1970s Country Hit Maker Misty Morgan Passes

Misty Morgan and Jack Blanchard in 1974. Photo: Courtesy Robert K. Oermann

Misty Morgan, 75, who once topped the country charts in a duo with Jack Blanchard, died of cancer in Florida on New Year’s Day.

Her languid, behind-the-beat alto vocal and inventive keyboard playing characterized the zany novelty “Tennessee Bird Walk.” The song hit the peak of the country charts in 1970. With husband Blanchard, she also scored a top-10 hit with its follow-up, “Humphrey the Camel.”

She was born Mary Donahue in Buffalo, New York in 1945. The family moved to southern Ohio when she was young, and she began her career playing keyboards in pop groups around Cincinnati. She then ventured further afield as a lounge singer and piano-bar entertainer. Morgan performed as “Jacqueline Hyde” and “Maryann Mail” before adopting her permanent stage name.

She met songwriter/comedian Jack Blanchard in Florida in 1963. They married in 1967. They performed pop, jazz, rock, Dixieland or anything else it took to make a living. Morgan hooked up various electronic devices to her keyboard, so the duo never needed other band members. Blanchard’s distinctive, “velvet saw” low voice and story-telling lyrics made their move into country music a natural transition.

Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan staged their debut on the country charts with “Big Black Bird (Spirit of Our Love)” in 1969. “Tennessee Bird Walk” catapulted them to fame the following year. It hit No. 1 and was nominated for a Grammy Award as Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group (they lost to Johnny Cash & June Carter).

“Humphrey the Camel” continued in the novelty vein, as did such subsequent top-40 singles as “Fire Hydrant #79” (1971) and “The Legendary Chicken Fairy” (1972). But there was more to Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan than wacky comic songs. Blanchard’s off-center songwriting could range from bizarre novelty daffiness to deeply felt social commentary. “Bethlehem Steel” was about a discouraged, homesick factory worker. “There Must Be More to Life (Than Growing Old)” and “Poor Jody” ruminated on aging. “Changin’ Times” lamented the commercialization of modern life.

The compelling “Somewhere in Virginia in the Rain” told the story of a working-class pair’s breakup and reconciliation. It rose to No. 15 in 1972, becoming the couple’s third biggest hit.

Jack Blanchard and Misty Morgan placed 15 titles on the country charts in 1969-1976. Blanchard wrote all of them, except for the team’s version of The Fortunes’ 1965 pop hit “You’ve Got Your Troubles (I’ve Got Mine).” Seven of their singles were top-40 successes. Two albums made the charts, Birds of a Feather (1970) and Two Sides of Jack & Misty (1972)

Their sound, arranged by Morgan, was completely unique for country music of that time. It had a quirky, “stoned” vibe, something like Sonny & Cher lost in a poppyfield in South Carolina. His soulful groaning rasp cut across her dreamy croon while underneath pulsed a steady shuffle beat dotted with harmonica, steel and guitar bubbles of sound.

The twosome called their creations “Jack and Misty Productions,” so Morgan can be credited as country’s trailblazing female record producer. When “Tennessee Bird Walk” became a smash, Misty Morgan became the first woman to co-produce a No. 1 hit. The single’s wah-wah guitar effect was the first time this sound was heard on a country record.

Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan were absent from the country charts following 1980, but the team continued to entertain theme-park tourists in Orlando’s nightclubs. They also continued to record. Among their subsequent collections were Sweet Memories (1987), Back in Harmony (1995), Back From the Dead (2000), A Little Out of Sync (2001), Weird Scenes Inside the Birdhouse (2007) and Just One More Song (2012).

In performance, they later formed a jazz trio—Morgan on piano backed by a hired drummer and Blanchard on bass. The gigs got smaller in recent years, but she maintained her positivity and dedication to her craft.

Misty Morgan recorded with Jack Blanchard for the Mercury/Wayside, Mega, Chalice, Epic, United Artists, Playback, Stadust and Omni labels, as well as their own Velvet Saw imprint.

During their career, they issued 15 albums and more than 40 singles. Blanchard spoke of his wife and musical partner’s passing on social media last week. Misty Morgan was taken to the hospital on Christmas Day and was diagnosed with advanced cancer. She died a week later, Jan. 1, 2021, with her husband by her side.

A GoFundMe site has been established to raise funds to pay for Misty Morgan’s funeral expenses.

Country Music Singer-Songwriter Ed Bruce Dies

Ed Bruce

Country singer-songwriter Ed Bruce died Friday (Jan. 8) in Clarksville, Tennessee, of natural causes. He was 81.

In 1957, at the age of 17, he went to see Jack Clement, a recording engineer for Sun Records. Bruce caught the attention of Sun owner Sam Phillips, for whom he wrote and recorded “Rock Boppin’ Baby” (as “Edwin Bruce”). In 1962, he wrote “Save Your Kisses” for pop star Tommy Roe and in 1963 he reached No. 109 on the Billboard “Bubbling Under” chart with his own recording of “See the Big Man Cry” (Wand 140), both published by Bill Justis at Tuneville Music. Charlie Louvin recorded “See the Big Man Cry” (Capitol 5369) in 1965; Louvin’s version reached No. 7 on the Billboard “Country Singles” chart. During his career, many songs that Bruce wrote and recorded were more successful when re-recorded by others.

In the early 1960s, Bruce recorded for RCA and some smaller labels like Wand/Scepter, singing rockabilly music, as well as more pop-oriented material such as “See the Big Man Cry.” In 1966, he returned to RCA and recorded “Puzzles,” “The Price I Pay To Stay” and “Lonesome Is Me”. He still did not achieve great charting action. He made money doing voice-overs for television and radio commercials. He scored his first charted single with “Walker’s Woods” in 1967, and also charted with his version of The Monkees’ “Last Train to Clarksville.” Both of these singles were minor hits. In 1969, Bruce signed with Monument Records, where he continued to have minor successes with “Everybody Wants To Get To Heaven” and “Song For Jenny.”

Meanwhile, he continued to write songs like “The Man That Turned My Mama On,” which was a major hit for Tanya Tucker in 1974, and “Restless” for Crystal Gayle the same year. He signed with United Artists Records in 1973 and released several singles, but only one single in 1974 became a minor hit. He finally made the upper regions of the charts when he made the Top 20 with his version of “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys,” a song he co-wrote in 1976.

Two more Top 40 hits followed for Bruce in 1976, and in 1977, he signed with Epic Records where he would score minor hits. In 1978, “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be Cowboys” was recorded by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. It became a major hit and continued the upward swing in Bruce’s career. In 1979, Tanya Tucker took Bruce’s 1977 song “Texas (When I Die)” into the country Top 5.

In 1980, Bruce signed with MCA Records, where he would score his biggest successes. His early hits with MCA included “Diane,” “The Last Cowboy Song,” “When You Fall In Love (Everything’s A Waltz),” “Evil Angel,” and “Love’s Found You And Me.” His biggest hit, “You’re The Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had” went to No. 1 on the country chart in 1982. This also was Bruce’s first Top 10 as a singer after 15 years. He had other hit songs that made the Top 10 like “Ever, Never Lovin’ You,” “My First Taste of Texas,” and “After All.”

In 1984, he returned to RCA Records and scored a No. 3 hit with “You Turn Me On Like A Radio” in 1985. His last Top 10 single was “Nights” in 1986 and his last Top 40 single (and last chart single to date) was “Quietly Crazy” in 1987.

During this time, Bruce began to act and do commercials. One of his biggest acting roles was as the second lead on the television revival of 1957’s Maverick, called Bret Maverick. Starring James Garner as a legendary western gambler, the series ran on NBC-TV during the 1981-82 season, but was unexpectedly canceled. Bruce played the surly town lawman who found himself reluctantly co-owning a saloon with Maverick, with whom he seemed to maintain a surreally adversarial relationship more or less throughout the entire season. Bruce also sang and wrote the theme song to the show, while Garner himself sang the same song over the end titles at the show’s close.

After the 1986 album entitled Night Things and a 1988 self-titled follow-up, Bruce made a conscious decision to cut back on his music to focus on his acting career, appearing in several made-for-TV films. He hosted two shows in the late 1980s, Truckin’ USA and American Sports Cavalcade. Bruce has also appeared in several theatrical releases, including Fire Down Below with Steven Seagal.

Bruce wrote “One,” recorded by George Jones and Tammy Wynette, off their 1995 album of the same name.

He was honored with the Arkansas Country Music Award for Lifetime Achievement on June 3, 2018 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Funeral arrangements were not announced at press time.

Grammy Winning Singer-Songwriter Jamie O’Hara Passes

Jamie O’Hara

Grammy Award winning singer-songwriter Jamie O’Hara has died at age 70. He courageously battled cancer and sadly succumbed on Jan. 7, with his wife, Lola White O’Hara, by his side.

O’Hara won the Grammy Award for Best Country Song for “Grandpa (Tell Me ‘Bout the Good Old Days),” a 1986 hit for The Judds. He was also noted as half of the performing and recording duo The O’Kanes alongside Kieran Kane. The O’Kanes had six consecutive top 10 hits in 1986-88, all of which were co-written by O’Hara and Kane.

James Paul O’Hara was born and raised in Toledo, Ohio. He was an all-American high-school football star who was offered a tryout by the Detroit Tigers right out of high school, which he turned down to play football at Indiana University. A knee injury ended his football career. During his recovery, he took up the guitar and started writing songs.

Despite family and friends’ disapproval, he moved to Nashville at age 26. Within a year, he was signed as a staff songwriter by the industry giant Sony-ATV (then called Tree International Publishing).

He initially tasted success as a songwriter in 1980-87 with cuts by John Conlee, T.G. Sheppard, Conway Twitty, Johnny Lee, Michael Johnson and other stars of the era. In 1981, Ronnie McDowell scored back-to-back smash hits with O’Hara’s “Wandering Eyes” and “Older Women.” The 1986 Judds hit “Grandpa (Tell Me Bout the Good Old Days) earned Grammys for the duo’s performance as well as for O’Hara’s songwriting.

Jamie O’Hara next formed The O’Kanes with fellow songwriter Kieran Kane. The duo debuted on the charts with the 1986 top 10 hit “Oh Darlin.'” The O’Kanes scored a No. 1 hit in 1987 with “Can’t Stop My Heart From Loving You.” This was followed by the 1987-88 top 10 successes “Daddies Need to Grow Up Too,” “Just Lovin’ You,” “One True Love” and “Blue Love.”

The duo issued three LPs – The OKanes (1987), Tired of Runnin’ (1988) and Imagine That (1990) – before amicably parting ways.

Don Williams had scored a top 10 hit in 1988 with O’Hara’s co-written “Desperately,” and Tammy Wynette succeeded with “Talkin’ To Myself Again” in 1987. So O’Hara returned to writing for others. Trisha Yearwood, The Chicks, Randy Travis, Emmylou Harris, Mark Collie and Michael Martin Murphey were among those who recorded his songs in the early 1990s. Tanya Tucker popularized his farm-crisis song, “Bidding America Goodbye.”

The songwriter returned to recording with the 1994 solo CD Rise Above It. His second solo CD was 2001’s Beautiful Obsession, and in 2012 he followed it with Dream Hymns. The first of these contained his notable Vietnam War elegy “50,000 Names.”

O’Hara’s songwriting success continued with “You’ve Got to Talk to Me,” a major hit for Lee Ann Womack in 1997. George Jones (2000’s “The Cold Hard Truth”) and Wynonna (1997’s “When Love Starts Talkin’”) also maintained O’Hara’s songwriting prominence.

Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris included his “When We’re Gone Long Gone” on their 1999 Trio II collection. In 2001, Gary Allan had a No. 1 hit with “Man To Man,” and he also recorded several other O’Hara compositions.

Tim McGraw, Sara Evans, Joey & Rory, The Oak Ridge Boys, Pam Tillis and Josh Turner were among those who have recorded O’Hara songs in recent years. He also has a number of bluegrass-music successes.

During his songwriting career, Jamie O’Hara provided songs to dozens of stars. The list includes Janie Fricke, Mel McDaniel, Brady Seals, Shelby Lynne, Mandy Barnett, Kathy Mattea, Larry Stewart, Dave & Sugar, Tom Wopat and Stacy Dean Campbell, among many others.

There are no plans for a public memorial at this time. In lieu of flowers, donations are being accepted in Jamie O’Hara’s name to Bonaparte’s Retreat, Doctors Without Borders, MusiCares, and SmileTrain.

Bluegrass Icon Tony Rice Dies

Tony Rice

Tony Rice, a pillar in bluegrass and country music, died on Christmas morning (Dec. 25, 2020) at his home in Reidsville, North Carolina. He died while making his coffee, according to a statement from longtime friend and collaborator Ricky Skaggs. Rice was 69.

Rice won a Grammy with the band New South for Best Country Instrumental Performance in 1983 for “Fireball.” He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013, and won various IBMA awards throughout his career.

Rice was born in Danville, Virginia but grew up in Los Angeles, California. His father, Herb Rice, introduced him to bluegrass, and he and his brothers learned the fundamentals of bluegrass and country music from L.A. musicians like the Kentucky Colonels, led by Roland and Clarence White.

Rice moved to Louisville, Kentucky in 1970, and started playing with the Bluegrass Alliance, and shortly thereafter, J.D. Crowe’s New South. Ricky Skaggs joined New South in 1974, and the band recorded J. D. Crowe & the New South. Also known as Rounder 0044, the album became Rounder Records’ top-seller up to that time.

After meeting mandolinist David Grisman, Rice left the New South and moved to California to join Grisman’s all-instrumental group, the David Grisman Quintet, where he was able to experiment more with jazz music. While in the group, Rice started to learn chord theory, learned to read charts, and began to expand his musical palate beyond bluegrass. The David Grisman Quintet’s 1977 debut recording is considered a landmark of acoustic string band music.

Rice left Grisman’s group in 1979 to pursue more experimental music, that he called “spacegrass,” with his Tony Rice Unit, including members Jimmy Gaudreau (mandolin), Wyatt Rice (guitar), Ronnie Simpkins (bass), and Rickie Simpkins (fiddle). He recorded Acoustics, a jazz-inspired album, and then Manzanita, a bluegrass and folk album.

During the 1980s, he recorded Skaggs & Rice, an album of bluegrass duets with Ricky Skaggs. He, J.D. Crowe, Bobby Hicks, Doyle Lawson and Todd Phillips formed the Bluegrass Album Band and recorded from 1980 to 1996. Also during this time, Rice recorded with guitar legend Norman Blake; recorded a project titled The Rice Brothers with his brothers Larry, Wyatt, and Ron; and released other critically acclaimed albums.

In 1994 he was diagnosed with a disorder known as muscle tension dysphonia and as a result was forced to stop singing in concert. He was diagnosed in 2014 with lateral epicondylitis (“tennis elbow”), which made guitar playing painful. Rice’s last performance playing guitar live was his induction into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

Rice’s authorized biography, Still Inside: The Tony Rice Story, was published in 2010, and was written by Tim Stafford and Hawaii-based journalist Caroline Wright.

Rice was a monumental influence on many bluegrass and country musicians. Many bluegrass stalwarts, including Ricky Skaggs, Doyle Lawson, Sam Bush, Rhonda Vincent, and Béla Fleck; as well as mainstream country artist Luke Combs, Carly Pearce, and Lee Ann Womack, mourned his loss on social media.

Rice is survived by his wife Pam and their daughter India, as well as his brothers Wyatt and Ronnie. He is preceded in death by his brother Larry Rice. No details on funeral arrangements have yet been announced at press time.

Nashville-Related Music Obituaries 2020

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Like everyone, the Nashville music community had a dreadful 2020.

The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic claimed the lives of Joe Diffie, John Prine, Bill Mack, Bobby Jonz, Bill Pusell and Charley Pride. Other top stars lost included Kenny Rogers, Mac Davis, K.T. Oslin, Jan Howard, Jerry Jeff Walker, Charlie Daniels, Hal Ketchum, Doug Supernaw, Roy Head and The Statler Brothers’ Harold Reid.

The songwriting community said farewell to Billy Joe Shaver, David Olney, Eddie Setser and Alex Harvey, among others. Gospel music’s Gary McSpadden, jazz great Jim Williamson and rock superstar Little Richard passed, too.

The music-business world was especially hard hit. Dick Whitehouse, Fuzzy Owen, Stan Byrd, Gary Walker, Sam Howard, Ray Pennington and Walter C. Miller all passed away during this past year.

Below is a roll-call of the many who said goodbye.

STEPHEN GUDIS, 68, died Jan. 6.
Concert-industry exec. Began in Nashville at Pace Concerts 1994 as production manager at Starwood Amphitheater. Worked as road manager, show promoter, stage manager throughout Southeast. In 1990s toured with Oaks, Brooks & Dunn, Alabama, CDB, Marty Stuart, Toby, Brad, others. Stage manager of Volunteer Jam for a decade and of more than 20 FarmAid concerts. Event manager for Nissan, TPAC, T.J. Martell, Warners, Parnelli Awards. Launched New Year’s Eve Guitar Drop for Hard Rock Café. Worked on Music City Irish Festival, Music City Jazz Festival.

BARRY FREEMAN, 83, died Jan. 10.
Record promoter, radio executive, songwriter, trade journalist. Wrote Dinah Shore hit “So Dear to My Heart” (1948). Record promoter in 1950s at Coral label (Buddy Holly, Debbie Reynolds, Rosemary Clooney, etc.). Positions at United Artists, Harmon, Kapp labels (1958-68). As independent, promoted “Harper Valley P.T.A.” to No. 1 (1968). Returned to labels 1970s at Capitol (Ronstadt, Steve Miller Band, McCartney, etc.), Atlantic (Aretha, Bette Midler, CSN&Y, Zeppelin, etc.). Head of Talent Acquisition for Westwood One (1981-84). Head of Artist Relations for Entertainment Radio Networks (1985-93) booking “Countryline USA.” Bureau chief of Nashville trade publication Network 40 (1994-96). Joined ABC Radio Networks (1996-99). Returned to record promotion repping Warner comedy acts. Formed FM Entertainment (2000-08) booking morning-show interviews.

DICK WHITEHOUSE, died Jan. 14.
CEO of Curb Records. Began with label when it was launched in 1964. Key exec. in Curb signing Sawyer Brown, Lyle Lovett, Desert Rose Band, The Judds, Junior Brown, others.

