s “outlaw” aesthetic was born. Widow of Glaser Brothers leader and solo hit maker Tompall Glaser (1933-2013). (full name: Dorothy June Johnson Glaser).
BILL EWIN JR., 88, died Oct. 12.
Radio producer. Began career at NPR/PBS affiliate in Miami. Executive at USDA in D.C. Co-owner of WAKM in Franklin, TN. Also an actor with parts in TV series and commercials in Nashville.
KERRY LaFONNE HAY, 89, died Oct. 13.
Owner of Virginia’s Hay Holler Records. Bluegrass label with releases by Gibson Brothers, Lost Highway, Goins Brothers, Herschel Sizemore, Gillis Brothers, Sand Mountain Boys, Big Country Bluegrass, Wayne Henderson, etc. Also innovative TNN TV packages.
PHIL LEADBETTER, 59, died Oct. 14.
Bluegrass resophonic guitar master. Three solo albums, Filibuster (1999), IBMA instrumental-award winning Slide Effects (2005), The Next Move (2014). Plus Swing for the Fences (2020), billed as by Phil Leadbetter & The All-Stars of Bluegrass. Also backed Grandpa Jones, Vern Gosdin, J.D. Crowe, Two albums with Crowe (1994, 1999). Three albums as co-founder of Wildfire. Two albums as co-founder of Grasstowne. Three-time winner of IBMA Resophonic Guitar Player of the Year. Gibson launched Phil Leadbetter Series Dobro Guitar 2003. COVID pandemic victim.
JOE PALMACCIO, 56, died Oct. 16.
Grammy winning mastering engineer. Worked at Bonneville Broadcasting, PolyGram Records, Sterling Sound, Sony Music Studios. Grammys for historical reissues The Complete Hank Williams (1998), Martin Scorses Presents The Blues (2003), Night Train to Nashville: Music City’s Rhythm & Blues (2004), Bill Withers: The Complete Sussex & Columbia Albums (2014). Recent clients Keith Urban, Eagles, BeBe Winans, Gwen Sebastian, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Josh Kelly, David Cook. Founded The Place For Mastering in Nashville 2006. Joined Sony Music Nashville 2019 as A&R Administrator, archiving label’s masters. Audio hardware design consultant, musical instrument craftsman, public speaker, musician, adjunct instructor at Belmont. Ebullient personality widely loved. Leadership Music class 2011.
RONNIE TUTT, 83, died Oct. 16.
Drummer best known as founding member of Elvis’s TCB Band (1969-1977). Also worked with Cash, Stevie Nicks, Neil Diamond, Kenny Rogers, Orbison, Carpenters, Billy Joel, Jerry Garcia, Elvis Costello, many others.
ROMAN SETH GRIFFIN, 32, died Oct. 19.
Nashville-bred film and video producer/director. Music videos for Alyssa Bonagura, Dustin Tavella, Jessie James Decker, Raquel Castro. Many documentary films, commercials, TV pilots, features. Also an actor in movie Beneath the Blue.
JIM ZERFACE, 81, died Oct. 23.
Country songwriter with cuts by Mel McDaniel, Cimarron, Tanya Tucker, Larry Stephenson Band, Roy Clark, George Burns, Jerry Lee Lewis, Mickey Clark, Donna Fargo, Perry Como, etc. Usually collaborating with brother Bill Zerface and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Bob Morrison, he co-wrote the top-10 hits “Angels, Roses and Rain” for Dickey Lee (1976), “(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven for Reba (1980), “You’d Make an Angel Want t Cheat” for Kendalls (1980). Nashville public school administrator for 27 years.
SONNY OSBORNE, 83, died Oct. 24.