WADE JACKSON, 90, died Jan. 14.
Wrote “Don’t Be Angry,” a 1964 Top 10 hit for brother Stonewall Jackson, revived by Billy “Crash” Craddock as minor 1973 success, then returned to Top 10 by Donna Fargo 1977. Prolific songwriter of thousands of others. Multi-instrumentalist on guitar, fiddle, harmonica, mandolin. (full name: Waymond D. Jackson).

CHRIS DARROW, 75, died Jan. 15.
Multi-instrumentalist in Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on its hit LP Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy (1970). On singles “Mr. Bojangles,” “House at Pooh Corner,” “Some of Shelley’s Blues” and in movie Paint Your Wagon (1969). Also backed Ronstadt, James Taylor, Sonny & Cher, Helen Reddy, etc. In band Kaleidoscope and solo LPs.

DAVID OLNEY, 71, died Jan. 18.
Nashville singer-songwriter. Made initial mark in band Simpson with arrangement of “Black Betty.” First Nashville impact as leader of The X-Rays (1978-85), a founding band of city’s alternative-rock scene. Became acclaimed figure in Americana movement via 20+ albums. Also performed and recorded in Nashville Jug Band. His songs sung by Emmylou, Steve Earle, Joe Ely, Del McCoury, Cash, Tim O’Brien, James King, Ronstadt, Slaid Cleaves, Lonnie Brooks and more. Gripping, theatrical live performer who became widely known in Europe, as well as on American folk circuit. Opera Memphis adapted some songs for theatrical work “Light in August.” Performed during Nashville Shakespeare Festival. Opened shows for Bonnie Raitt, Kristofferson, Nanci Griffith, Elvis Costello. Rave reviews in New York Times, Stereo Review, USA Today, L.A. Times, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Enquirer, etc. Died performing on stage at 30A Songwriters Festival in Florida.

TOM POWELL, 86, died Jan. 21.
Editor of Amusement Business magazine, 1972-2006. Tennessean sportswriter (1958-72). Race announcer at Nashville Speedway 1970s. Columinist for Outdoor Amusement Business Association (2007-2019). Member Showman’s League of American Hall of Honor, International Independent Showmen’s Association Hall of Fame.

IRA PARKER, 63, died Jan. 24.
Former hair stylist, personal assistant, property manager, tour coordinator for Dolly. Widow of drummer Martin Parker (1952-2015), noted for his work with Vince, Skaggs, Patty, Alison, etc.

BOB SHANE, 85, died Jan. 26.
Last surviving member of original Kingston Trio. Folk group topped pop charts with Appalachian folk song “Tom Dooley” (1958) & won the first country Grammy Award.

EDDIE SETSER, 77, died Jan. 27.
Nashville songwriter noted for “Seven Spanish Angels” (Willie & Ray Charles), “Weekend Friend” (Con Hunley), “Don’t Look Back” (Gary Morris), “Forget About Me” (Bellamys), “Why Lady Why” (Morris), “Let the Music Lift You Up” (Reba), “Beyond Those Years” (Oaks), “Love You Ain’t Seen the Last of Me” (John Schneider), “Anything Goes” (Morris), “Country Girls” (Schneider), “I’ve Got a Rock & Roll Heart” (Clapton), “Down on the Farm” (Pride), “If I Had Any Pride Left at All” (John Berry), “It Ain’t Real” (Mark Gray), “Country Til I Die” (John Anderson), “But I Will” (Faith). Formerly in R&B band The Dapps on King Records. Songs also cut by Aretha, 4 Tops, Rod Stewart, Delbert, Rita Coolidge, Etta James, Isaac Hayes, plus Country Hall of Famers Conway, Brenda, Merle, Randy, Waylon, Alabama, Cash, Jones, Don Williams, Glen Campbell.

EDDIE LUNN JR., 70, died Jan. 29.
Co-writer, co-producer of folk musical Good News (1967), highly influential turning point in gospel music. (full name: Wallace Edward Lunn Jr.)

JIMMIE DELOZIER, 88, died Jan. 31.
Fiddler who worked with Benny & Vallie Cain, Joe Sacra, The Bluegrass Buddies & own band The Sensations. Rebel Records artist. Former Virginia Fiddle Championship winner.

One of Nashville’s first female D.J.s (1955, WLAC). Miss Tennessee USA crown led to work as print & runway fashion model 1960s. Founded own American Institute of Modeling (1980) & American Models, Actors and Extras (AMAX) (1990) businesses. Known as “The Model Maker of the South.” Spokesperson for Easter Seal Foundation, active on many other charity boards.

BUDDY CAGE, 73, died Feb. 4.
Steel guitarist for New Riders of the Purple Sage. Noted for his work on “Panama Red,” “Whiskey,” “Gypsy Cowboy” & other band favorites.

KEITH BLAYDES, 56, died Feb. 6.
Co-owner of the LGBTQ+ friendly nightspots The Tribe and Play.

JOE HALTERMAN, 69, died Feb. 11.
Drummer in Bobby Pierce & The Nashville Sounds (1966-72) and in Bob Luman’s band (1972-76), both with lifelong friend Buddy Cannon. Went on to gigs with Cal Smith, Ray Price, Dr. Hook, Buddy Emmons, Joe Carter, Tompall Glaser, Dean Dillon, others. Co-wrote 1983 Top 10 hit by The Whites “I Wonder Who’s Holding My Baby Tonight.”

PAUL ENGLISH, 87, died Feb. 12.
Willie’s Nelson’s drummer and longtime friend. Immortalized in Willie’s songs “Me and Paul” (1985) and “Devil in a Sleepin’ Bag” (1973).

MICHAEL LILLY, 69, died Feb. 12.
Banjo player who competed on TV’s Ted Mack Amateur Hour at age 11. Later worked in bluegrass bands of Powell Brothers, Larry Sparks, Harley Allen & Wendy Miller.

DANIEL LEE MARTIN, 54, died Feb. 14.
Country singer with CDs All That I Am (2003), On My Way to You (2007). Hosted TV shows Brotherhood Outdoors (Sportsman Channel), Til Death Do Us Part (CarbonTV0, Backstage and Backroads (Sportsman Channel). CMA Music Fest performer. Suicide following child-sex charges.

MAC BENFORD, 79, died Feb. 15.
Old-time banjo player who co-founded prominent & influential revival group Highwoods String Band. Group popular on Rounder Records & at festivals 1970s. Later in Backwoods Band (1980s), Woodshed All-Stars (1990s), both also on Rounder.

JIM WILLIAMSON, 78, died Feb. 26.
Trumpeter who led Nashville Jazz Orchestra for 25 years. Session musician for Aretha, B.B., Randy Brecker, Michael McDonald, Reba, Mavericks, Delbert, Boots, etc. Toured with Ice Follies, played at Opryland, taught at MTSU, wrote music for jazz ensembles, concerts with Muscle Shoals Horns, Knoxville Jazz Orchestra. Performed with Temptations, Four Tops, Lee Greenwood, Dinah Shore, Andy Williams, O’Jays, etc.

ANON BEY, 96, died March 1.
R&B/soul-music disc jockey on WVOL & WSOK known as “Blabber Mouth” Bey.

BIFF ADAM, 83, died March 7.
Drummer in Merle Haggard’s band The Strangers since 1970. Name-checked in title of instrumental “Biff Bam Boom” on LP Presenting My Friends, The Strangers (1970). Innovator of influential “double-shuffle beat” in country music. Strangers in Clint Eastwood movie Bronco Billy (1980). Previously sessions for The Ventures, soundtrack of movie The Jungle Book (1967). Stage work with Bobby Bare, Roger Miller, Bob Wills, etc.

QUAY AUSTIN, 62, died March 9.
Broadcast engineer at WSMV-Channel 4.

ROBIN SMITH, 71, died March 13.
Nashville banjo luthier & musician. Created banjo for Scott Vestal. Played with Reno Brothers.

RAMSEY KEARNEY, 86, died March 14.
Co-writer with Mel Tillis of 1961 Brenda Lee pop smash “Emotions.” Also co-wrote “Nine Little Teardrops” for Sue Thompson (1961), “Lonely People” for Eddy Arnold (1964), “Big Flicking Baby” for Moe Bandy (1978). Longtime indie country recording artist on NRS, Safari, Silver Dollar, Nashco, SunJay, Stomper Time, etc. Charted with “King of Oak Street” (1985), “One Time Thing” (1988). Released more than 25 albums.

ROBB HOUSTON, 57, died March 16.
Guitarist in country group Sixwire, which charted with “Look at Me Now” and “Way Too Deep” in 2002, both on Warner. Band later became TV fixture on series Nashville Star, Next Great American Band, Can You Duet, CMT’s Next Superstar, Nashville. Previously solo artist on Carlyle Records with CD Dream State, staff writer for MTM, lead guitarist for Brothers Phelps, Randy Travis.

BROWLEE CURREY JR., 91, died March 18.
Owner of Nashville Banner 1980-98. Co-founder of public-radio company Osborn Communications 1989-97.

Sinking Creek Film Festival worker, film production assistant, poet, essayist, theater actor, song collaborator with Nashville jazz great W.O. Smith (1917-1991). Co-founder (1977) of annual Whitland Avenue Fourth of July Celebration.

KENNY ROGERS, 81, died March 20.
Pop/country superstar. Country Music Hall of Fame inductee 2013. Three-time Grammy winner with 15 nominations. CMA Male Vocalist 1979 and Duo of Year (with Dottie West) 1978, 1979. Sold 100 million+ records. Charted 77 country singles, issued 65+ albums. Began career in pop in The Scholars and as solo (“That Crazy Feeling” 1958). Recorded for Columbia in jazz combo Bobby Doyle Three (1962). Worked in Kirby Stone Four, New Christy Minstrels 1960s. Fronted First Edition 1967-75 with hits “Just Dropped In” (1968), “But You Know I Love You” (1969). “Ruby Don’t Take Your Love to Town” (1969), “Something’s Burning” (1970) + syndicated TV show Rollin’ (1972). Country solo career took off with “Lucille” (1977, CMA Song & Single, Grammy, Gold Record). Other huge hits include “Daytime Friends” (1977), “Love Or Something Like It” (1978), “The Gambler” (1978, Grammy), “She Believes in Me” (1979, Gold), “You Decorated My Life” (1979), “Coward of the County” (1980, Gold), “Lady” (1980, Gold), “Love Will Turn You Around” (1982), “Crazy” (1985), “Morning Desire” (1985), “Buy Me a Rose” (2000). Teamed with Dottie West (1932-1991) on “Every Time Two Fools Collide” (1978), “Anyone Who Isn’t Me Tonight” (1978), “All I Ever Need Is You” (1979), “What Are We Doin’ in Love” (1981), etc. Duets with Dolly Parton include “Islands in the Stream” (1983, Platinum), “Real Love” (1985), “You Can’t Make Old Friends” (2013), etc. Other duet partners Kim Carnes (“Don’t Fall in Love with a Dreamer” 1980), Sheena Easton (“We’ve Got Tonight” 1983), Ronnie Milsap (“Make No Mistake She’s Mine” 1987, Grammy). USA Today Favorite Singer of All Time 1986. Starred in five Gambler TV movies plus Six Pack, Rio Diablo, Wild Horses, Coward of the County, etc. Photographer with museum exhibitions and books Kenny Rogers America (1986), Your Friends and Mine (1987). Other books Making It With Music (1978), Christmas in Canaan (2001), What Are the Chances (2013). Philanthropist helped spearhead “We Are the World” (1985, 4x multi-Platinum, multiple Grammys). Franchise restaurants: Kenny Rogers Roasters. Music City Walkway of Stars induction & all-star tribute concert 2017. Autobiography: Luck Or Something Like It (2012).

HANS KAYSER, 80, died March 20.
Bluegrass guitarist, mandolinist, resonator guitarist, singer. With his band Big River Boys recorded LPs Live From the Territorial House (1977) and Still Pickin’ Still Kickin’ (1992).

ERIC WEISSBERG, 80, died March 22.
New York session musician who scored big with Grammy winning “Dueling Banjos” (1973) from movie Deliverance. Began career in Greenbrier Boys (1958-59), then Tarriers (1960-65), Blue Velvet Band (1969). Studio multi instrumentalist for Bob Dylan, Talking Heads, Frankie Valli, Jim Croce, Art Garfunel, Clancy Brothers, Billy Joel, Melanie, Doc Watson, Judy Collins, John Denver, Tom Paxton, Loudon Wainwright III, Richie Havens, Nanci Griffith, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Herbie Mann, Sha Na Na, Earl Klugh, B,J, Thomas, Willie Nelson, Burt Bacharach, Starland Vocal Band, Buffy Sainte Marie, Ian & Sylvia, Jean Ritchie, Leon Redbone, Blood Sweat & Tears, etc.

H.G. ROBERTS, 94, died March 22.
Backer of Nashville’s Grand Masters Fiddle Championship. He & wife Dorothy owned Fiddlers BBQ restaurant, which catered parties for Opry, Hee Haw & numerous stars.

JIMMY HENLEY, 56, died March 22.
Roy Clark’s banjo player for 25 years. Many appearances on Hee Haw, The Tonight Show, Austin City Limits, etc. Own band: A Touch of Grass. Formerly national banjo champion at age 10.

JOHN RAGSDALE, 75, died March 25.
Music publisher, songwriter, musician, business exec. Brother of Ray Stevens, for whom he wrote songs, emceed shows, did business management, appeared in videos, oversaw merchandise sales. Formerly with MCA Music.

JAN HOWARD, 91, died March 28.
Singer-songwriter known as one of “The Grand Ladies of the Grand Ole Opry” and show’s senior cast member. Recorded 15 albums 1960-1986. Charted 30 titles, including solo hits “The One You Slip Around With” (1960), “Bad Seed” (1966) and Grammy-nominated “Evil On Your Mind” (1966) and “My Son” (1968). Duet partner Bill Anderson with hits “For Loving You” (1967), “If It’s All the Same to You” (1969), “Someday We’ll Be Together” (1970), “Dis-Satisfied” (1971). Harmony singer for Tammy, Carters, Cash (on 1969’s “Daddy Sang Bass,” singing “Mama sang tenor”), plus “Ghost Riders In the Sky,” “Gone Girl,” “I Will Rock and Roll With You,” etc.). Married 1957-67 to Country Music Hall of Fame songwriter Harlan Howard (1927-2002). Began career on West Coast. Recorded Harlan’s “Pick Me Up on Your Way Down” and “I Wish I Could Fall in Love Today” 1958-59; both later country standards. Duets 1958-60 “Wrong Company,” ‘How the Other Half Lives,” “Yankee Go Home” with Wynn Stewart (1934-1985). In Nashville since 1960. Demo singer for Patsy Cline (via Harlan’s “I Fall to Pieces,” “When I Get Through With You,” “He Called Me Baby,” etc.). Wrote Kitty Wells hit “It’s All Over But the Crying” (1966), Anderson’s hit “Love Is a Sometimes Thing” (1970) and own singles “Marriage Has Ruined More Good Love Affairs” (1971), “My Son” (1968), “Life of a Country Girl Singer” (1981), plus “Ring the Bells for Jim” (Cash), “Christmas As I Knew It” (Cash), “Wherever You Are” (Jean Shepard) and songs for Conway, Osborne Brothers, Tammy, others. She and Anderson co-wrote hit duet “Dis-Satisfied” and Connie Smith’s hit “I Never Once Stopped Loving You” (1970). In later years, active in veterans’ issues, campaigned for Vietnam War Memorial, spokesperson for Veteran’s Administration. Autobiography Sunshine and Shadow (1987). (real name: Lula Grace Johnson).

MARTY MARTEL, 81, died March 29.
Former manager of Johnny Paycheck. Show promoter and booking agent for “Legends Fest” country concerts via his Midnight Special Productions. (full name: Donald Robert Martel).

JOE DIFFIE, 61, died March 29.
Grand Ole Opry star. More than 20 Top 10 hits. Four Gold Records, two Platinum albums. Songwriter who co-wrote 9 of his hits, plus songs for Jo Dee Messina (“My Give a Damn’s Busted” 2005), Holly Dunn (“There Goes My Heart Again” 1989), Tim McGraw (“Memory Lane” 1993), Conway Twitty (“I’m the Only Thing I’ll Hold Against You” 1993), Hank Thompson (“Love on the Rocks” 1988), others. Began career in Oklahoma gospel groups like Higher Power and in bluegrass band The Special Edition. In Nashville since 1986. Demo singer for hits “I’ve Cried My Last Tear for You” (Ricky Van Shelton), “Born Country” (Alabama), “You Don’t Count the Cost” (Billy Dean), “I Cross My Heart” (Strait). Own hits began with “Home” (1990) and 1991-92’s “If You Want Me To,” “If the Devil Danced in Empty Pockets,” “New Way (To Light Up an Old Flame),” “Is It Cold in Here,” “Ships That Don’t Come In,” “Not Too Much to Ask” (Grammy-nominated duet with Mary Chapin Carpenter). CMA Award 1993 “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair,” with George Jones, others. Inducted into Opry cast, co-hosted IBMA awards, 1993. Biggest hits thereafter “Honky Tonk Attitude” (1993), “Prop Me Up Beside the Jukebox” (1993), “John Deere Green” (1994), “Third Rock from the Sun” (1994), “Pickup Man” (1994, later Ford Truck national ad jingle), “I’m in Love with a Capital U” (1995), “Bigger Than the Beatles” (1996), “C-O-U-N-T-R-Y” (1996). In 1997: CRB Humanitarian Award, acted in Cash TV movie All My Friends Are Cowboys, Grand Marshall of Nashville Christmas Parade. Later hits “Texas Size Heartache” (1998), “Same Old Train” (1998, Grammy with Marty Stuart and others), “A Night to Remember” (1999), “The Quittin’ Kind” (1999), “It’s Always Somethin’” (2000), “In Another World” (2001), “Tougher Than Nails” (2004). Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame 2002. Homecoming: The Bluegrass Album 2010. Homecoming: The Diffie Family Cookbook 2010. All in the Same Boat CD with Aaron Tippin, Sammy Kershaw 2013. Name checked in Jason Aldean’s “1994” (2012), Chris Young’s “Raised on Country” (2019). First music star to succumb in coronavirus pandemic.

ZENON B. CYMBALA, 67, died March 31.
Former WLAC radio personality as “Bear Bradley.” Later in media sales with Turner Broadcasting, CNN, Petry, NBC/Universal.