Osborne Brothers banjo great. Bluegrass Hall of Fame (1994). Grand Ole Opry cast (1964-2004), National Heritage award from NEA (1997), CMA Vocal Group of the Year (1971). Hits included “Once More” (with Red Allen, 1958), “Roll Muddy River” (1967), “Rocky Top” (1968), “Tennessee Hound Dog” (1969), “Ruby Are You Mad” (1970), “Midnight Flyer” (1973), “Blue Heartache” (1973), “I Can Hear Kentucky Calling Me” (1980). Began career age 12 on local Ohio radio & on disc with sister Louise. Joined Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys 1952 & recorded “The Little Girl & The Dreadful Snake,” “Memories of Mothers & Dad” with them. Joined forces with older brother Bobby to form Osborne Brothers 1953. Team worked for Jimmy Martin, Charlie Bailey, Red Allen & recorded for RCA, MGM. Signed by Wilburn Brothers who brought them to Decca and the Opry 1964. Sonny modernized band’s sound with electrified instruments, complex vocal arrangements, dynamic banjo style. “Rocky Top” named a Tennessee State Song 1982, became “fight song” for UTK. Osbornes played on records by Conway Twitty, Carl Smith, Charley Pride, Wade Ray, Jethro Burns, Mac Wiseman, Gary Burton. Sonny also a record producer for Pinnacle Boys, Virginia Squires, Terry Eldredge, Dale Ann Bradley. Own line of banjos, branded with his nickname “Chief.” Brothers first bluegrass act to play on college campus (1960) & invited to perform at The White House (1973). Retired from performing 2004; Bobby continued on Opry with Rocky Top X-Press band.
ROSE LEE MAPHIS, 98, died Oct. 26.
Country singer, songwriter, guitarist best known in duet Joe & Rose Lee Maphis with hotshot guitarist husband Joe (“The King of the Strings”). Billed as “Mr. & Mrs. Country Music, they cowrote and sang honky-tonk classic “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke (and Loud, Loud Music)” (1953). Duo recorded for OKeh, Columbia, Capitol, Mosrite, Chart, Starday, CMH. Her solo LP on Columbia (1960). Began career as “Rose of the Mountains” age 15 on radio in Hagerstown, MD. Joined “all girl” band Saddle Sweethearts. Formed duo with Mary Klick 1948 & joined “Old Dominion Barn Dance” on WRVA/CBS network. Married Joe Maphis (1921-1986) on West Coast 1952. Starred on “Town Hall Party” radio & TV series in L.A. Mentor/mother figure to Lorrie Collins, Barbara Mandrell. Moved to Nashville 1968. Following Joe’s death, became seamstress in Opryland costume department and greeter at Country Music Hall of Fame. “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke” revived by dozens, including Dwight, Flying Burrito Brothers (with Gram Parsons), Conway, New Riders of Purple Sage, Flatt & Scruggs, Daryle Singletary, Tom T., Prine, Larry Sparks, Frankie Miller, Mandrell, Tennessee Ernie, Benny Martin & Bobby Osborne, Vern Gosdin, Derailers, IIIrd Tyme Out, Skaggs, Porter, Jack Ingram, Marty Stuart. Mother of musician Jody Maphis.
DOUG NICHOLS, 65, died Oct. 31.
Artist manager, musician, songwriter. Co-managed Rascal Flatts 2000-2011. Also worked with Johnny Paycheck, Brooks & Dunn, Nicolette Larson.
ARCH BISHOP III, 72, died Nov. 6.
Nashville publicist for Tennessee Repertory Theater, among other clients. Later in real estate.
SUDIE CALLAWAY, 87, died Nov. 10.
Music Row session singer for five decades. Backed superstars Strait, Dolly, Porter, Mel Tillis, Marty Robbins, many others. Played bass & sang on the road with several country stars. Appeared on Opry, recorded solo singles for labels Re-Von (1964), Musicor (1968), Avenue South (1969-70). Appeared in movies Music City USA (1966), W.W. & The Dixie Dance Kings (1975), Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Harper Valley P.T.A. (1978). Formerly on Renfro Valley Barn Dance, Detroit’s WJR (with Casey Clark & The Lazy Ranch Boys), Knoxville’s WVOL (with Cas Walker). Wife of steel guitarist Jim Baker. Aunt of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer Matraca Berg.
RENEE GRANT-WILLIAMS, 78, died Nov. 12.