ALEX HARVEY, 73, died April 4.
Songwriter with classics “Delta Dawn” (Tanya, 1972 & Helen Reddy, 1973), “Rings” (Cymarron, 1971 & Tompall & Glaser Brothers, 1971), “Hell and High Water” (T. Graham, 1986), “Reuben James” (Kenny & First Edition, 1969), “Baby, Baby I Know You’re a Lady” (David Houston, 1970), “Somebody New” (Billy Ray, 1993), “Tell It All Brother” (Kenny Rogers, 1970). Also “Someone Who Cares” (Dusty Springfield, 1970), “No Place But Texas” (Willie, 1986), “Dance in Circles” (Tim Ryan, 1990), “Five Dollar Fine” (Chris LeDouz, 1999), “Makin’ Music for Money” (Buffett, 1974). Songs also recorded by Anne Murray, Andy Williams, Eydie Gorme, Merle, Ferlin, Shirley Bassey, Percy Faith, George Hamilton IV, Leo Kottke, Roy Drusky, Arthur Prysock, Jim Ed Brown, Ed Bruce, Vikki Carr, Peggy Lee. Featured actor in TV series Dallas, Dukes of Hazzard, Walker, Texas Ranger, plus movies The Blue and the Gray (1982), The Dollmaker (1984), Parent Trap II (1987), Country (1985), Fire Down Below (1997), The Long Summer of George Adams (1982), The Sky Is No Limit (1984), Adam (1983), and Houston Knights (1987). Recorded more than a dozen albums on Capitol, Buddah, TAM, etc.

JIMMY JAY, 84, died April 6.
Country singer, songwriter, musician. Recording artist in 1960s for Starday (“Run Wild”), Philips (“You’re Still With Me”), Hickory (“Bayou Girl”), Penny Stock, Texas International, Wizard labels. Touring sideman for Eddy Raven, Conway. Songwriter with cuts by Twitty (“You Put it There”), Strait (“Neon Row”), Neal McCoy (“Why Not Tonight”). (real name: James T. Pickard Jr.)

KENT CATHCART, 84, died April 7.
Co-founder of the Acting Studio at TPAC. Live-performance coach for country artists in 1980s. Lifelong theater educator.

JOHN PRINE, 73, died April 7.
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member (2003). Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award honoree (2020). Americana Music Association Artist of the Year 2005, 2017, 2020. BMI Trailblazer Award 2018. Inducted into national Songwriters Hall of Fame (2019). Pioneer in marketing music via own label. Wrote or co-wrote Don Williams’ “Love Is on a Roll” (1983), Bonnie Raitt’s “Angel From Montgomery” (1974), Lynn Anderson’s “Paradise” (1975), Strait’s “I Just Want to Dance with You” (1998). Debut LP John Prine (1971) included “Sam Stone,” “Illegal Smile,” “Spanish Pipe Dream.” Bette Midler popularized “Hello in There.” Raitt did “Angel From Montgomery” as did Carly Simon, Tanya, Old Crow. The LP’s “Paradise” cut by Everlys, Jackie DeShannon, Cash, Tom T., Dwight, Fogerty, Anderson. John Prine album voted into Grammy Hall of Fame 2015. Diamonds in the Rough (1972) = “Souvenirs” sung by Steve Goodman, Country Gentlemen, Maggie Bell and “The Late John Garfield Blues” cut by Kristofferson. Prine nominated as 1972’s Best New Artist at Grammys. Sweet Revenge (1973) = “Please Don’t Bury Me,” “Christmas in Prison,” “Dear Abby.” Its “Grandpa Was a Carpenter” was recorded by Dirt Band, Lonesome Standard Time. In 1975, David Allan Coe hit with “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” (Prine cowrote with Steve Goodman but took no credit). Common Sense (1975), Prime Prine (Gold record, 1976), Bruised Orange (1978 with “That’s the Way the World Goes Round” cut by Miranda, Norah Jones, Green on Red). Pink Cadillac (1979), Storm Windows (1980). Prine moved to Nashville 1980, formed own Oh Boy label. Aimless Love (1984) = “Unwed Fathers” cut by Wynette, Gail Davies, Cash. German Afternoons (1986) = “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” sung by Nanci Griffith, Kim Carnes, Amos Lee, Gove, plus “I Just Want to Dance with You.” John Prine Live (1990) = “Oldest Baby in the World” cut by Bobby Bare. The Missing Years (Grammy Award 1991) = “All the Best” cut by Zac Brown. Lost Dogs and Mixed Blessings (1998), In Spite of Ourselves (1999 country duets CD with Yearwood, Connie, Melba, Emmylou, Patty, Iris DeMent, etc). Appeared in Billy Bob Thornton movie Daddy & Them (2001). Other albums include Souvenirs (2000), Fair & Square (Grammy Award 2005), Standard Songs for Average People (2007 oldie duets with Mac Wiseman [1925-2019]), Singing Mailman Delivers (2011), For Better Or Worse (2016, country duets with Lee Ann Womack, Mattea, Miranda, Kacey, Krauss, etc.). Tree of Forgiveness (2018) his highest-charting album, nominated for three Grammys. Coronavirus victim.

CARL DOBKINS JR., 79, died April 8.
Nashville pop recording artist whose big hit was 1959’s “My Heart Is an Open Book.” Also charted with Decca singles “If You Don’t Want My Lovin’” (1959), “Lucky Devil” (1959), “Exclusively Yours” (1960).

JOHN B. KAPARAKIS, 82, died April 12.
Bluegrass Unlimited journalist for 33 years. Backing guitarist for Kenny Baker, Butch Robbins, Gene Parsons, Hazel Dickens. A&R director for Briar Records 1970s, including LPs by Kentucky Colonels. Formerly in band Lonesome River Boys 1958-61.

JERRY HLUDZIK, 68, died April 12.
MCA Music writer with cuts by Oak Ridge Boys (“Too Many Heartaches” 1988). Formerly in rock groups The Buoys (“Timothy” 1971), Dakota (“If It Takes All Night” 1980).

ARTHUR CONNOR, 95, died April 13.
Fiddler and fiddle maker. Crafted instruments for Ricky Skaggs, Gene Elders, Billy Hurt and family band The Connor Brothers.

DONALD HILDEBRAND, 91, died April 14.
Nashville attorney who hosted WLAC talk show Conservative Viewpoint in 1970s. Saxophonist in big band The Establishment.

GARY McSPADDEN, 77, died April 15.
Gospel great as vocalist, songwriter, record producer, TV producer. Began career 1960s in Statesmen & Oak Ridge Boys (3 albums), then 1970s in Imperials (12 albums), 1980s in Bill Gaither Trio & Gaither Vocal Band (10+ albums). Also 20 solo albums. Songwriter of “No Other Name But Jesus,” “Hallelujah Praise the Lamb,” “Jesus Lord to Me.” Songs recorded by Talleys, Whiteheart, Sandi Patty, Kelly Nelon Thompson, Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, etc. Produced records by Cathedrals, Terri Gibbs, Lulu Roman, Talleys, others. Produced Branson TV series Gospel Jubilee 1990s, starred in The Gary McSpadden Show 2000s. Co-host of PTL Today 1987.

DALE PYATT, 59, died April 15.
Bluegrass songwriter of 50+ titles for Dave Adkins, Cumberland Gap Connection, Marty Raybon, Lizzy Long, Junior Sisk, etc. Also a recording artist.

KNOX PHILLIPS, 74, died April 15.
Memphis Music Hall of Fame member. Studio owner, engineer, producer. Ambassador of Memphis music and 1973 co-founder of the city’s chapter of The Recording Academy. Engineered records by Willie Nelson (Shotgun Willie, Phases & Stages), Jerry Jeff Walker (“Mr. Bojangles”), Amazing Rhythm Aces (“Third Rate Romance,” “The End Is Not In Sight”), Phineas Newborn, Jackie DeShannon, Jim Post, Alex Chilton, Panther Burns. Co-produced John Prine’s 1979 LP Pink Cadillac and recordings by Jerry Lee Lewis released in 2014 as Jerry Lee Lewis: The Knox Phillips Sessions. Also worked with pop/rock groups Randy & Radiants, Gentrys. Son of Sun Records founder Sam Phillips (1923-2003), providing invaluable assistance to Peter Guralnick’s biography Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock ‘n’ Roll (2014). Also helped organize Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit “Flying Saucers Rock & Roll: The Cosmic Genius of Sam Phillips” (2015-16).

TOM LESTER, 81, died April 20.
Nashville-based actor and evangelist, best known as “Eb Dawson” on TV series Green Acres 1965-71. In films Gordy (1994), Benji (1974).

HAROLD REID, 80, died April 24.
Statler Brothers bass singer, songwriter, comedian. Country Music Hall of Fame 2008. Gospel Music Hall of Fame 2007. CMA Group of Year 1972-77, ’79, ’80, ’84. Earned 48 Music City News Awards. Act hosted own TNN cable series 1991-98 as network’s top-rated program. Harold wrote Statlers 1970 smash “Bed of Rose’s.” He and brother Don Reid co-wrote 1970s hits “Do You Remember These” (1972), Grammy-winning “Class of ‘57” (1972), “Carry Me Back” (1973), “Whatever Happened to Randolph Scott” (1973), “Some I Wrote” (1978), “Do You Know You Are My Sunshine” (1978), “The Official Historian on Shirley Jean Burrell” (1978), “How to Be a Country Star” (1979). Reid brothers also co-wrote ‘80s hits “Better Than I Did Then” (1980), ‘Don’t Wait on Me” (1981), “Whatever” (1982), “Guilty” (1983), “Sweeter and Sweeter” (1986), “Let’s Get Started If We’re Gonna Break My Heart” (1988). Harold’s comedic alter ego led parody group, Lester “Roadhog” Moran & Cadillac Cowboys. Statlers discovered by Cash & performed in his roadshow 1964-71 also on Cash network TV series 1969-71. Group recorded 50+ albums, garnering 13 Gold & 8 Platinum. Statlers placed 66 titles on charts, 33 Top 10 hits. Hosted huge “Happy Birthday U.S.A.” July 4th celebrations in Staunton, Virginia hometown 1970-95. Act retired 2002. Don & Harold Reid co-authored history of group Random Memories (2008).

ERNIE HARRIS, 67, died April 24.
Music Row session drummer. Formerly in 1970s Nashville frat-party show band Glory.

THOM KING, 65, died April 24.
Nashville journalist, photographer, video maker, publishing entrepreneur, music maven. In mid-1970s opened one of first recording studios in Franklin, Tennessee. In 1977-80 launched Take One, Nashville’s first alternative magazine, next The Metro paper. Writer for Nashville Scene. Wrote or co-wrote 53 books including Danny Davis memoir Guess Who I Met Today. Independent filmmaker. Music videos for Amy Grant, Morgan Heritage, others.

RICHARD PRYOR, 57, died April 24.
Drummer for Drivin’ N Cryin, Concrete Blonde who relocated to Nashville and drummed for Willie Heath Neal, Lillie Mae, Travis Stephens, Kenneth Brian, Ether Dogs, Brian N. Hooks, Floyd the Barber, Escape Goats, Uncle Slim, Shadow 15, Peace Cry both live and on records.

JIM LUSK, 80, died April 25.
Indie country artist, songwriter, publisher with 2011 CD Rockin’ Away the Blues as Jim Lusk & Counterfeit Cowboys. Co-wrote “It Started All Over Again” (Vern Gosdin, David Houston 1978), “I Can Almost Touch the Feelin’” (LeGardes 1979), “I Remember” (Four Guys theme song). Songs also recorded by Dorsey Burnette, R.W. Blackwood, Jay Lee Webb, Gary S. Paxton. Atlanta Country Music Hall of Fame 2009.

CADY GROVES, 30, died May 2.
Nashville pop and country artist with EPs A Month of Sundays (2009), The Life of a Pirate (2010), This Little Girl (2012), Dreams (2015). Singles “This Little Girl,” “We’re the Shit,” “Love Actually,” “Forget You,” “Crying Game,” “Oil and Water,” “Dreams.” Signed to RCA, Vel, Thirty Tigers.

Known as “Suzabelle,” the hoop-skirted Southern greeter at Opryland USA. Preserver/restorer of historic properties—The Lotz House (Franklin), Moreland Plantation (Brentwood), Longview Mansion (Caldwell Lane, Nashville), Clover Bottom (Donelson), Belmont Mansion (Nashville). Antique appraiser known as “The One-Woman Road Show.”

BENNY GARCIA, 64, died May 7.
Vince Gill’s guitar tech and best friend for 30 years. Also worked with The Chicks, Reba, Yearwood, Mary Chapin-Carpenter, CSN.

LITTLE RICHARD, 87, died May 9.
Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member who began and ended career in Music City. Rose to local fame in Macon, Gearogia early 1950s, then thrived in clubs of North Nashville, which became his second home. Summoned from club in Fayetteville, Tennessee to record for Specialty Records in New Orleans. Resulting “Tutti Frutti” launched to stardom by Nashville’s 50,000-watt WLAC 1955. “Long Tall Sally,” “Slippin’ and Slidin,’” “Rip It Up,” “Ready Teddy” ensued in 1956. By 1957, starred on national & international rock ‘n’ roll tours and appeared in early rock films The Girl Can’t Help It, Don’t Knock the Rock, Mister Rock ‘n’ Roll. Hits “Lucille,” “Send Me Some Lovin,’” “The Girl Can’t Help It,” “Jenny, Jenny,” “Keep a Knockin,’”” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” “Oooh My Soul” 1957-58. Charismatic showmanship with frenetic piano pounding, hoarsely shouted vocals, onstage prancing, flashy costuming, wild gyrations, bug-eyed facial contortions, ebullient outbursts. Pioneered male rock stars wearing mascara & heavy makeup, exhibiting fluid sexuality. Also one of early rockers who broke down barriers attracting both black & white people to shows. Nashville’s Pat Boone infamously toned down Richard’s outrageous personality on cover of “Tutti Frutti.” But other Nashville-related artists saluted him—Elvis, Everlys, Bill Haley, Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee. Recorded gospel LP 1958. Returned to rock via 1964 comeback “Bama Lama Bama Loo.” Worked in Nashville with Jimi Hendrix & hired him for his band The Upsetters 1964-65. “Greenwood Mississippi” 1970 single made some regional country charts. Returned to Music City to re-record hits for K-Tel Records 1976. Gospel LP God’s Beautiful City recorded in Nashville 1979. Rock superstars cited Little Richard as influence—Beatles, Stones, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Prince, Stevie Wonder, Otis, Bowie, Dylan, Fogerty, plus piano-playing showman Elton, Milsap, Billy Joel, Ray Charles, Michael McDonald, Billy Preston, Leon Russell. Autobiography 1984. Reemerged on charts 1986 with “Great Gosh A-Mighty” from movie Down & Out in Beverly Hills, which featured him, as did TV series Full House, Columbo, Miami Vice, Baywatch, etc. Inaugural inductee into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 1986. Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame 1990. Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award 1993. “Long Tall Sally,” “Tutti Frutti,” “Lucille” & 1957 debut LP Here’s Little Richard all in Grammy Hall of Fame. Reconnected with Nashville 1994 by recording “Somethin’ Else” with Tanya on all-star CD Rhythm, Country & Blues. Performed it on CMA Awards. Moved to Nashville area c.2005, resided in downtown Hilton & in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Inducted into Songwriters Hall of Fame 2003. Star on Music City Walk of Fame 2008. Also saluted in Nashville by National Museum of African American Music 2015 & via Tennessee Governor’s Arts Award. 2019. (Birth name: Richard Penniman).

FUZZY OWEN, 91, died May 11.
Bakersfield Sound entrepreneur. Originated “A Dear John Letter” as 1952 duet with Bonnie Owens. Took co-writer credit, published & played steel on cover version by Ferlin Husky & Jean Shepard, which became first Bakersfield national hit 1953. Co-founded city’s first recording studio, cutting Buck Owens “Hot Dog” (as “Corky Jones”), Wally Lewis “Kathleen.” Formed Tally Records with cousin Lewis Talley. Label launched Merle Haggard, whom Owen managed throughout the rest of his life. Tally Records had original 1966 version of “Apartment No. 9” by Bobby Austin (written by Owen/Austin/Johnny Paycheck), a major hit for Wynette 1967. Label also recorded solo singles by Bonnie Owens, plus Harlan Howard, Cousin Herb Henson, Cliff Crofford, Bill Carter, George Rich, Abe Mulkey, etc. Owen also wrote 1959 Ray Price hit “The Same Old Me.” Steel guitarist at Blackboard & Lucky Spot Bakersfield venues & on TV show Trading Post. (real name: Charles Owen).

FAITH BAILEY MORFORD, 81, died May 13.
Formerly “Miss Mary” on Nashville children’s TV show Romper Room in 1960s.

DICK THRALL, 90, died May 14.
Formerly Snr. VP of Operations at TV syndicator Multimedia Entertainment, Inc. in Nashville. Distributed several syndicated country series. Also worked at broadcast TV stations in Pittsburgh, Columbus, Cincinnati. Longtime Emmy Awards chair for the Television Academy. (full name: Richard C. Thrall Jr.)

CY SCARBOROUGH, 93, died May 19.
Founder of The Bar D Wranglers, the cowboy band at the Bar D Chuckwagon Supper attraction near Durango, Colardo since 1969. Group recorded songs with Charlie Daniels and made guest appearances on the Opry. Began career in 1953 entertaining at the similar Flying W Ranch in Colorado Springs.

BUD SOESBEE JR., 82, died May 20.
Banjo maker who created instruments for David Holt, Marc Pruett, others. Also an Appalachian banjo player and banjo historian.

TONY de BOER, 81, died May 20.
Regarded as the “Grandfather of Canadian Bluegrass.” Promoter who launched festivals and tours in Ontario. Founded River Valley Music Park 1984, began River Valley Bluegrass Jamboree 1985, started Country & Bluegrass Gathering 1988. Park continues as major bluegrass destination today.

STAN BYRD, 77, died May 23.
Veteran country record promoter & Music Row businessman. CBS Records 1970-76 (George Jones, Marty, Tammy, Cash, Ray Price, Lynn Anderson, Joe Stampley, Charlie Rich, Tanya, Gatlin, Coe etc.). National director of country promotion at Warners 1976-83 (Emmylou, Margo Smith, John Anderson, T.G., Frizzell & West, Hank Jr., Gail Davies, Bellamys etc.). Own firm Chart Attack 1984-97 (promoting B.J. Thomas, Ricky Van, Diffie, Earl Thomas, etc.). Promotion VP Asylum 1997-2001 (Bryan White, Kevin Sharp, George Jones, Lila McCann, Mark Nesler, Monte Warden etc.). Also real-estate entrepreneur with Music Row properties. Owner BDM Management (Mark Chesnutt). Formerly regional promo for Capitol in Houston.