Famed Nashville vocal coach. Worked with Faith, Tim, Garth, Chicks, Carrie, Jason Aldean, Ronstadt, Miley Cyrus, Christina Aguilera, Huey Lewis, many more. Public-speaking trainer. Motivational speaker. Educator. Book: Voice Power: Using Your Voice to Captivate, Persuade and Command Attention (2002).
LARRY WILSON, 52, died Nov. 14.
Former Bridgestone promoter of Garth Brooks shows, Dove Awards, etc. in Nashville. Helped create “A Concert for Charlottesville” in wake of people killed at racial unity rally. Later V.P. of Operations for Jacksonville Jaguars.
JASON MOORE, 47, died Nov. 21.
Bluegrass bass player in Sideline, the group that won the IBMA Song of the Year in 2019 for its hit single “Thunder Dan.” Formerly in Mountain Heart and The James King Band.
ESTELLE CONDRA, 79, died Nov. 27.
Nashville actor/playwright/author. Founded drama school Imagination Station. Plays include autobiographical Caged, Blind People Shouldn’t Vacuum & Annie Sullivan saga Vibrations of Laughter. Award-winning children’s book Ocean. Performed at Lincoln Center, Tennessee Rep, Wolf Trap, Kennedy Center, Nashville Institute for the Arts, etc., despite being blind.
H. JACKSON BROWN JR., 81, died Nov. 30.
Songwriter, author, ad exec, BMI rep. During 30-year agency career, created hundreds of ad jingles for car dealerships, groceries, banks, restaurants, political candidates. Launched voice-over career of DJ Casey Kasem. Wrote 20+ inspirational books, including mega-hit Life’s Little Instruction Book, No. 1 for a year on NY Times Best Seller list. Also: A Father’s Book of Wisdom & P.S. I Love You. Books spawned calendars, posters, journals, greeting cards & fortune cookies.
GARY SCRUGGS, 72, died Dec. 1.
Producer, songwriter, instrumentalist. Began career in Scruggs Brothers with sibling Randy Scruggs (1953-2018) via two LPs in 1969-70. Both formed Earl Scruggs Revue 1969-82 with brother Steve Scruggs (1958-1992) and legendary dad Earl Scruggs (1924-2012). Subsequently had long tenure in Waylon Jennings band The Waylors & produced his records. BMI songwriter awards for “Call on Me” (Tanya Tucker 1989), “Long Shot” (Baillie & The Boys 1989) & “Right Hand Man” (Eddy Raven 1987 ). Songs also recorded by Dolly (“Country Road”), Garth (“Pushin’ Up Daisies”), Patty (“Long Stretch of Lonesome”), Steve Martin (“Daddy Played the Banjo”), Bogguss, Wopat, Reba, Oaks, Vince, Dirt Band, Fairfield Four, Jon Randall, Marie Osmond, Del McCoury, Tracy Byrd, John Anderson, etc. Grammy in 2001 for “Foggy Mountain Breakdown” recording with Earl. Session musician for dozens, including Dylan, Dolly, Byrds, Rosanne, Vince, Doc Watson, Joan Baez, Charlie Daniels, more. He and father Earl coauthored revised, enhanced and updated version of classic book Earl Scruggs and the 5-String Banjo. Also son of bluegrass promoter/ manager/ publicist Louise Scruggs (1927-2006).
NEIL FLANZ, 83, died Dec. 2.
Steel guitarist noted for tenure in The Fallen Angels, backing Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris, then extensive sojourn in Nashville as member of Joe Sun’s recording & touring band Shotgun. Also a regular with the top bands on Lower Broadway. Began career in native Canada with 1962-64 LPs His Nashville Steel & Get on the Star Route, plus touring with Dusty King, Jack Kingston, Gary Buck, etc. Many recording sessions.
WOODY WOODELL, 91, died Dec. 2.
Steel guitarist who toured with top country stars in 1960s. Also owned Benchcraft Electronics in Goodlettsville. (Full name: Melyear S. Woodell).
STONEWALL JACKSON, 89, died Dec. 4.
Grand Ole Opry star. In 1958-1973, placed 44 singles on country charts, including 18 top-20 hits. Made history by signing as Opry cast member 1956 without recording contract or hit record. Debut chart hit “Life to Go” 1958. Shot to top of pop & country charts with “Waterloo” 1959. Hits “Smoke Along the Track” (1959) & “Mary Don’t You Weep” (1960) led to self-penned “Why I’m Walkin’” (1960) as second major smash. “Newcomer” awards from Billboard, Cash Box, Record World. Appeared on American Bandstand, headlined at Hollywood Bowl. Top-10 with “A Wound Time Can’t Erase,” “”Leona,” “Old Showboat” 1962-63. In 1964, “B.J. the D.J.” rose to No. 1, followed by “Don’t Be Angry.” Latter revived as a big country hit by Donna Fargo 1977. “I Washed My Hands in Muddy Water” (1965), covered by many. Jackson featured in 1965 film Country Music on Broadway. Returned to county top-10 via “Help Stamp Out Loneliness” (1967). First artist to record a live album in Ryman Auditorium. (1971). Returned to country top-10 via country version of Lobo’s pop success “Me and You and a Dog Named Boo” (1971). Cameo appearance in Sweet Dreams 1985 film about Patsy Cline. Portrayed “Dad” in Confederate Railroad 1993 “Trashy Women” video. “Jesus Is My Lifeline” spent four months at No. 1 on Music City News Gospel Voice chart 1996. Jackson & Don Richmond co-wrote song & performed it as duet. Ernest Tubb Memorial Award 1997. His 50th anniversary in Opry cast (2006) commemorated via album featuring 50 guest vocalists (2007). Songs revived by Yoakam, Emmylou, Tubb. Skeeter. Carl Smith, Skaggs, George Hamilton IV, Loretta, Paycheck, Buddy Miller, others. Autobiography From the Bottom Up 1991.
MARGARET EVERLY, 102, died Dec. 6.
Mother of The Everly Brothers. Radio performer in country family act with guitarist-husband Ike Everly (1908-1975) and sons Don Everly (1937-2021) and Phil Everly (1939-2014) on stations in Iowa, Indiana, Tennessee. Booking agent and business manager of group. Brought sons to Nashville.
SCAT SPRINGS, 61, died Dec. 9.
A top studio singers in Nashville. He sang over a thousand jingles and 100 records in gospel, country, soul, bluegrass, and contemporary music. Recorded with Faith Hill, Ronnie Milsap, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Hank Williams Jr., Chaka Kahn, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman. Performed with George Jones, Kid Rock, Garth Brooks, Pattie Labelle, Aretha Franklin, Tim McGraw. (Full name Kenneth Wayne Springs.)
MICHAEL NESMITH, 78, died Dec. 10.
Country-rock pioneer and video visionary who initially gained fame as member of The Monkees in 1965-70. Multi-million-selling group won 1967 Emmy for self-titled TV comedy series. Huge pop hits with “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “Pleasant.Valley Sunday,” “Daydream Believer” etc. Wrote hits for group as well as “Different Drum” for Linda Ronstadt & Stone Ponys (1967), “Some of Shelly’s Blues” for Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1971) , “Mary, Mary” for Butterfield Blues Band (1966) and Run-DMC (2002). Began recording with country musicians in Nashville 1968. Solo hits as First National Band leader “Joanne” (1970), “Silver Moon” (1970), “Nevada Fighter” (1971), “Rio” (1976). These influenced birth of entire West Coast country-rock genre. Made promo film for “Rio,” predicting industry’s wholesale music-video production in 1980s. Created Popclips video TV show 1976, which became MTV. Made Elephant Parts music & comedy show (1981), which won the first-ever video Grammy Award. Produced cult movies Repo Man, Timerider, Tapeheads, Square Dance, plus NBC TV series Television Parts and short films for Saturday Night Live & Fridays. Grammy-nominated for a new-age record 1994. Pioneer in surround-sound recording. Pacific Arts company his record label & the video distributor for PBS (The Civil War, I Claudius, etc.) and other top films. Novelist and a scriptwriter. More than 20 solo LPs. Subject of biography: Total Control: The Monkees Michael Nesmith Story (2005).