BUCKY BAXTER, 65, died May 25.
Longtime steel guitarist for Bob Dylan. Founding member of Steve Earle’s band The Dukes, on LPs Guitar Town (1986), Exit 0 (1987), Copperhead Road (1988), The Hard Way (1989). Also backed R.E.M., Suzy Bogguss, Sara Evans. With Dylan 1992-99 on road & many albums, including Grammy winner Time Out of Mind (1997). Resumed session work via Los Lobos, Ben Folds, Joe Henry, Webb Wilder, Shawn Camp, Kathy Chiavola, Ryan Adams, Jim Lauderdale. Solo album Most Likely No Problem (1999). Since 2010, sessions with Will Hoge, Billy Ray, Greta Gaines, Old Crow, Kacey Musgraves, others. Father of singer-songwriter Rayland Baxter. Played on his albums Imaginary Man (2015), Wide Awake (2018).

JIMMY CAPPS, 81, died June 2.
Guitar player in Opry staff band for 60+ years, the show’s longest tenured musician. Also prolific studio musician performing on standards “He Stopped Loving Her Today,” “The Gambler,” “Stand By Your Man,” “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool,” “Elvira,” “Amarillo By Morning,” etc. Member Musicians Hall of Fame. Began career in Louvin Brothers band 1958. Former member of Ferlin Husky’s band. Studio career playing more than 500 sessions a year. Skilled on both acoustic & electric guitar, played both lead & rhythm. Known as “the master of smoothness” for making intricate picking appear effortless. Sessions in 1970s for Moe Bandy, Mickey Newbury, Freddie Hart (“Easy Lovin’”), J.J. Cale, Dolly (“My Tennessee Mountain Home”), Waylon, soundtrack of movie Nashville, Milsap (“It Was Almost Like a Song,” “Smoky Mountain Rain”), Cash, Tubb. In 1980s, Amy Grant, John Denver, Strait, Tom Jones, Reba (“How Blue”), K.D. Lang, Whites, Alan (“Here in the Real World”), Wayne Newton, Vern Gosdin, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, B.J. (“Two Car Garage”), Keith Whitley, Lacy J. Dalton, David Allan Coe, Charlie Rich. In 1990s, Lorrie Morgan, Gene Watson, Florida Boys, John Conlee, Ed Bruce, Ray Charles, Hank Locklin, Riders in the Sky, T. Graham Brown, etc.. Heard on discs by Hall of Famers George Jones, Kenny Rogers, Connie, Dottie, Conway, Loretta, Barbara, Roy Clark, Jean Shepard, Eddy Arnold, Ray Price, Porter, Pride, Faron, Oaks, Statlers, Don Gibson, Bill Anderson, Charlie McCoy. At annual NARAS Super Picker Awards in 1970s & 1980s repeatedly honored as “Most Valuable Acoustic Player.” Joined Opry band 1967, rose to become bandleader. Performed on more Opry shows than anyone in history. On 60th anniversary, rehearsal space backstage at Opry christened The Jimmy Capps Music Room. Performed in “house band” for CMA Awards for 20+ years. Regular on RFD-TV’s Larry’s Country Diner since 2009, billed as “The Sheriff.” Autobiography, The Man in Back, 2018.

BONNIE POINTER, 69, died June 8.
Member of pop vocal group Pointer Sisters. Act won country Grammy with her co-written “Fairytale” single 1974. Sister Anita later Nashville duet partner with Earl Thomas Conley. Bonnie left group for successful disco & soul solo career on Motown (1979’s “Heaven Must Have Sent You,” etc.).

GLENN RAY, 82, died June 11.
Hit country songwriter with “I Just Came Home to Count the Memories” (Bobby Wright No. 75, 1975; Cal Smith No. 15, 1977; John Anderson No. 7, 1982; Tim Barrett, 1984; Jack Scott, 2015). Also “Hold Me” (Barbara Mandrell No. 12, 1977). Others include “’Til a Better Memory Comes Along” (Shelby Lynne, 1990; Mark Chesnutt, 1993; Gene Watson, 2009) and “Yesterday Will Come Again Tonight” (Leroy Van Dyke, 1972; Loretta Lynn, 1973). (full name: Glenn Ray McGuirt)

LARRY W. JOHNSON, 69, died June 12.
Co-writer of “Don’t Take the Girl,” breakthrough No. 1 hit for Tim McGraw, sold 2 million, BMI Award. More than 50 other titles registered with BMI, including “If You Think You’re Lonely” (Ray Price, 2002).

Hank Williams Jr.’s daughter, the 27-year-old was killed in a one-car crash in Henry County, Tennessee.

Singer-songwriter, publicist, event planner who founded Nashville venue The Chapel 1991. Space used by Ben Folds, Taylor, Martina, Cash, Waylon, Sheryl, Rascal Flatts etc. as video/film location and/or backdrop for photo shoots.

RANDY FRAZIER, 60, died June 19.
Nashville singer, songwriter, musician. Began in Nashville rock band Munchkin. Bass player in McBride & The Ride (“Sacred Ground,” “Going Out of My Mind,” “Just One Night,” “Love on the Loose Heart on the Run,” “Hurry Sundown” 1992-93). Founding member Palomino Road (“Why Baby Why” 1993). Also in Sammy Kershaw’s band. Solo CCM singer-songwriter. (full name: Randall Wayne Frazier).

ABBE DeMONTBREUN-STROUD, 64, died June 19.
Longtime executive assistant to producer/label exec Jimmy Bowen. Formerly a performer.

ALAN SCHULMAN, 66, died June 24.
Grammy winning Muscle Shoals studio engineer on records by Shanandoah, Mac McMcAnally, John Prine, Ricky Skaggs, Alabama, Widespread Panic, T.G. Sheppard, Vern Gosdin, Mac Davis, Roy Orbison, Thelma Houston, others.

PETE CARR, 70, died June 27.
Musicians Hall of Fame inductee as member of Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Lead guitarist on ‘70s & ‘80s records by Bob Seger (“Main Street”), Joan Baez, Paul Simon (“Kodachrome”), Rod Stewart (“Tonight’s the Night”), Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Joe Cocker, Barbra Streisand & Barry Gibb (“Guilty”), Paul Anka, Kim Carnes, Luther Ingram (“[If Loving You Is Wrong] I Don’t Want to be Right”), Mary MacGregor “Torn Between Two Lovers”). Also backed Nashville artists Hank Jr., Becky Hobbs, Dobie Gray, Willie, Paul Davis, Billy Swan, Narvel Felts, Russell Smith, Marie Osmond. Produced Sailcat (“Motorcycle Mama”). Member LeBlanc & Carr (“Falling”) and of Boatz. Two solo albums 1975 & 1978. Previously in Hour Glass & Allman Joys 1968.

ED IRWIN, 82, died June 28.
Gospel songwriter with cuts by Speer Family, Jimmy Snow, Dignity Quartet, Chuck Wagon Gang, Imperials, Trevecca Choir, others. Also Nazarene minister.

SONNY LONAS, 81, died June 30.
Drummer for Patsy Cline, Ernest Tubb, etc. Well known to Nashvillians as member of Music Meister Band playing at Gerst Haus restaurant. (full name: Maurice Lonas)

CRAIG MARTIN, 52, died July 3.
Country singer-songwriter. Co-wrote Tim McGraw’s 1994 breakthrough No. 1 hit “Don’t Take the Girl.” Usually billed as “Craig J. Martin,” he entertained at Nashville Shores, Listening Room Café, Maxwell House Hotel, etc, & released singles “I Have a Dream,” “Let Him Walk You Home,” “I’m a Kid in Trouble.” Wrote songs for George Jones, Southern Comfort, Rod Stewart, Backstreet Boys, others. Clinton Gregory recorded several Martin songs, including music-video fan favorite “She Did.” Western Flyer hit top-40 country with his “What Will You Do with M-E” 1996. (full name: Craig Matthew Martin Sr.)

CHARLIE DANIELS, 83, died July 6.
Member Country Music Hall of Fame, Grand Ole Opry cast. Mainstay of Southern rock music, Sold more than 13 million albums, won Grammy, Dove, CMA, BMI, ACM awards. Charted more than 35 titles. Host of famed multi-act, multi-genre Volunteer Jam events. First recorded with own band The Rockets, 1959’s “Jaguar” rock instrumental. Co-wrote 1964 Elvis hit “It Hurts Me.” Moved to Nashville 1967 to works as session musician for Marty Robbins, Claude King, Johnny Cash, Pete Seeger, Leonard Cohen, Al Kooper, Ringo Starr. Famously played on Dylan Nashville LPs Nashville Skyline, New Morning, Self Portrait 1969-70. Produced Youngbloods 1969-70 LPs Elephant Mountain, Ride the Wind. Own solo disc debut with self-titled LP 1970. Formed Charlie Daniels Band & scored Top 10 1973 pop hit “Uneasy Rider.” Began Volunteer Jam 1974. Southern-rock anthems “The South’s Gonna Do It,” “Long Haired Country Boy” 1975. First top-40 country hit “Texas” 1976. Breakthrough LP Million Mile Reflections contained huge 1979 pop and country hit “The Devil Went Down to Georgia,” which won Grammy & CMA awards. Song & band featured in movie Urban Cowboy. “In America” group’s second major crossover hit 1980. “The Legend of Wooly Swamp” (1980), “Carolina” (1981), “Sweet Home Alabama” (1981) on both rock and country playlists. “Still in Saigon” (1982) band’s final big pop hit. Subsequent big country hits “American Farmer” (1985), “Still Hurtin’ Me” (1986), “Drinkin’ My Baby Goodbye” (1986), “Boogie Woogie Fiddle Country Blues” (1988), “Simple Man” (1989), “Mister DJ” (1990), “(What This World Needs Is) A Few More Rednecks” (1990), “All Night Long” (with Montgomery Gentry, 2000), “This Ain’t No Rag It’s the Flag” (2001). Nine Gold, Platinum or multi-Platinum albums; Super Hits double Platinum, Million Mile Reflection triple Platinum, A Decade of Hits quadruple Platinum. “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” CMA Single of Year 1979 & Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance by Duo or Group. Daniels also CMA Instrumentalist of the Year in 1979, while CDB won CMA Instrumental Group of the Year 1979, 1980. Philanthropist for cancer research, muscular dystrophy research, farmers aid, military causes. Founded Journey Home Project 2014 to benefit veterans. Dove Awards from GMA 1995, 1997. Won BMI Icon honor 2005, Spirit of America Free Speech Award from Americana Music Association 2006. Joined Opry cast 2008, inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame 2016. Books: The Devil Went Down to Georgia (2005), Never Look at the Empty Seats (2017), Let’s All Make the Day Count (2018).

TOMMY QUINN, 69, died July 8.
Crystal Gayle’s store manager. For 20+ years managed Crystal’s Fine Gifts & Jewelry in Belle Meade, which also sold her CDs & tour merchandise. Photographer. Art collector.

GARY WALKER, 87, died July 8.
Best known as founder of used-record & comics retail chain The Great Escape. Earlier careers as hit songwriter, recording artist, manager, publisher, record producer, song plugger, record-label executive, studio owner. Began music-biz career in Missouri by co-writing “That’s It” for Porter Wagoner 1953. Wrote Top 10 hits “Trademark” Carl Smith (1953), “According to My Heart” Jim Reeves (1956), “Repenting” by Kitty Wells (1957). Also wrote songs covered by George Morgan (“Look What Followed Me Home Tonight”), Webb Pierce (“One Week Later,” with Kitty Wells), pre-teen Brenda Lee (“Doodle Bug Rag”), others. Own singles on MGM 1957-58. Co-owned Reevis Studio, which became Fidelity Recording. Pioneered the profession of Nashville song plugger. Represented Atlanta’s Lowery Music songwriting stable including Jerry Reed, Joe South, Ray Stevens, Freddy Weller, Mac Davis. Successfully plugged songs “Misery Loves Company” (Porter Wagoner), “That’s All You Gotta Do” (Brenda Lee), “Walk On By” (Leroy VanDyke). Branched out into record production 1960s via sides for Sonny James, Bill Carlisle, Bobby Russell, Lynn Anderson, more. Founded Chart Records 1964. Roster eventually included Anderson, Johnny Bush, Billy “Crash” Craddock, Managed singer Sandy Posey with her big pop hits 1966-67 “Born a Woman,” “Single Girl,” “What a Woman in Love Won’t Do,” “I Take It Back.” Continued to work as song plugger 1970s, repping Painted Desert Music, Don Wayne. Screen Gems. Opened Great Escape 1977 on Broadway near Vanderbilt. Headquarters now on Charlotte with branches in Madison and Murfreesboro, plus Bowling Green, Kentucky and Louisville, Kentucky. Sold stores 2017 to focus on The Great Escape Music Group, including three publishing companies and Great Escape Records, which has had some success in bluegrass.

SAM HOWARD, 81, died July 10.
Owner/operator of Nashville’s Black radio stations WVOL and WQQK (“92 Q”). First African-American chairman of Nashville Chamber of Commerce. Former v.p. at Meharry, HCA. Honored with Image Award for Lifetime Achievement by Nashville NAACP.

HELEN OWEN, 68, died July 13.
Dimpled, curly-headed blonde “Little Miss Sunshine” child mascot of Sunbeam Bread. Later lead singer in local rock and country groups, notably one of Nashville’s first “all-girl” bands.

JAMIE OLDAKER, 68, died July 16.
Drummer in country-rock band The Tractors with hits ”Baby Likes to Rock It” (1994), “The Santa Claus Boogie” (1994), “The Last Time” (1997), “Shortnin’ Bread” (1998). Group’s debut CD sold a million. Regarded as a founder of “The Tulsa Sound.” Member of Oklahoma Hall of Fame. Began career in The Rogues Five with 1966 local hit “Too Good for Love.” Member of Bob Seger’s band 1971-73. In Eric Clapton’s band 1974-80, playing on hits “I Shot the Sherriff” (1974), “Wonderful Tonight” (1978),”Lay Down Sally” (1978). In rock band Frehley’s Comet 1983. Returned to Clapton 1983-86. Tulsa session musician backing Leon Russell, New Grass Revival, Bee Gees, Bellamy Brothers, Stephen Stills, Asleep at the Wheel, Freddie King, Peter Frampton, John Arthur Martinez, Phil Collins, Peter Rowan, etc. Produced all-star 2005 album Mad Dogs & Okies including Clapton, Vince Gill, J.J. Cale, Taj Mahal, Willie Nelson, Tony Joe White, Bonnie Bramlett, others.

JOHN DENNY, 79, died July 21.
Former v.p. Cedarwood Publishing. Produced artists for Cedarwood spin-off label Dollie Records, notably Carl Perkins on 1966-67 charting singles “Country Boy’s Dream” & “Shine, Shine, Shine.” Also wrote songs for Cedarwood. Formed own Denny Music Group 1965 including JED Records. Label issued singles by Kent Westbury, Bobby Sykes, Scotty Stoneman, Rusty Adams, Chris Gantry, Jimmy Smart, Max D. Barnes, Ruthie Steele, Audie Ashworth, etc. Lifetime Achievement award from R.O.P.E. (Reunion of Professional Entertainers) 2004. Son of Country Hall of Famer Jim Denny (1911-1963), brother of former music exec Bill Denny.

BOBBY JONZ, 84, died July 21.
Soul & blues artist who recorded his Bobby Jonz Sings Country LP in 1998. A victim of the coronavirus pandemic. (real name: Bob Willy Jones).

DAN KELLY, 54, died July 22.
Fiddler who won Grand Masters Fiddling Championship in Nashville 1983 as teenager, joined Roy Acuff’s Smoky Mountain Boys. On the road with Alan, Clint, Faith, Wariner, SheDaisy, Pam Tillis, others. Later longtime entertainer at Opryland & member of popular Tennessee Mafia Jug Band.

MEMARIE, 48, died July 22.
Singer-songwriter & indie country recording artist with 2003 self-titled CD & “I Need a Change” single. Both on Cupit Records, label founded by father Jerry Cupit (1954-2014). As “Memarie Gayle” author of 2020’s Journey Back to the Soul recounting music career & ovarian cancer fight. Book included music CD. Part of “Unstoppable” women’s ministry tour 2019-20. Designer of “Fearless Memories” jewelry line. (Full name: Memarie Gayle Cupit Jobe).

ALAN ROWE, 66, died July 23.
Music director at WAKG and a MusicRow radio reporter.

CHARLES EDWARD CATHEY, 84, died July 24.
Beloved Nashville vocalist whose Ed Cathey Singers were heard by many at annual concerts. Perhaps Nashville’s most ethnically and ecumenically diverse events these benefited the homeless, released prisoners and others. Also with the Nashville Symphony Chorus.

EDWARD “FELIX” McTEIGUE, 48, died July 24.
Songwriter and record producer whose credits include Florida Georgia Line’s “Anything Goes” and Lori McKenna’s “Wreck You.”

JOHN SAXON, 83, died July 25.
Murfreesboro resident with extensive Hollywood acting credits. More than 200 roles included teen-idol films Running Wild (195), Rock Pretty Baby (1956); A-list comedies This Happy Feeling (1958), The Reluctant Debutante (1958); westerns The Unforgiven (1960), Death of a Gunfighter (1969); martial-arts flicks Enter the Dragon (1973) etc.; horror features A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) etc. Golden Globe Award as Best New Star (1958). (real name: Carmine Orrico).

THOMAS PRINCE, 67, died July 25.
Bass player for country artist Johnny Carver for 14 years.

KENNY INGRAM, 67, died July 26.
Bluegrass banjo virtuoso. Band member for Lester Flatt, Jimmy Martin, James Monroe, Rhonda Vincent, Nashville Grass, Larry Stephenson, Curly Seckler. Banjo and/or vocals on more than 200 reccordings.

BOB RICKER, 65, died July 27.
Multi-instrumentalist, producer, founder of Ricker Music Group & Waltzing Bear Productions.