VINCENT FERNANDEZ, 81, died Dec. 12.
Multiple Grammy winning, beloved star of ranchera music, Mexico’s cousin to country music. Elegant, embroidered, stylishly costumed vocalist with big hits “El Rey” and “Lastima Que Seas Ajena.” Many U.S. fans thanks to homeland-yearning “Volver, Volver” and “Como Mexico No Hay Dos.”
KEN KRAGEN, 85, died Dec. 14.
Superstar manager, promoter, author, speaker, TV producer, humanitarian. Managed Trisha Yearwood, Travis Tritt, Dottie West, Lionel Richie, Harry Chapin, Olvia Newton-John, Burt Reynolds, Bee Gees, Smothers Brothers and, most famously, Kenny Rogers. Organizer of mega charity events “We Are the World” (USA For Africa, 1985), Hands Across America (1986). Produced TV shows The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967-69), Rollin’ on the River (1971-73). Produced many Kenny Rogers TV movies, plus mega hit 12 Dogs of Christmas (2004). Books: Life Is a Contact Sport: Ten Great Career Strategies That Work (1994), On the Road with Harry Chapin (1970).
J.D. CROWE, 84, died Dec. 24.
Grammy Award winning Bluegrass Hall of Fame member. Led The New South, a band that fostered the careers of such future stars as Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice and Keith Whitley. J.D. Crowe was named Banjo Player of the Year by the International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) in 1971, 1994 and 2004. He won a Grammy Award in 1983 for his instrumental “Fireball.” Crowe was inducted into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame in 2003. The New South album Lefty’s Old Guitar won the IBMA’s Album of the Year award in 2007.
DREW ALEXANDER, 52, died Dec. 31.
Music publisher and son of U.S. Senator and Tennessee Governor Lamar Alexander and Leslee “Honey” Alexander. Spent time at Curb Records eventually becoming Vice President of Publishing. Alexander stepped down in 2017 after 23 years with Curb. Started his own company, Blair Branch Music. Hosted many artist retreats at his family’s home at Blackberry Farm.
PENNY JACKSON RAGSDALE, 78, died Dec. 31.
Wife of Country Music Hall of Fame member Ray Stevens. Passed following a prolonged battle with cancer.
Akers, Tim – 8/30
Albright, Richie – 2/9
Alexander, Drew – 12/31
Amos, Betty — 9/30
Bailey, Razzy – 8/4
Baird, Barry – 9/12
Beasley, George – 6/2
Beaver, Stan – 1/2
Belford, Pam – 4/29
Berline, Byron – 7/10
Bessman, Jim — 6/22
Bishop, Arch — 11/6
Black, Charlie – 4/23
Blackwell, Dewayne – 5/23
Bradley, Connie – 3/24
Brown, H. Jackson — 11/30
Bruce, Ed – 1/8
Bruce, Patsy – 5/16
Callaway, Sudie — 11/10
Carman – 2/16
Chayne, Tommy – 3/22
Cody, Commander – 9/26
Collins, James Allen – 4/8
Condra, Estelle — 11/27
Cope, Jason – 1/16
Cornelius, Ron – 8/18
Cox, Jimmy – 1/11