BILL MACK, 91, died July 31.
Grammy winning songwriter & legendary deejay. Elected to Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame 1982, Texas Music Hall of Fame 1995, Texas Country Music Hall of Fame 1999. Famed for all-night broadcasts from Ft. Worth, Texas over WBAP Bill Mack Trucking Show 1969-2001. Singer-songwriter on Imperial, Starday, United Artists, Hickory, MGM, Phillips, others, Starday rockabilly classics “Kitty Cat” and “The Cat Just Got Into Town.” Regional hit “Ladonna” on Hickory. Successful songwriter with “Drinking Champagne” for Cal Smith 1968 & George Strait 1990. Also wrote “Blue” recorded by LeAnn Rimes 1996 which won Best Country Song Grammy Award, ACM Song of the Year. His gospel tune “Clinging to a Saving Hand” recorded by Rimes, Connie, Conway, Bill Monroe, Chuck Wagon Gang, George Hamilton IV, John Conlee, Dale Ann Bradley, etc. Songs also recorded by George Jones, Ray Price, Jerry Lee, Dean Martin, Waylon, Boxcar Willie, Hank Thompson, Don Gibson, Jim Ed, Cash and more. Trucking show continued on Sirius/XM 2001-2011. Also hosted nationally syndicated Country Crossroads gospel show and Overtime Top Ten Countdown show. TV emcee of The Buck Owens Show, The Bob Wills Show, Cowtown Jambore and cable series Country Crossroads. Autobiography Spins and Needles 1971. A victim of the coronavirus pandemic. (full name: Bill Mack Smith Jr.)

COLLIER ROBERT WOODS JR., 64, died Aug. 1.
Murfreesboro native and U.T. Speech/Theater grad who became a top lighting designer & stage technician. Designed for Dance Theatre of Harlem, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, national tour of The Color Purple, Gil Scott-Heron, Branford Marsalis, Bruce Springsteen, Albert King, Pennsylvania Opera Theater, Seattle Repertory Theater plus Broadway tours of Phantom of the Opera, Showboat, Hairspray, West Side Story, Anything Goes, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, The Full Monty, Spring Awakening, etc.

HAROLD MITCHELL, 82, died Aug. 5.
Country radio personality. Master of ceremonies for 44 years at Galax Old Time Fiddlers Convention. Stints at WHHV Hillsdale, Virginia; WBOB Galax, Virginia; WZYD Dobson, North Carolina; WMEV Marion, Virginia; WBRF Galax, Virginia; WYVE Wytheville, Virginia.

WAYNE CHANDLER, 54, died Aug. 7.
Gaylord Entertainment Director of Sales. Formerly in Pigeon Forge hospitality industry, at Opryland Hotel and with Kitty Wells organization. Also formerly co-owner of Nashville Nightlife Dinner Theater.

TOM ANNASTAS, 67, died Aug. 13.
Former BMI Vice President, General Licensing. Board member T.J. Martell Foundation. Leadership Music class 2008.

HERRIETTE DEW, died Aug. 16.
Accounting manager of the Americana Music Association. Mother of Americana festival producer and marketing manager Sarah Comardelle.

STEVE GULLEY, 57, died Aug. 18.
Award-winning bluegrass guitarist, songwriter, tenor vocalist. Noted for his work at Kentucky’s Renfro Valley Barn Dance and in groups Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Mountain Heart, Grasstowne and own band Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle, Formed last named in 2014.
Group’s CD Aim High led to 2016 IBMA nomination as Emerging Artist of the Year. Other albums included Time Won’t Wait, Steve Gulley & New Pinnacle, High Peaks and New Ground, Family, Friends & Fellowship. Songs recorded by Kenny & Amanda Smith, Blue Highway, Doyle Lawson, others. His “Through the Window of a Train” named IBMA Song of the Year 2008. Appeared more than 90 times on Grand Ole Opry. Worked as DJ on WDVX in Knoxville. Co-owner of Curve recording studio in East Tennessee.

EDDIE HOOVER, 84, died Aug. 20.
Georgia Country Music Hall of Fame member. Fiddler & luthier who toured with bluegrass bands then had career building and repairing guitars, fiddles and cellos for clients of Randy Wood Guitars.

BUDDY KING, 79, died Aug. 21.
Country disc jockey, program director and longtime record promoter. Worked with indie hit maker C.J. Solar, plus Bobby Wills, Rachael Turner, others. Unique character did not own a computer or a cell phone, but worked “old school” with pen, paper and a home phone.

PANDORA DENNY, 74, died Aug. 23.
Administrative assistant at Denny Music Publishing. Owned by husband John Denny, who died one month earlier.

JUSTIN TOWNES EARLE, 38, died Aug. 23.
Singer-songwriter with eight albums and awards from Americana Music Association. Debut EP Yuma 2007. Full length album debut The Good Life 2008. Second CD 2009’s Midnight at the Movies, led to his being named Emerging Artist of the Year at the 2010 Americana Music Awards & nomination for AMA Album of the Year. Title tune of Harlem River Blues 2010 CD named Song of the Year at AMA’s 2011 awards show. Performed on Late Night with David Letterman, Bonnaroo, MerleFest, Grand Ole Opry. Produced Wanda Jackson 2012 album Unfinished Business and sang with her on it. Own disc output continued with 2012’s Nothing’s Gonna Change the Way You Feel About Me Now, 2014’s Single Mothers, 2015’s Absent Fathers, 2017’s Kids in the Street, 2019’s The Saint of Lost Causes. Son of Steve Earle.

MERCER TRAPP, 82, died Aug. 31.
Stage and TV actor, notably on TNN’s I-40 Paradise series and with Tennessee Rep in Hot L. Baltimore. Also formerly a secretary at the CMA.

BILL PURSELL, 94, died Sept. 3.
Belmont University professor known Music Row sessions, pop instrumental hits and classical works as pianist/composer. Studied at Peabody Conservatory, Eastman School of Music. Toured as R&B and jazz musician 1950s. Arrived Nashville 1960. Became studio sideman as keyboardist on records by Cash, Patsy, Jim Reeves, Dylan, Willie, Atkins, Joan Baez, Robbins, Fogelberg, Paycheck, etc. Easy-listening piano piece “Our Winter Love” a hit 1963. LPs for Columbia 1963’s Bill Pursell, 1964’s Chasing a Dream, 1965’s A Remembered Love. Then Bill Pursell at the Piano: The “In” Sound of Country and Western Music for Spar Records. Regular soloist with Nashville Symphony. Composed piano sonatas, overtures, symphonies, preludes, concertos, tone poems, opera, plus theme music for Six Flags Over Georgia, Cypress Gardens, Circus World, as well as ad jingles and incidental music for film & TV. Work as an arranger led to Grammy nominations 1974, 1978. Reemerged on disc with 1976 pop LP Bill Pursell and The Nashville Sweat Band and its British disco hit “Now.” Joined Belmont faculty 1980. Students included Paisley, Yearwood. Belmont premiered his opera, Crooked River City 2016. Biography Crooked River City: The Musical Life of Nashville’s William Pursell 2018. Death due to COVID-19-related pneumonia.

LUCILLE STARR, 82, died Sept. 4.
First female Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame inductee. Rockabilly pioneer with ex husband Bob Regan billed as “The Canadian Sweethearts.” In addition to rockabilly classics like “Eenie Meenie Miney Mo,” duo’s Canadian hits included “Hootenanny Express,” “Freight Train,” “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes,” “I’m Leaving It All Up to You,” “Looking Back to See,” “Don’t Knock on My Door,” “Let’s Wait a Little Longer,” “Dream Baby.” Yodeling singing voice of “Cousin Pearl Bodine” character on top-rated network comedy The Beverly Hillbillies in 1962-63. International pop hit with bi-lingual “The French Song” 1964. Originated country standard “Too Far Gone” 1967. Solo Canadian hits with “Crazy Arms,” “Is It Love?” “Cajun Love,” “Bonjour Tristesse,” “Send Me No Roses,” “Yours,” “Colinda,” “Jolie Jacqueline,” “Here Come More Roses,” “The First Time I’ve Been in Love,” “Back to You.” Gold and Platinum record awards in Canada, Holland and South Africa. Also tours and hits in Belgium, England, Mexico, Guam, Philippines, Japan, Korea, China.

BARRY SCOTT, 65, died Sept. 10.
Actor, director, writer, producer and voice-over artist. Noted for his annual recitations at Nashville’s “Let Freedom Sing” Fourth of July celebrations. Founder and artistic director of the American Negro Playwright Theatre at TSU. Signature voice-over work for the NBA, ESPN and TNA Wrestling. Many commercials and PSAs, including Discovery Channel, ABC, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Burger King, CBS, SPIKE-TV, McDonald’s, American Heart Association, NBC, Disney. Nashville Repertory Theater stage roles in Othello, Macbeth, Taming of the Shrew, Camelot, Man of La Mancha, Jesus Christ Superstar, Prates of Penzance, Evita, Ain’t Misbehavin,’ Big River, The Piano Lesson, Blood Knot, etc. TV parts on In the Heat of the Night, I’ll Fly Away, etc.

TROY JONES, 64, died Sept. 11
Songwriter, was known for penning songs including Billy Currington’s “People Are Crazy” and “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer.”

FREEMAN RAMSEY JR., 76, died Sept. 12.
Former Tennessean newspaper photographer with much Nashville concert documentation.

ELLEN REEVES, 87, died Sept. 15.
Country-music lyricist. Co-wrote with husband Del Reeves (1932-2007). BMI Award for “Sing a Little Song of Heartache” (Rose Maddox, 1962). Del Reeves singles “This Must Be the Bottom” (1966), “The Only Girl I Can’t Forget” (1963). Songs also cut by Loretta, Conway, Tubb, Carl Smith, etc.

DOAK SNEAD, 70, died Sept. 16.
Texas singer-songwriter a favorite at The Armadillo in Austin and Kerrville Folk Festival. Albums Think of Me Sometimes (1977), Powderhorn (1978). Moved to Nasvhille 1989. Hosted songwriter nights at Douglas Corner, Bluebird, billed as “Writer’s Wrodeo.” Signed to Starstruck as writer 1993. Cuts with Lari White (“John Wayne Walking Away”), Avalon (“Only For the Weak”), Mark W. Winchester, Lanie Marsh, Lisa Daggs, Jamie Slocum, etc. Further solo albums Inside, After 33 1/3 Years, Catalogue, A Welcome Affair in 2000-18. Widower of recording artist Kellee Sallee-Snead (Roses and Tumbleweeds).

ROY HEAD, 79, died Sept. 21.
Country-rocker best known for 1965 pop hit “Treat Her Right.” Wild, gymnastic showman. Between 1974 & 1986 placed 24 singles on country charts. “Most Wanted Woman in Town,” “Come to Me,” “Now You See ‘Em Now You Don’t” top-20 hits. Country versions of Rod Stewart’s “Tonight’s the Night” (1978), Loggins & Messina’s “Your Mama Don’t Dance” (1983). Self-penned “Treat Her Right” became big country hit for Barbara Mandrell 1971. Also covered by Jerry Lee, Billy “Crash” Craddock, Springsteen, Bon Jovi, Mae West, Robert Plant, Tom Jones, Otis, Thorogood, Box Tops, Doug Sahm, Sandy Nelson, Joe Stampley, Los Straighjackets, etc. Father of country singer Sundance Head, who won on TV’s The Voice 2016.

BONNIE LOU MOORE, 93, died Sept. 21.
Longtime country guitarist-singer with husband Buster Moore (1919-1996) in duo Bonnie Lou & Buster, formed 1945. Stints at WRVA’s Old Dominion Barn Dance & WCYB’s Farm & Home Time in Virginia. Also KWKH’s Louisiana Hayride, WNOX Knoxville, WWNC Asheville, WPTF Raleigh, WROL Knoxville. Appearances on Opry, Renfro Valley, etc. TV stars on WJHL-TV in Johnson City, TN 1953-1985. Featured entertainers at Smokey Mountain Hayride in Pigeon Forge, TN 1972-1995. Recoded for Mercury 1949, Waterfall 1960s, & other labels. (real name: Margaret Louise Bell Moore).

W.S. “FLUKE” HOLLAND, 85, died Sept. 23.
Rockabilly Hall of Fame member. Drummer in Johnny Cash band The Tennessee Three 1960-1979 on the road and on hit records. Sometimes called the most important drummer in country history. Also on records by Dylan, Dale Watson, Waylon, Johnny Western, Marty Stuart, Johnny Horton, Steve Goodman, George Jones.

BILL McEUEN, 79. Died Sept. 24.
Record, film & TV producer. Best known as producer/mastermind behind Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s landmark 1971 album Will the Circle Be Unbroken. Also produced Dirt Band’s 1970 hit “Mr. Bojangles” and group’s other early recordings. Managed group and arranged for it to become first American band to tour Soviet Union (1977). Other clients included Pee Wee Herman, Steve Martin, LeRoux, Robert Shimmel, Sunshine Company, John McEuen, Hourglass. Produced four comedy albums for Martin, selling an estimated 10 million units. Also produced comedian’s million-selling 1978 hit single “King Tut,” as well as movies The Jerk, Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, The Man With Two Brains, The Lonely Guy, etc. Also produced films Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, Big Top Pee Wee, Cold Dog Soup, The Big Picture, plus a number of TV specials. Owned Aspen Recording Society studio. Brother of John McEuen.

MAC DAVIS, 78, died Sept. 29.
Country and pop songwriter, recording artist, film actor, Vegas headliner, Broadway musical star, television personality, music publisher. Wrote “In the Ghetto,” “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me,” “Stop and Smell the Roses,” “A Little Less Conversation,” “I Believe in Music,” “Something’s Burning,” “It’s Hard to Be Humble,” more. Issued 20 albums, charted 40+ singles, five Gold Records & two Platinum. Into national Songwriters Hall of Fame 2006. Previously in Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (2000), star on Hollywood Walk of Fame (1998). Also in Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, Georgia Music Hall of Fame & BMI Icon honoree. Worked for Vee Jay, Liberty labels & as songwriter for Nancy Sinatra publishing. Early songs in L.A. recorded by Sinatra, Glen Campbell, Lou Rawls, Sam the Sham & The Pharaohs, etc. Elvis recorded his “A Little Less Conversation,” “Memories,” “In the Ghetto,” “Don’t Cry Daddy” 1968-70. O.C. Smith Top 10 R&B hit with Davis song “Daddy’s Little Man” 1969. In 1970-71, Campbell hit with “Everything a Man Could Ever Need,” Kenny Rogers hit with “Something’s Burning,” Bobby Goldsboro hit with “Watching Scotty Grow.” Songs also recorded by Cash, Conway, Tammy, Merle, Andy Williams, Tom Jones, Bobby Blue Bland etc. Davis signed with Columbia 1970 & scored Grammy-nominated 1972 No. 1 pop hit “Baby Don’t Get Hooked on Me.” Gallery hit with his “I Believe in Music” 1972. In country 1972, Campbell hit with “Oklahoma Sunday Morning” & Ray Price hit with “Lonesomest Lonesome,” Davis next pop hits 1974-75 “One Hell of a Woman,” “Stop and Smell the Roses,” “Rock N Roll (I Gave You the Best Years of My Life).” Own NBC-TV variety series 1974-76. Numerous TV specials thereafter. ACM Entertainer of Year 1974. Starred in movies North Dallas Forty (1979), Cheaper to Keep Her (1981), The Sting II (1983). More than a dozen TV movies. Guest-starred on TV’s Murder She Wrote, Muppets, Lois & Clark: New Adventures of Superman, The Client, Webster, Oswald (voice over) Johnny Bravo, King of the Hill (voice over), Rodney, Freaks and Geeks, Fargo. First top-20 country hit as artist “Forever Lovers” 1976. Signed with Casablanca 1979, leading to hits “It’s Hard to Be Humble” (1980), “Let’s Keeo It That Way” (1980), “Texas in My Rear View Mirror” (1980), “Hooked on Music” (1981), “You’re My Bestest Friend” (1982), “I Never Made Love ” (1985). Co-hosted CMA Awards Show 1980, 1981, 1982. Co-wrote 1990 hit “White Limozeen” with Dolly, plus other Dolly songs. Other co-writers Doc Severinsen, Billy Strange, Mark James, Delaney Bramlett, Shel Silverstein (“Tequila Sheila” by Bobby Bare 1980), etc. In 1992-91, Davis starred on Broadway in The Will Rogers Follies. Co-wrote Weezer’s “Time Flies” (2010), Avicii’s “Addicted to You” (2013) Bruno Mars’ “Young Girls” (2016).

PHYLLIS UNGER HILLER, 93, died Oct. 1.
Nashville songwriter, schoolteacher, pianist, therapist. Cuts by Kiki Dee (“Lucky High Heels”), Arthur Prysock (“Funny World”). Wrote popular 1971 children’s musical Ramo the Elephant. One-woman show My Name Is Fibby.

RICK DURRETT, 75, died Oct. 6.
Keyboardist for Crystal Gayle (When I Dream 1978), James Talley (Got No Bread 1975, Tryin’ Like the Devil 1976, Blackjack Chain 1977), Johnny Rodriguez, Michael Brown, Davis Daniel (Fighting Fire with Fire 1991), Odetta, Greg Shires, Mason Proffit (Wanted 1969), Billy Stone, etc. Previously in rock bands Coven, Pacific Gas & Electric, Yancey Street Band, others. Produced Rosemarie (DeHerrera) in 2017. Local performances at “Play it Again Jam,” “Recovery Fest,” 2011-13.

RAY PENNINGTON, 86, died Oct. 7.
Country songwriter, producer, label exec, singer. Wrote Waylon Jennings “I’m a Ramblin’ Man” (1974), Ricky Skaggs “Don’t Cheat in Our Home Town” (1984), Roy Drusky “Three Hearts in a Tangle” (1961), Billy Walker “Don’t Stop in My World” (1976), more. Kenny Price back-to-back Top 10 hits 1966-67 with Pennington songs “Walking on New Grass,” “Happy Tracks.” Songs also recorded by Browns, Grandpa, Ferlin, George Morgan, Jean Shepard, Mel Tillis, Wagoner, Eric Church, Leona Williams, James Brown, Johnny Bush, Montgomery Gentry, Paycheck, Wanda, Wilburns, Lorrie Morgan, Etta James, Jim & Jesse, Dave Dudley, Jack Greene, others. Pennington recording artist on King, Capitol, Monument, MRC, Step One labels. Co-founded Step One Records 1984. Produced 12 Ray Price charted singles on label, plus Gene Watson LPs Uncharted Mind (1993), The Good Ole Days (1996), Jesus Is All I Need (1997), A Way to Survive (1997). Also produced Clinton Gregory hits “(If it Weren’t for Country Music) I’d Go Crazy” (1991), “Play Ruby Play” (1992). Others on Step One roster Faron, Charlie McCoy, Western Flyer, Kendalls, Kitty, Cal Smith, Celinda Pink, Terry McMillan, Hank Thompson, Geezinslaws, Curtis Potter, etc. Formed Swing Shift Band with steel guitarist Buddy Emmons. Its Step One LPs Swingin’ (1984), In the Mood for Swingin’ (1986), Swing & Other Things (1988), Swingin’ Our Way (1990) Swingin’ By Request (1992), It’s All In the Swing (1995), Goin’ Out Swingin’ (1997).

KATHY SMARDAK, 60, died Oct. 11.
Co-founder in 1997 of Nashville independent concert-promotion business Outback Concerts with husband Mike Smardak.

Gospel singer in quartets, with evangelists Pat Robertson & Billy Graham, solo show on KTIS in Minneapolis, produced “Two Rivers Baptist Church Hour” in Nashville.

JAMES A. LEWIS, 75, died Oct. 13.
Known as “Jukebox Jimmy,” an entrepreneur in coin-operated amusement business. Founded restaurants Bound’ry and South Street. Developed Young Executive Building with Faron Young.

JOE MEADOR, 73, died Oct. 21.
Nashville music entrepreneur in management, songwriting, film making, concert promotion, publishing. Managed Ronnie McDowell for 25 years. Co-wrote McDowell’s singles “All Tied Up” (No. 6 1986), “Lovin’ That Crazy Feelin’” (1987), “I’m Still Missing You” (1988), “Never Too Old to Rock & Roll” (1989). Songs also recoded by Ricky Godfrey, George Strait, Sugarbees, Jeff Hunt. Business partner with Buddy Killen in Killen Entertainment Group managing McDowell, Six Shooter. Later CEO of Grand Entertainment Group & three publishing companies. Co-produced 2007 movie Dixie Rose. Co-authored 2009 book The Genuine Elvis: Photos and Untold Stories. Formerly in Nashville rock band Glass Hammer, co-owned Sumner County Music Center, worked at Hewgley’s Music Shop.

BRYAN WAYNE, 53, died Oct. 22.
Hit country songwriter via Chris Cagle’s “Country By the Grace of God” (2002) and Tommy Shane Steiner’s “What If She’s an Angel” (2002). Cuts by Big & Rich, Emerson Drive, Clay Walker, Jason Blaine, John Rich, Rodney Carrington, others. Solo CD While You Wait in 2018 with guests Shannon Lawson, Joana Janet, James Otto, Big Kenny. Convinced major-league baseball to honor National Lou Gehrig Day for ALS awareness. (full name: Bryan Wayne Galentine).

JERRY JEFF WALKER, 78, died Oct. 23.
Texas music legend with 40+ albums. Co-founder of Austin’s “progressive country” scene. Host TNN series The Texas Connection (1991-92). Writer of standard “Mr. Bojangles” (1968) covered by hundreds including Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (1970, in Grammy Hall of Fame), Belafonte, Nina Simone, John Denver, Neil Diamond, Dylan, Frankie Laine, Paycheck, Bobbie Gentry, Tom T., Nilsson, Sammi Smith, Nancy Wilson, David Bromberg, Sammy Davis Jr. etc. Co-wrote Lefty Frizzell’s “Railroad Lady” (1974) with Jimmy Buffett. Other songs included “Sangria Wine,” “Gettin’ By,” “Gypsy Songman,” “Hairy Ass Hillbillies,” “Pissin’ in the Wind,” “Hill Country Rain,” “Leavin’ Texas,” “Nolan Ryan.” Song connoisseur of others’ works, popularizing such Texas classics as “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother,” “Old Five and Dimers Like Me,” “L.A. Freeway,” “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” “Mississippi You’re on My Mind,” “Pick Uo the Tempo,” “London Homesick Blues (Home with the Armadillo),” “Backsliders Wine,” “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance.” Gold Record for 1972 LP Viva Terlingua. Formed own Tried and True label 1986, becoming model of do-it-yourself career control. Autobiography: Gypsy Songman: A Life in Music (1999).

J.T. CORENFLOS, 56, died Oct. 24.
Top Nashville session guitarist, backing a mulitude of stars. ACM’s 2013 Guitar Player of the Year. Multiple citations in MuscRow’s annual rankings. Solo CD 2015’s Somewhere Under the Radar.

SHAWN SCRUGGS, 37, died Oct. 25.
Lower Broadway bass player at Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Kid Rock’s Honky Tonk and other venues backing John Stone, Melanie Torres, more.

STAN KESLER, 92, died Oct. 26.
Memphis musician, songwriter, engineer, producer who was a key figure at Sun Records. Played bass, guitar, mandolin, steel guitar. On records by Jerry Lee, Orbison, Carl Perkins, Miller Sisters, etc. Member of country band Clyde Leoppard & Snearly Ranch Boys, also on Sun. Wrote Elvis songs “I Forgot to Remember to Forget,” “Playing for Keeps,” “I’m Left, You’re Right, She’s Gone,” plus Jerry Lee’s “One Minute Past Eternity,” “Sometimes a Memory Ain’t Enough.” Songs also recorded by Robbins, Cash, Prine, Wanda. Produced Sam the Sham & The Pharaoh’s “Wooly Bully” & other hits.

DEZ ZAMEK, 68, died Oct. 28.
Couturier, master tailor, costume designer for Nashville stars & society women. Wife of international music entrepreneur Paul Zamek. (full name: Desray Anne Zamek).

BILLY JOE SHAVER, 81, died Oct. 28.
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member noted for “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal,” “Ride Me Down Easy,” “Old Five and Dimers Like Me,” “You Asked Me To,” “I Couldn’t Be Me Without You.” Performer and recording artist who was a key figure in country’s “outlaw” movement. Discovered by Bobby Bare & signed to his publishing company. Championed by Waylon Jennings, who dedicated most of 1973’s Honky Tonk Heroes LP to Shaver songs. Cuts by Cash, Kristofferson, Willie (“I Been to Georgia on a Fast Train”), Elvis, Patty Loveless, George Jones, Tex Ritter, Tennessee Ernie, Bare (“Ride Me Down Easy”), Waylon (“Honky Tonk Heroes,” “Black Rose,” “You Asked Me To”), Mark Chesnutt, Jerry Lee, Confederate Railroad, BRr-49, Commander Cody, Rodriguez (“I Couldn’t Be Me Without You”), John Anderson (“I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal”), Stonewall Jackson, Lewis Family, Marty Stuart, Tom Jones, Widespread Panic, David Allan Coe, Tom T. (“Willy the Wandering Gypsy and Me”), Allmans, Alison Krauss, etc. Recorded 20+ solo albums 1973-2014 for Monument, Capricorn, Columbia, New West, Compadre, Sugar Hill, others, some billed as Shaver partnered with guitar-ace son Eddy Shaver (1962-2000). Americana Music Association Lifetime Achievement award for songwriting 2002, ACM Poet’s Award 2019.

NAN KEENAN, 91, died Oct. 30.
Actor, director, teacher. Appeared and/or directed almost all productions of Murfreesboro Little Theater 1970s & 1980s. Taught speech and theater at MTSU. Moved to Franklin & acted in many Nashville theatrical productions thereafter.

TEDDY IRWIN, 77, died Nov. 5.
Guitarist, arranger, composer. Session player on hits by Randy Travis (“Old 8×10”), Buffett (“Margaritaville”), Neil Young (“Heart of Gold”). Also on records by Cash, Ray Stevens, B.J., Earl Scruggs Revue, Juice Newton, Joan Baez, John Lennon (“Happy Christmas War Is Over”), Jermaine Jackson, Neil Diamond, Richie Havens, Pat Boone, David Soul, more. Composed & produced music for soaps As the World Turns, Guiding Light, Another World. Toured with Petula Clark, Four Seasons, Bette Midler, Pozo Seco Singers, Doc Severinsen, etc. Played lead guitar in original Broadway production of Hair. Recorded 22 albums with partner CC Couch. Three solo guitar albums Music From My Guitar to You, Babies, Three Guitars-A Guitar Christmas.

JUDY KENDALL FRYE, 73, died Nov. 6.
Hostess at Grand Ole Opry for 39 years. Nashville tour guide. Dresser for Broadway shows at TPAC. Hair stylist. Supervisor at CMA Fest.

GENEVA ANN SMITH, 81, died Nov. 10.
Columbia Recording Studio employee for 12 years in the 1950s & 1960s. Later with Davidson County Registrar of Deeds office.

ANDREW WHITE III, 78, died Nov. 11.
Nashville multi-instrumentalist who became sideman for Stevie Wonder, Weather Report, Fifth Dimension, McCoy Tyner, Supremes, etc. Publisher, producer, 40+ solo albums.

DOUG SUPERNAW, 60, died Nov. 13.
Texas singer-songwriter best known for big country hits “Reno” (1993), “I Don’t Call Him Daddy” (1993) and “Not Enough Hours in the Night” (1996). Also had charted singles with Steve Goodman’s “You Never Even Call Me By My Name,” Dennis Linde’s “What’ll You Do About Me,” Jim Lauderdale/Frank Dycus’ “She Never Looks Back.” Nominated ACM 1994 New Male Artist of the Year. Also nominated for awards by TNN/Music City News, MusicRow, Billboard. Gold Record for Red and Rio Grande album 1994. Noted as colorful showman, outspoken personality. On soundtrack The Beverly Hillbillies singing Buck Owens classic “Together Again.” Collaboration with Beach Boys on 1996 novelty “Long Tall Texan.” Texas Country Music Hall of Fame inductee 2016. At CMA Music Fest & all-star Ralph Stanley tribute 2017.

WALTER C. MILLER, 94, died Nov. 13.
Produced/directed CMA Awards 1970-2004. Created multiple Cash TV specials, Opry anniversary specials, plus shows devoted to Dolly, John Denver, Acuff, Tennessee Ernie, Donny & Marie, Minnie Pearl, Mac Davis, Vince, more. Brought Perry Como & George Burns to Nashville for all-star country specials. Became the definitive director of award show/live event television genre. Wrote the book when it came to multi-camera coverage of events. In addition to country specials, directed Grammy Awards 15 times, directed Tony Awards 1987-97, also orchestrated TV coverage of Emmys, People’s Choice Awards, Comic Relief. TV career began with the birth of the medium in 1940s & 1950s: Horn & Hardart Children’s Hour, Bell Telephone Hour, Startime, Sing Along with Mitch, etc. Began directing specials 1960s: Streisand, Sinatra, Stevie Wonder, Kathie Lee Gifford, Andy Williams, Bobby Rydell, Sammy Davis Jr., Irving Berlin, Sha Na Na, Al Green, Justin Timberlake, Doug Henning, others. Particularly noted for comedy specials: Rodney Dangerfield, Steve Martin, Sam Kinison, Bill Cosby, Rich Little, Rosie O’Donnell, Alan King, Bob Hope. Directed televised musicals You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Dames at Sea, The Will Rogers Follies, George M! In 1995 created Soul Train 25th Anniversary TV celebration. In 1989 directed Presidential Inaugural Gala. Appeared in 1991 Bette Midler movie For the Boys. Nominated for 19 Emmys & won five. Three-time Directors Guild of America award winner. CMA President’s Award 2007, CMA Irving Waugh Award 2009, Grammy Trustees Award 2010. Father of TV director Paul Miller, who is also a veteran of CMA telecasts, as well as Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, A Capitol Fourth, two Super Bowl halftime shows & more.

BOB LOFLIN, 91, died Nov. 16.
WSM radio newsman & Opry announcer 1960s. Interviewer on syndicated Country Crossroads radio series 1970s. Formerly cabaret entertainer in Birmingham, TV cowboy & CBS radio announcer in Hollywood. In retirement, volunteer at Frist Museum of Art & Nashville Public Library. Volunteer of the Year 2012 Country Music Hall of Fame. (full name: Clyde Thompson Loflin Jr.)

SUSAN KEEL, 58, died Nov. 20.
Publicist whose clients included Conway Twitty, Ray Stevens, Opry Mills, Ryman Auditorium, TPAC, Tennessee Titans. Worked for CashBox, Bullet Recording Studio, Top Billing, Sen. Jim Sasser, Tennessean, Andrews Agency, Fletcher Rowley Inc., own Keel PR. Daughter of Nashville Banner editor Pinckney Keel, sister of MTSU Dean Beverly Keel (formerly a label exec, music journalist & Music Row publicist).

HAL KETCHUM, 67, died Nov. 23.
Singer-songwriter, country hit maker and Grand Ole Opry star. Seventeen charted titles in 1991-06 with nine top-20 hits—“Small Town Saturday Night” (1991), “I Know Where Love Lives” (1991), “Past the Point of Rescue” (1992), “Five O’Clock World” (1992), “Sure Love” (1992), “Mama Knows the Highway” (1993), “Hearts Are Gonna Roll” (1993), “Fall in Love Again” (1994), ”Stay Forever” (1995). Ten albums, Gold Record for 1992’s Past the Point of Rescue. CMA Horizon Award nominee.

LYNSEY McDONALD, 58, died Nov. 23.
Americana artist manager who helped guide careers of Jason & Scorchers, Todd Snider, Deanna Carter, Georgia Satellites, Robbie Fulks, Jay Joyce. Helped launch live-performance series “Music City Roots” and venue Loveless Barn. Worked at Praxis International, Vector Management, Rising Tide Records, Thirty Tigers, TomKats catering, CMT and own Magnolia Way Management firm.

MAC ALLEN, 79, died Nov. 30.
Radio vet Nashvillian with both on-air and programming credits. (full name: Joseph Mcdermott Allen)

CHARLEY PRIDE, 86, died Dec. 12.
Country Music Hall of Fame inductee, Grand Ole Opry member. CMA Entertainer of the Year 1971, Male Vocalist of the Year 1971 & 1972. Placed 67 titles on country charts, including 52 Top 10 hits & 29 No. 1’s, 12 Gold Records, 35 million sold. Classics include “Kiss an Angel Good Morning,” “All I Have to Offer You Is Me,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” “Mountain of Love” and “We Could.” Country’s first Black superstar. Following failed baseball career, turned to country music 1965. Broke through on country charts with Jack Clement compositions “Just Between You and Me” (1966) and “I Know One” (1967). Hank Williams’ “Kaw-Liga” hit in 1969, followed by Pride’s first No. 1, “All I Have to Offer You Is Me.” His 1971 “Did You Think to Pray” won gospel Grammy & “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” Grammy for Country Song of the Year. Pride’s 1972 hit “All His Children” theme song for Paul Newman movie Sometimes a Great Notion nominated for an Oscar & Pride sang it on Academy Awards. Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs won 1973 Grammy. First Black artist to co-host CMA Awards (with Glen Campbell 1975). Hits continued with “Amazing Love” (1973), “We Could” (1974), “Hope You’re Feelin’ Me (Like I’m Feelin’ You)” (1975), “My Eyes Can Only See as Far as You” (1976), “She’s Just an Old Love Turned Memory” (1977), “Someone Loves You Honey” (1978), Grammy nominated “Burgers and Fries” (1978), “Where Do I Put Her Memory” (1979). In 1980, There’s a Little Bit of Hank in Me, tribute album to Hank Williams spawned back-to-back No. 1’s “Honky Tonk Blues,” “You Win Again.” Also revived Johnny Rivers hit “Mountain of Love” (1982), George Jones hit “Why Baby Why” (1982), Webb Pierce hit “More and More” (1983). Pride 1981 hit “Roll On, Mississippi” later became a state song. Other hits included “I Don’t Think She’s in Love Anymore” (1982), “You’re So Good When You’re Bad” (1982), “Night Games” (1983), “Shouldn’t It Be Easier Than This” (1988). Formed Music Row song publishing company Pi-Gem Music with producer Tom Collins. Formed Dallas management & booking company Chardon, which helped launch careers of Dave & Sugar, Janie Fricke, Neal McCoy. Also heavily invested in Dallas real estate, banking. In 1973, joined Opry, opened own theater in Branson, published autobiography, Pride. Tritt, Diffie, Ketchum, Marty Stuart joined him on 1994 CD. In 1996, performed for Clintons in White House & accepted Trumpet Award from Turner Broadcasting. Inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame 2000. Neal McCoy 2013 tribute album Pride. Other stars who received career boosts from Pride include Milsap, Trini Triggs, Exile, Janie Fricke, Paisley, Wariner. Some recorded with Pride, as did Oaks, Tanya, Garth, Dolly. Pride included in 2016 No. 1 country single/video “Forever Country” which won Video of the Year and Gold Record. Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award & NATD Career Achievement honor 2017. PBS American Masters bio-documentary, Charley Pride: I’m Just Me, narrated by Tanya 2019. CMA’s Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award 2020. A COVID pandemic victim.

WANDA WHITE, 87, died Dec. 15.
Country & gospel singer. Notable in East Tennessee in Carlton Scruggs & The Home Folks on Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round, WNOX Tennessee Barn Dance, WSM’s Opry, Ernest Tubb Midnight Jamboree, etc. Background singer for country artists in 1940s & 1950s. Great grandmother and mentor of teen country/Americana performer EmiSunshine. (married name: Wanda White Matthews).

CARL MANN, 78, died Dec. 15.
Rockabilly star in Sun Records stable with 1958 hit “Mona Lisa,” plus “Pretend,” “South of the Border,” “Too Young” as rocked-up pop ballads. Also: “Ubangi Stomp,” “Foolish One,” “Baby I Don’t Care,” “Rockin’ Love,” “I’m Coming Home,” etc. Later a country act on Monument, ABC/Dot. Popularity endured in Europe for decades.

KIRKE MARTIN, 70, died Dec. 16.
Music Row business manager with clients including Dirt Band, Tammy, T. Graham, Keith Whitley, many CCM artists.

K.T. OSLIN, 78, died Dec. 21.
Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. Famed for country hits “80s Ladies,” “Hold Me,” “Do Ya,” “I’ll Always Come Back,” “Hey Bobby,” “This Woman,” “Come Next Monday.” Songs recorded by Dusty Springfield, Anne Murray, Gail Davies (“Round the Clock Loving”), The Judds, Pam Tillis & Lorrie Morgan, Sissy Spacek (“Lonely But Only For You”), Dottie West, Dan Seals, Dorothy Moore, Forester Sisters etc. CMA Female Vocalist of the Year 1988. First woman to win CMA Song of the Year (“80s Ladies”). First woman to become country star at age 45. Three Grammys, four ACMs, Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame. Gold/Platinum awards for ‘80s Ladies (1987), This Woman (1988), Love in a Small Town (1990), plus music-video compilation. Other albums Greatest Hits: Songs From an Aging Sex Bomb (1993), My Roots Are Showing (1996), Live Close By, Visit Often (2001), Simply (2015). Actor in TV series Evening Shade, Paradise, and films The Thing Called Love, Poisoned by Love. Favorite personality on TV shows of Carol Burnett, Johnny Carson, Joan Rivers, Oprah Winfrey, Arsenio Hall, Ralph Emery. Starred on 20/20 and own 1992 TNN special USO Celebrity Tour. Raised in Houston folk-music scene. Chorus girl in musicals Hello Dolly, West Side Story, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Darling of the Day, Promises, Promises. In addition to Broadway work, acted in TV commercials, sang ad jingles during 1970s & 1980s.