Craig, McDonald — 9/26
Cravens, Red – 1/11
Crowe, J.D. – 12/24
Daniel, Wayne – 2/16
Davis, Charlie – 8/25
Dee, Taylor – 3/14
Denny, Linda Gayle – 9/2
Dettwiler, Reudi – 2/2
Dobbins, Clarence – 7/31
Dunne, Nancy – 8/5
Earls, Robb – 3/11
Edwards, Tommy – 5/22
Emerson, Bill – 8/21
Ervin, Tom – 3/17
Everly, Don – 8/21
Everly, Margaret — 12/6
Ewin, Bill – 10/12
Ewing, Ben – 6/27
Farr, Tony – 1/6
Femino, Jim – 8/3
Fernandez, Vincent — 12/12
Flanz, Neil — 12/2
Fletcher, Randy “Baja” – 8/27
Flood, Beth – 2/24
Flowers, Mary – 5/16
Foster, Aaron “Frosty” – 2/10
Garrett, Tommy – 6/7
Glaser, Dennis – 1/21
Glaser, June – 10/11
Grant-Williams, Renee — 11/12
Gray, JT – 3/20
Griffin, Roman Seth — 10/19
Griffith, Nanci – 8/13
Hall, Clarence – 2/4
Hall, Jim – 5/10
Hall, Tom T. – 8/20
Hawkins, Roger – 5/20
Hay, Kerry — 10/13
Hickman, John Mitchel – 5/11
Hill, Dusty – 7/27
Hobbs, Ronnie – 6/15
Hutchinson, Robert – 8/2
Ivy, Cotton – 5/25
Jackson, Duffy – 3/3
Jackson, Nisha – 2/23
Jackson, Stonewall — 12/4
Jacobs, Robert Doyle – 3/28
Joyner, Wilbur “Anthony” – 7/13
Kahan, Martin – 7/18
Karp, Craig – 8/15
Kennedy, Gene – 4/1
Kragen, Ken — 12/14
Leadbetter, Phil – 10/14
Lee, Lisa – 8/21
LeGarde, Tom – 7/31
Lightman, Jim – 10/3
Lisenby, Jeff – 1/6
Lord, Shirley Lee – 8/22
Lunsford, Frances – 7/5
McPeake, Curtis – 2/20
Maddox, Don – 9/12
Malone, Kenny – 8/26
Maphis, Rose Lee – 10/26
Martin, Randy Lee – 5/12
Miller, Barbara – 4/2
Milsap, Joyce – 9/6
Mitchell, Bob – 1/26
Moore, Bob – 9/22
Moore, Jason — 11/21
Moress, Stan – 9/6
Morgan, Misty – 1/1
Morris, Norma – 8/20
Neal, David C. – 3/10
Nesmith, Michael — 12/10
Nichols, Doug — 10/31
Nitchie, Spencer – 8/6
O’Hara, Jamie – 1/7
Osborne, Sonny – 10/24
Ostroushko, Peter – 2/24
Owens, Bill – 4/7
Palmaccio, Joe – 10/16
Parton, Randy – 1/21
Patton, Rip – 8/24
Payne, Dennis – 4/8
Pearl, Ed – 2/7
Peva, Jim – 5/5
Phillips, Buster – 5/26
Ragsdale, Penny Jackson – 12/31
Reynolds, Ron “Snake” – 10/5
Riggs, John – 9/17
Robin, Lou – 5/18
Ross, Bishop Robert – 5/16
Ross, Marvin – 3/8
Runkle, Bill – 1/7
Scruggs, Gary — 12/1
Seaman, Ken — 9/23
Sexton, Lee – 2/10
Sheridan, Larry – 6/19
Siebel, Barry – 9/14
Smith, Andy – 3/28
Smith, Jerry – 6/6
Spears, Wayne – 8/22
Spencer, John – 1/11
Springs, Scat – 12/9
Starr, Tom – 1/12
Stevens, Tom – 1/23
Tankersley, Brian – 2/5
Thomas, B.J. – 5/29
Thompson, Sue — 9/23
Trenworth, Colleen Bain – 1/24
Tribble, Kim – 8/25
Tubb, Glenn Douglas – 5/22
Tucker, Don – 1/21
Tutt, Ronnie – 10/16
Valentine, Phil – 8/21
Weatherly, Jim – 2/3
Wein, George – 9/13
West, Tommy – 5/2
White, James – 1/24
Whitehead, Scott – 3/12
Willoughby, Larry – 1/14
Wilson, Larry — 11/14
Woodell, Woody — 12/2
Wyatt, Charles – 8/6
Young, Rusty – 4/14
Zerface, Jim – 10/23
Zimmerman, Phil – 4/16