JOE JOHNSON, 93, died Dec. 22.
Label executive, record producer, song publisher. Affiliated with Columbia Records, Gene Autry, Challenge Records, 4 Star Records, Golden West Melodies, JAT Publishing, others. Produced, published and/or promoted more than 150 hits. Produced Marty Robbins, Jimmy Dickens, Jerry Wallace, etc. Behind such successes as “Tequila” by The Champs (1958), “That’s All Right” by Robbins (1955), “Just Walkin’ in the Rain” by Johnny Ray (1956), “Wishful Thinking” by Wynn Stewart (1960), “The One You Slip Around With” by Jan Howard (1960), “Travelin’ Man” by Ricky Nelson (1961), “Limbo Rock” by Chubby Checker (1962), “Lies” by The Knickerbockers (1966), “Release Me” by Englebert Humperdinck (1967), “Signs” by The Five Man Electrical Band (1971). Co-founder of the ACM. Built the Music Row office building that has housed GAC and RFD-TV.

TONY RICE, 69, died Dec. 25.
A virtuoso guitarist and bluegrass musician. Influential acoustic guitar player in bluegrass, progressive bluegrass, newgrass and acoustic jazz. He was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 2013.

Adam, Biff – 3/7
Allen, Mac – 11/30
Annastas, Tom – 8/13
Austin, Quay – 3/9
Baxter, Bucky – 5/25
Benford, Mac – 2/15
Bey, Anon – 3/1
Billingsley, Jane Dorris – 6/15
Blaydes, Keith – 2/6
Burton, Patricia Maxwell – 3/19
Byrd, Stan – 5/23
Cage, Buddy – 2/4
Capps, Jimmy – 6/2
Carr, Pete – 6/27
Cathcart, Kent – 4/7
Cathey, Charles Edward – 7/24
Chandler, Wayne – 8/7
Connor, Arthur – 4/13
Corenflos, J.T. – 10/24
Currey, Browlee – 3/18
Cymbala, Zenon B. – 3/31
Daniels, Charlie – 7/6
Darrow, Chris – 1/15
Davis, Mac – 9/29
DeBoer, Tony – 5/20
Delozier, Jimmie – 1/31
DeMontbreun-Stroud, Abbe – 6/19
Denny, John – 7/21
Denny, Pandora – 8/23
Dew, Harriet – 8/16
Diffie, Joe – 3/29
Dobkins, Carl – 4/8
Durrett, Rick – 10/6
Earle, Justin Townes – 8/23
English, Paul – 2/12
Frazier, Randy – 6/19
Freeman, Barry – 1/10
Frye, Judy Kendall – 11/6
Fryer, David Alfred – 10/11
Garcia, Benny – 5/7
Groves, Cady – 5/2
Gudis, Stephen – 1/6
Gulley, Steve – 8/18
Halterman, Joe – 2/11
Harris, Ernie – 4/24
Harvey, Alex – 4/4
Head, Roy – 9/21
Henley, Jimmy – 3/22
Hildebrand, Donald – 4/14
Hiller, Phyllis Unger – 10/1
Hludzik, Jerry – 4/12
Holland, W.S. “Fluke” – 9/23
Hoover, Eddie – 8/20.
Houston, Robb – 3/16
Howard, Jan – 3/28
Howard, Sam – 7/10
Ingram, Kenny – 7/26
Irwin, Ed – 6/28
Irwin, Teddy – 11/5
Jackson, Wade – 1/14
Jay, Jimmie – 4/6
Johnson, Joe – 12/22
Johnson, Larry – 6/12
Jones, Troy – 9/11
Jonz, Bobby – 7/21
Kaparakis, John B. – 4/12
Kayser, Hans – 3/20
Kearney, Ramsey – 3/14
Keel, Susan – 11/20
Keenan, Nan – 10/30
Kelly, Dan – 7/22
Kesler, Stan – 10/26
Ketchum, Hal – 11/23
King, Buddy – 8/21
King, Thom – 4/24
Lester, Tom – 4/20
Lewis, James A. – 10/13
Lilly, Michael – 2/12
Little Richard – 5/9
Loflin, Bob – 11/16
Lonas, Sonny – 6/30
Lunn, Eddie – 1/29
Lusk, Jim – 4/25
McDonald, Lynsey – 11/23
McEuen, Bill – 9/24
McSpadden, Gary – 4/15
McTeigue, Edward “Felix” – 7/24
Mack, Bill – 7/31
Mann, Carl – 12/15
Martel, Marty – 3/29
Martin, Craig – 7/3
Martin, Kirke – 12/16
Martin, Daniel Lee – 2/14
Meador, Joe – 10/21
Memarie – 7/22
Miller, Walter C. – 11/13
Mitchell, Harold – 8/5
Moore, Bonnie Lou – 9/21
Morford, Faith Bailey – 5/13
Oldaker, Jamie – 7/16
Olney, David – 1/18
Oslin, K.T. – 12/21
Owen, Fuzzy – 5/11
Owen, Helen – 7/13
Parker, Ira – 1/24
Pennington, Ray – 10/7
Phillips, Knox – 4/15
Pointer, Bonnie – 6/8
Powell, Tom — 1/21
Pride, Charley – 12/12
Prince, Thomas – 7/25
Prine, John – 4/7
Pryor, Richard – 4/24
Pursell, Bill – 9/3
Pyatt, Dale – 4/15
Quinn, Tommy – 7/8
Ragsdale, John – 3/25
Ramsey, Freeman – 9/12
Ray, Glenn – 6/11
Reeves, Ellen – 9/15
Reid, Harold – 4/24
Rice, Tony – 12/25
Ricker, Bob – 7/27
Roberts, H.G. – 3/22
Rogers, Kenny – 3/20
Rowe, Alan – 7/23
Saxon, John – 7/25
Scarborough, Cy – 5/19
Schulman, Alan – 6/24
Scott, Barry, 9/10
Scruggs, Shawn – 10/25
Setser, Eddie – 1/27
Shane, Bob – 1/26
Shaver, Billy Joe – 10/28
Smardak, Kathy – 10/11
Smith, Geneva Ann – 11/10
Smith, Robin – 3/13
Snead, Doak – 9/16
Soesbee, Bud – 5/20
Starr, Lucille – 9/4
Supernaw, Doug – 11/13
Thompson, Sue Armstrong – 5/4
Thrall, Dick – 5/14
Trapp, Mercer – 8/31
Walker, Gary – 7/8
Walker, Jerry Jeff – 10/23
Wayne, Bryan – 10/22
Weissberg, Eric – 3/22
White, Andrew – 11/11
White, Wanda – 12/15
Whitehouse, Dick – 1/14
Williams-Dunning, Katherine – 6/13
Williamson, Jim – 2/26
Woods, Collier Robert – 8/1
Yates, Helen Hunley Glaser – 2/3
Zamek, Dez – 10/28

Veteran Music Mogul Joe Johnson Passes

Pictured (L-R): Randy Rayburn, Joe Johnson, David Bennett at Johnson 89th birthday party.

Joe Johnson, who made his mark as label executive, record producer and the publisher of dozens of hit songs, has died at age 93.

Johnson produced, published and/or promoted more than 150 hits. He was behind such successes as “Tequila” by The Champs (1958), “Wishful Thinking” by Wynn Stewart (1960), “The One You Slip Around With” by Jan Howard (1960), “Lies” by The Knickerbockers (1966) and “Signs” by The Five Man Electrical Band (1971). He built the Music Row office building that has housed GAC and RFD-TV.

His career as a music executive touched the lives of Willie Nelson, Lorrie Morgan, Jan and Dean, Marty Robbins, Gene Autry, Ricky Nelson, Chubby Checker, Harlan Howard, Glen Campbell and dozens more.

“He was one of the last survivors of those charismatic record men who shaped this business,” said his friend and admirer Rick Sanjek. “I found his energy, demeanor and vision inspirational.”

Johnson suffered a stroke in 2018 and had been in an assisted-living facility in Hendersonville since then. He died there on Tuesday (Dec. 22).

Joe Johnson was born in 1927 in Cookeville, Tennessee. He attended Vanderbilt University law school. He went to work for Columbia Records in the early 1950s.

He was initially charged with promoting the discs of the company’s pop stars, including Tony Bennett (“Rags to Riches,” 1953), Doris Day (“Secret Love,” 1954), Frankie Laine, Johnnie Ray, Roy Hamilton, The Four Lads and Guy Mitchell.

Johnson was sent to Texas to investigate the emerging rockabilly style. He saw Elvis Presley there and urged his label to sign “The Hillbilly Cat.” Instead, he was instructed to replicate the then-unknown artist’s songs. So he took “That’s All Right” to Marty Robbins, who had a big country hit with it in 1955. Johnson also produced the 1954 Jimmy Dickens favorite “Y’All Come.”

He promoted the label’s entire country roster of that era, including Carl Smith, George Morgan, Gene Autry, Lefty Frizzell and Ray Price, as well as Robbins and Dickens. He formed a particular attachment with Autry, who hired Johnson to be the “advance man” for his road show. When Autry quit touring, he chose Johnson to run his music companies in L.A.

On an Autry recording visit to Nashville, he took the superstar to The Tennessee State Prison. They heard the incarcerated group The Prisonaires singing their composition “Just Walkin’ In the Rain.” He arranged for Autry’s Golden West Melodies to buy the publishing to “Just Walkin’ in the Rain” and then pitched the song to Columbia’s Johnnie Ray. It became a massive pop hit for the singer in 1956.

In 1957, Autry, Johnson and businessman Johnny Thompson used the profits from “Just Walkin’ in the Rain” to found Challenge Records and JAT Music. In October 1958, Autry sold his share to his two partners so that he could invest in hotel properties and the California Angels baseball team. Thompson became the Challenge general manager. Johnson handled A&R musical responsibilities.

Initially, the companies prospered thanks to Johnson publishing such tunes as “I’m Available” (Margie Rayburn, 1957) and “I’ll Be There” (Ray Price, 1957). Challenge’s first recording success was “So Tough” by the r&b vocal group The Kuf-Linx in 1958.

The backup band on that record was The Champs, who had a massive hit with “Tequila” later that year. Published by JAT, “Tequila” was at No. 1 on the pop charts for five weeks, became an international smash and won a Grammy Award. Among the future stars who performed as members of The Champs were Glen Campbell and the hit pop duo Seals & Crofts.

Produced by Joe Johnson, Jerry Wallace had a string of pop hits on Challenge. These included “Primrose Lane” (1959), “Shutters and Boards” (1962) and “In the Misty Moonlight” (1964).

In 1961, Joe Johnson bought out partner Johnny Thompson. He also bought 4 Star Records and its publishing company that year. This brought him the income from such evergreen copyrights as “Release Me,” “Lonely Street,” “Stop the World and Let Me Off,” “Hot Rod Lincoln,” “Just Out of Reach” and “Am I That Easy to Forget.” 4 Star’s recording artists had included Hank Locklin, Patsy Cline, Webb Pierce, The Maddox Brothers & Rose, Stuart Hamblen, Jimmy Dean, T. Texas Tyler and Roy Clark. So Johnson instantly had many options for repackaging.

Meanwhile, on Challenge, Jan and Dean’s “Heart and Soul” charted in 1961. The Blossoms (including Darlene Love) answered the big hit “Mother in Law” with “Son in Law” on Challenge that same year. Marty Balin, later of Jefferson Airplane, was a Challenge artist in 1962. Wayne Newton, Gene Vincent and future Monkees member Mickey Dolenz were among the other pop acts who were on Challenge Records.

Johnson acquired “Limbo Rock” as an instrumental for The Champs in 1962. Chubby Checker’s people added lyrics, and the “Twist” star scored a big hit with it later that year.

Challenge singer-songwriter Jerry Fuller provided Ricky Nelson with major hits including “Travelin’ Man” (1961), “A Wonder Like You” (1961), “Young World” (1962) and “It’s Up to You” (1963). The teen superstar also recorded 21 songs written by Challenge Records artist Baker Knight.

Golden West Melodies songwriter Dave Burgess–the leader of The Champs and the author of the Price hit “I’ll Be There ”–did his part by providing Nelson with several more successes. As a result of all these connections, Joe Johnson tried to sign Ricky Nelson to Challenge, but failed.

Johnson co-published the first 15 songs written by Harlan Howard. This led to Johnson’s re-entry into country music. He produced Wynn Stewart’s breakthrough hits on Challenge, including “Wishful Thinking” (1960) and “Big Big Love” (1962). Challenge also helped launch the careers of country artists Jeannie Seely, Jan Howard, Justin Tubb, Bobby Bare and Donna Fargo, among others.

In 1964, Joe Johnson became a co-founder of the Academy of Country Music (ACM). He also helped provide the seed money to produce the pilot of its annual awards show.

The Knickerbockers brought his label into the rock era with its Beatles-styled 1966 hit “Lies.” The following year, Johnson pitched “Release Me” to Englebert Humperdinck and reaped the benefits of a worldwide pop smash by the song. He next scored by publishing “Signs” by the Canadian group Five Man Electrical Band in 1971. It earned a Gold Record.

Joe Johnson moved back to Nashville in 1972. He got Jerry Wallace signed as a country artist to Decca and produced the star’s comeback hits, including the CMA Award nominated “To Get to You” (1972), plus “If You Leave Me Tonight I’ll Cry” (1972), “Do You Know What It’s Like to Be Lonesome” (1973) and “Don’t Give Up on Me” (1973).

Johnson reactivated 4 Star Records in 1975. He built the 4 Star Building across from the United Artists Tower on Music Row with the intention of housing the label, a song publishing company, a recording studio, a video soundstage and a manufacturing plant under one roof.

He reissued Patsy Cline’s 1959 recording of “Life’s Railway to Heaven” on 4 Star, and it made the charts in 1978. Despite this and 4 Star discs by Lorrie Morgan, The LeGarde Twins, George Morgan, Bonnie Guitar and others, Johnson was forced to sell the building and his publishing catalog in 1980.

He retained the Challenge and 4 Star recordings. He recorded Willie Nelson singing “duets” with Patsy Cline on “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “Life’s Railway to Heaven.” Johnson had Sony-ATV administer the licenses for his master recordings, since that’s where his song-publishing copyrights also reside. There have been legal entanglements over his former holdings for decades.

The 4 Star Building at 49 Music Square West has housed the offices of the GAC cable TV channel, the Bullet TV production complex and Quad Recording Studios. More recent tenants include RFD-TV, Trey Turner artist management and Hippie Radio 94.5.

Joe Johnson’s other business interests included the management company Advance Artists and a background-music production firm in partnership with the 3M Company to compete with Muzak.

An avid golfer, he launched a Nashville pro-celebrity golf tournament. Joe Johnson continued to play until age 85.

He is survived by his children Elizabeth Jane Johnson Donoho, Margaret Lane Johnson Palubicki, Joseph “Beau” Burgess Johnson and Charles Martin Johnson, plus four grandchildren. His memory is also cherished by his ex-wife, Marianne Rippey.

Funeral arrangements are being handled by Taylor Funeral Home in Dickson, Tennessee. Joe Johnson will be buried at the Burgess Family cemetery at Upper Cherry Creek Cemetery in Sparta, Tennessee.

Rockabilly Star Carl Mann Dies

Country singer Carl Mann passed away on Wednesday, Dec. 15, at age 78 in Jackson, Tennessee.

He burst on the recording scene in 1959 with his galloping rockabilly reworking of the 1950 Nat King Cole pop hit “Mona Lisa.” He followed it with similar uptempo treatments of Cole’s ballads “Pretend” and “Too Young,” as well as Gene Autry’s 1939 tune “South of the Border.”

Mann was one of the last artists that Sam Phillips introduced to the world from his Sun Records empire in Memphis. Carl Mann came along in the wake of such Sun legends as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Charlie Rich as Phillips’ protégées.

Like Rich, he recorded for Philips International Records, a Sun subsidiary. Former Sun signee Conway Twitty copied Carl Mann’s version of “Mona Lisa” and also scored a 1959 hit with it (for MGM Records).

Carl Mann was a native of Huntingdon, Tennessee and was a prodigy appearing on the radio on nearby WDXI in Jackson, Tennessee at age 10. Inspired by the sounds of Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry, the singer, guitarist and pianist had his own band at age 12 and first recorded at age 14.

His 1957 single for Jaxon Records was the teen-themed “Gonna Rock and Roll Tonight.” At age 17, he wrangled an audition with Sun’s Jack Clement, which led to the recording of “Mona Lisa.” Much of his subsequent youthful output was in a similar vein. Mann rocked-up “Some Enchanted Evening,” “The Wayward Wind,” “Blueberry Hill,” “Mexicali Rose” and “Don’t Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes.”

Rockabilly fans also revere his versions of “Ubangi Stomp,” “Foolish One,” “Baby I Don’t Care,” “Kansas City,” “Rockin’ Love” and “I’m Coming Home.” He recorded his most influential tracks in both Memphis and in Sun’s Nashville studio supervised by Billy Sherrill, Scotty Moore and Kelso Herston.

He toured with Rich, Cash and Perkins, as well as with country stars George Jones and Loretta Lynn. But Mann’s career stalled when he was drafted into the Army in 1964.

Like most of the rockabilly stars, Mann returned to mainstream country music in the 1960s. He recorded for Monument Records and briefly charted in 1976 on ABC/Dot with a reworking of The Platters oldie “Twilight Time.” The following year, Sun issued an LP compiling his classics.

Mann left music to work in his father’s lumber business in Huntingdon, but was repeatedly lured back by offers to tour in Europe. He released an album in Holland in 1978 and another in Switzerland in 1985.

Germany’s Bear Family Records reissued his Sun sides in 2008 on a CD titled Carl Mann Rocks! Mann was an inductee into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame. In 2011 he was the subject of the book The Last Son of Sun. He issued a self-titled CD in 2012.

Plans for a memorial service are pending, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

BREAKING: Iconic Singer-Songwriter K.T. Oslin Passes

K.T. Oslin

Triple Grammy-winner K.T. Oslin, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, has died at age 78.

She made music history by becoming the first middle-aged woman to rise to stardom in Nashville. Oslin was 45 years old when she scored a smash hit with the female anthem “80’s Ladies” in 1987. The song made her the first female songwriter in history to win the CMA’s Song of the Year prize. She was the CMA Female Vocalist of the Year in 1988.

During her career, she also earned four Academy of Country Music honors, as well as her three Grammys. In 2014, she was inducted into the Texas Songwriters Hall of Fame. She was voted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018.

Oslin had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease in recent years and had been living in an assisted-living facility since 2016. Last week, she was diagnosed with COVID-19, but it is unclear whether this contributed to her death on Monday morning (Dec. 21).

She was born Kay Toinette Oslin in Crossett, Arkansas on May 15, 1942. She grew up in Houston, Texas. Oslin sang folk music in a trio with Guy Clark (1941-2016) as a young adult in her hometown.

Both made their disc debuts on the local 1964 Jester Records compilation LP, Look, It’s Us! Oslin and duet partner Frank Davis subsequently recorded an unreleased album in Los Angeles.

After starring with Rudy Vallee in an equity production of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, she auditioned for the road company of the musical Hello Dolly! in 1966. She toured with its star Carol Channing until the show returned to New York, and remained with the musical on Broadway when it starred Betty Grable.

Settling in Manhattan, Oslin subsequently appeared in Promises, Promises, in the Lincoln Center revival of West Side Story, and in lesser-known musicals such as the Vincent Price vehicle Darling of the Day. Oslin also performed in TV commercials for cleaning products, denture adhesives, soft drinks and other products.

K.T. Oslin

During the long stretches between theatrical auditions, Oslin began writing songs in her New York apartment. SESAC executive C. Dianne Petty (1946-2007) thought they sounded “country” and began shopping them around Nashville. Oslin began making trips to Music City, performing showcases and singing backup on old friend Guy Clark’s 1978 self-titled LP.

Oslin was signed by Elektra Records, which issued “”Clean Your Own Tables” and “Younger Men” as “Kay T. Oslin” country singles in 1981-82. Neither made any waves. She remained in New York and worked as an extra in Bruce Springsteen’s 1985 video of “Glory Days,” in addition to singing ad jingles.

Meanwhile back in Nashville, her songs began attracting attention. They were successfully recorded by Gail Davies (“Round the Clock Lovin,’” 1982), Sissy Spacek (“Lonely But Only For You,” 1983), Dottie West (“Where Is a Woman to Go,” 1984), Judy Rodman (“Come Next Monday, 1985) and The Judds (“Old Pictures,” 1987).

K.T. Oslin was signed by RCA Records, which issued “Wall of Tears” as her debut single for the label in 1987. It became her first top-40 hit. “80’s Ladies” made her a star later that year. Fans were charmed by her down-home banter, brassy sense of humor, witty personality and breezy moxie. Millions of women identified with her unlikely rise to fame.

K.T. Oslin’s first USO Tour is captured in a one-hour special on TNN: The Nashville Network called USO Celebrity Tour: K.T. Oslin.

She followed “80’s Ladies” with back-to-back No. 1 records, “Do Ya” and “I’ll Always Come Back” in 1988. Her third No. 1 hit was 1989’s “Hold Me,” which won two Grammy Awards. She also hit No. 1 as the guest vocalist on Alabama’s 1988 hit “Face to Face.”

“Hey Bobby” and “This Woman” continued her top-10 streak in 1989. In 1990, her singles “Didn’t Expect It To Go Down This Way” and “Two Hearts” were followed by her fifth chart topper, “Come Next Monday.” This was accompanied by a hilarious, “Bride-of-Frankenstein” music video. Her other six videos showcased her dramatic abilities, as well as her comedic timing.

Meanwhile, Oslin’s songs continued to be recorded by other stars. Among them were Dan Seals (“Fool Me Once,” 1988), Anne Murray (“Who But You,” 1989), Trudy Lynn (“Still On My Mind,” 1991), The Forester Sisters (“Wanda,” 1992), Dorothy Moore (“Do Ya,” 1992), Aimee Comeaux (“Moving Out,” 1994) and Dusty Springfield (“Where Is a Woman to Go,” 1995). This activity has continued into recent years with Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan recording a duo version of “Do Ya” in 2017.

K.T. Oslin’s own recordings became million-sellers. Her 80’s Ladies and This Woman albums earned Gold records in 1988 and became Platinum sellers the following year. In 1991, Love In a Small Town won a Gold record award, as did a compilation of her videos.

K.T. Oslin

Her stage background served her well as she easily made the transition to television acting. Oslin guest-starred on such TV series as Paradise and Evening Shade. She had a prominent role in the made-for-TV movie Poisoned by Love opposite Harry Hamlin. She portrayed a nightclub owner in the 1993 feature film The Thing Called Love, directed by Peter Bogdanovich as Sandra Bullock’s first starring vehicle.

Carol Burnette invited K.T. Oslin to co-star on her NBC variety series Carol & Company. Oslin also became a huge favorite on the talk shows of Johnny Carson, Arsenio Hall, Joan Rivers, Ralph Emery, Oprah Winfrey and more. She was in the spotlight on ABC’s 20/20 and on her own TNN special USO Celebrity Tour.

She was sidelined by quadruple coronary bypass surgery in 1995. When she returned to recording, Oslin became increasingly experimental.

In 1996, she became an early mainstream country star to embrace the emerging Americana music movement. Her CD My Roots Are Showing showcased a variety of roots-music genres and was the first of her releases that she co-produced.

K.T. Oslin signs autographs for fans in 1987. Photo: Don Putnam.

She performed a pops concert with the Nashville Symphony Orchestra in 1999. She issued a disco single with 2000’s dance-floor mix of the Rosemary Clooney oldie “Come On-a My House.” She teamed up with Raul Malo to give a Latin tinge to some of the tracks on her 2001 collection Live Close By, Visit Often. After 2005, she made only occasional public appearances. By 2008, Oslin was focused on her painting and crafts. She sold hand-painted tableware and created tableaux of miniature furniture. She wrote and tried out a one-woman monologue-with-music autobiographical theatrical piece and appeared at benefit events from time to time.

In 2013, she celebrated the 25th anniversary of 80’s Ladies with a sold-out show at the Franklin Theater. She was also a hit at a sold-out 2015 show at The City Winery to salute the release of her final CD, titled Simply.

She retired from performing and recording after that. K.T. Oslin is survived by her aunt, Reba Byrd, in Austin, Texas, and by a small group of loving Nashville friends. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

Long-Time Business Manager Kirke Martin Passes

Kirke Martin. Photo: Courtesy Bieber Public Relations

Kirke Martin, founder of Martin, Allbee, Miller, Bryan, & Associates, passed away on Wednesday, Dec. 16 after battle with cancer. He was 70.

Martin was a business manager for 39 years working with Brad Paisley, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, T. Graham Brown, Tammy Wynette, Keith Whitley and many others, including a large roster of Christian artists.

Born Frederick Kirke Martin III on Jan. 13, 1950 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he was the only child of his parents Kirke and Jenny Martin. Martin was a graduate of North Hills High School and DePauw University. He was an accomplished football and baseball player and was nicknamed “Lurch” for his gentle demeanor and towering stature. Martin graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Finance & Business and a master’s degree in Education, and was a proud member of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

While studying abroad in Denmark, Martin met his eventual wife Margie. The two immediately fell in love and were married June 12, 1971. The newlyweds then moved to Nashville, Tennessee.

Martin founded his own music business firm in 1981, Martin and Associates (now Martin, Albee, Miller, Bryan and Associates). Martin was revered for his honesty, loyalty, and practicality, and his advice was sought after by many up-and-coming and established artists. During his 40 years in the Nashville music industry, Martin served on the boards of Leadership Music and Nashville Entertainment Association, and was a member of CMA and GMA. Martin was proud of his business, loved by his colleagues, and counted his clients as friends and family.

Martin and his wife raised four children—Kirke, Edward, Margo and Helen—and he spent most of the ’80s and ’90s coaching and watching soccer, baseball, ballet, and ice hockey. He spent his weekends traveling for his sons’ hockey games and was an integral part of growing the Nashville Youth Hockey League, serving as Board President for multiple terms.

The days up to his death were filled with laughter and tears, music and knitting, and the love of his devoted family.

Martin was preceded in death by his parents, Frederick Kirke Martin Jr. and Jenny Helen Martin, and his parents-in-law, Edward A. and Marguerite Fish. Martin is survived by his beloved wife of 49.5 years, Margie, his children Kirke, Edward and Rachel Martin, Margo and David Cloniger, and Helen and Kris Nonn. As well as by his eleven beloved grandchildren, Samuel, Meridian, and Reuben Cloniger; Dylan, Rowan and Eamon Martin; Olive and McKay Martin; and Ryer, Marlow and Hollis Nonn. Martin is also survived by his dear chosen brother, Thom Schuyler (Sarah Tallu), his brothers-in-law Ed (Toni), John (Denice), and Walter Fish, his niece, nephews, cousins and by his friend, Henry Yarborough.

Due to the current restrictions imposed by COVID-19, there will be a small private service for the family. Martin’s family welcomes any written remembrances in celebration of his life. Please mail your remembrances to: The Martin Family care of MAMBA, P.O. Box 128287, Nashville, TN 37212, or email them to [email protected].

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to organizations near to the Martin family: The Store (P.O. Box 128287, Nashville, TN, 37212), The Nashville Food Project (5904 California Ave, Nashville, TN 37209), Monteagle Sunday School Assembly (PO Box 307, Monteagle TN, 37356), or Alive Hospice (1718 Patterson St., Nashville, TN, 37203).

Charley Pride: The Loss of A Legend [Updated]

Charley Pride. Photo: Joseph Llanes

One of the greatest country stars of all time has fallen victim to the COVID 19 pandemic.

Country Music Hall of Fame member Charley Pride, 86, died in Dallas on Saturday (Dec. 12) as a result of complications from the disease. The Grand Ole Opry star was honored last month in Nashville with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the CMA.

During his six-decade career, Pride placed 67 titles on the country charts, including 52 top-10 hits and 29 No. 1 Billboard successes. His standards include “Kiss an Angel Good Morning,” “All I Have to Offer You Is Me,” “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone,” “Mountain of Love” and “We Could.” He holds 12 Gold Record awards.

He will forever be remembered as country’s first Black superstar, dubbed “the Jackie Robinson of country music.” As a former baseball player, himself, he was honored by the comparison with the man who broke the color barrier in major-league baseball.

Born Charley Frank Pride on March 18, 1934, he was the fourth of 11 children raised by sharecroppers near Sledge, Mississippi. Pride said that the lyrics of his 1974 hit “Mississippi Cotton Pickin’ Delta Town” closely reflected his upbringing. The song was written by Sledge native Harold Dorman, who also penned Pride’s 1982 smash “Mountain of Love.”

Charley Pride’s father was a devoted listener of the Grand Ole Opry. Inspired by the country music he heard on the broadcasts, the youngster taught himself to play guitar at age 14.

But sports were his main focus. Pride left Sledge at age 16 to pitch and play outfield in what was then called the American Negro League. One of teams he played for was the Memphis Red Sox.

While in Memphis, he met cosmetologist Rozene Cohran. They married in 1956 while he was serving in the Army. She became his business manager, as well as his wife.

In 1960, they moved to Helena, Montana, where Pride worked in a smelting plant near the iron mines. He also began singing locally. Backstage at a Red Foley concert in Helena, he played some songs for the country legend. Both Foley and his concert co-star Red Sovine urged Charley Pride to go to Nashville and audition at Cedarwood Music.

Instead, he decided to give baseball one last shot. He travelled to Clearwater, Florida in 1963 to try out at the New York Mets summer training camp. Mets manager Casey Stengel turned him away.

En route back north, Pride stopped in Nashville. Cedarwood’s owner was country star Webb Pierce. After hearing Pride sing, Pierce directed him to manager Jack Johnson.

Johnson funded a recording session that included Pride singing “Snakes Crawl at Night,” penned by Cedarwood songwriter and future singing star Mel Tillis. Johnson played the tapes for maverick producer Jack Clement, who agreed to work with the aspiring singer.

Clement recorded Pride and took the result to Chet Atkins at RCA Records in 1965. Atkins always believed he would be forever remembered as the man who signed Charley Pride to a recording contract.

Pride broke through on the country charts with the Jack Clement compositions “Just Between You and Me” (1966) and “I Know One” (1967).

Opry star Bill Anderson gave the newcomer his first television exposure by inviting Pride to be a guest on his nationally syndicated TV show. On Jan. 1, 1967, Charley Pride made his debut on the Opry, introduced by Ernest Tubb. He was invited to join the show’s cast in 1968, but had to decline because he was suddenly too busy to become a show regular.

The Hank Williams classic “Kaw-Liga” became a substantial hit in 1969 and was followed by Pride’s first No. 1 single, “All I Have to Offer You Is Me.” This was the first of six consecutive chart toppers, including 1970’s “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone.”

His 1971 performance of “Did You Think to Pray,” co-written with Johnson, won Pride a gospel Grammy Award. That same year’s “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” took home the Grammy for Country Song of the Year for its writer, Ben Peters.

Charley Pride was named the CMA’s Entertainer of the Year in 1971 and its Male Vocalist of the Year in both 1971 and 1972.

Presenters Minnie Pearl, center, and Kitty Wells looks on as Charley Pride draws some laughs as he accepts one of his two trophies when he won for both Entertainer and Male Vocalist of the year at “The 5th Annual CMA Awards” on Oct. 10, 1971, at the Grand Ole Opry House, live telecast on the CBS Television Network. Photo: courtesy CMA

In 1972, Pride sang “All His Children” as the theme song for the Paul Newman movie Sometimes a Great Notion. It was nominated for an Oscar, and Pride sang it on the Academy Awards international telecast. In 1973, his album Charley Pride Sings Heart Songs won a Grammy Award.

In 1975, he became the first Black artist to co-host the CMA Awards, appearing alongside Glen Campbell.

By the mid 1970s, Charley Pride was outselling the other artists on RCA, at times even outpacing Elvis Presley. His string of smash hits continued with such classics as “Amazing Love” (1973), “We Could” (1974), “Hope You’re Feelin’ Me (Like I’m Feelin’ You)” (1975), “My Eyes Can Only See as Far as You” (1976), “She’s Just an Old Love Turned Memory” (1977), “Someone Loves You Honey” (1978) and “Where Do I Put Her Memory” (1979).

As a Nashville businessman, he formed the Music Row song publishing company Pi-Gem Music with producer Tom Collins. This gave him ready access to such top-tier songwriters as John Schweers (“Don’t Fight the Feelings of Love,” etc.) and Kye Fleming & Dennis Morgan (“MIssin’ You,” etc.). The latter team’s 1981 Pride hit “Roll On, Mississippi” later became a state song.

The Prides made their home in Dallas. There, he formed the management and booking company Chardon. This firm helped launch the careers of Dave & Sugar, Janie Fricke and Neal McCoy, among others. Pride was also heavily invested in Dallas real estate and banking.

His 1978 hit “Burgers and Fries” (again penned by Ben Peters) earned Pride another Grammy nomination. In 1980, he issued There’s a Little Bit of Hank in Me, a tribute album to his idol, Hank Williams. It spawned back-to-back chart toppers with his revivals of “Honky Tonk Blues” and “You Win Again.” He also revived the Johnny Rivers hit “Mountain of Love” (1982), the George Jones classic “Why Baby Why” (1982) and the Webb Pierce standard “More and More” (1983).
Other disc successes of the 1980s included “I Don’t Think She’s in Love Anymore” (1982), “You’re So Good When You’re Bad” (1982) and “Night Games” (1983). His last top-10 hit was 1988’s “Shouldn’t It Be Easier Than This.”

But he was far from idle in the 1990s. He finally took the Opry up on its open-ended invitation to join the cast by becoming a member in 1993. The following year, he opened his 2,200-seat theater in Branson, Missouri and published his acclaimed autobiography, Pride. Admirers Travis Tritt, Joe Diffie, Hal Ketchum and Marty Stuart joined him on a 1994 CD.

In 1996, he performed for the Clintons in the White House, accepted the Trumpet Award from Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta and scored a No. 1 hit album in Australia. He holds attendance records at a number of Canadian venues and has also appeared in Japan, Guam, New Zealand, Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, Fiji and a number of other countries.

By 2000, his record sales exceeded 35 million. That was the year he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

(L-R): Bill Anderson, Charley Pride, Randy Owen and Jimmy Fortune attend the 2019 Country Music Hall of Fame Medallion Ceremony at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on October 20, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee. Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images for Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum

Neal McCoy has always cited the superstar as a mentor. In 2013, he issued the tribute album Pride. Other stars who received career boosts from the legend include Ronnie Milsap, Trini Triggs, Exile, Janie Fricke, Brad Paisley and Steve Wariner.

Some of them have recorded with Pride, as have such country greats as The Oak Ridge Boys, Tanya Tucker, Garth Brooks and Dolly Parton.

In 2016, Pride was one of the artists featured in the No. 1 country single and video “Forever Country.” The event, which celebrated the 50th anniversary of the CMA won the Video of the Year award and became a Gold Record.

Charley Pride was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award by the Recording Academy in 2017. The Nashville Association of Talent Directors banquet also saluted him that year, with Bobby Bare presenting the NATD’s Career Achievement honor.

Last year, Pride was honored with the PBS American Masters bio-documentary, Charley Pride: I’m Just Me, narrated by Tanya Tucker. The CMA’s Willie Nelson Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to him by current Black country hit maker Jimmie Allen during the 2020 CMA telecast on Nov. 11.

Jimmie Allen is part of a brigade of contemporary Black country artists who owe their careers to Pride’s breakthrough. Others who have come through the door he opened include Kane Brown, Mickey Guyton, Chapel Hart, Rissi Palmer, Darius Rucker, Reyna Roberts, Willie Jones, Shy Carter, Blanco Brown and Tony Jackson.

Charley Pride came on the country scene during the height of the Civil Rights struggle. He faced prejudice, insults, discrimination and racial barriers with grace, humor, perseverance and dignity. His character exhibited the same warmth and class as his singing voice.

He is survived by his wife Rozene and by children Kraig, Dion and Angela, as well as by siblings Harmon, Stephen, Catherine and Maxine, plus five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

Pride’s family and close friends will hold a private wake and memorial in Dallas this week, with future plans for a public celebration of life memorial ceremony to be announced at a later date.  In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to The Pride Scholarship at Jesuit Preparatory School, Saint Philips School & Community Center and/or The Food Bank.

Charley Pride and Brad Paisley perform “Kiss An Angel Good Morning” in the opening medley at “The 50th Annual CMA Awards,” live Wednesday, Nov. 2, 2016 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville and broadcast on the ABC Television Network. Photo: courtesy CMA