Americana Champion Lynsey McDonald Dies


Nashville’s Americana community has lost one of its key business figures. Lynsey McDonald, 58, died on Nov. 23 following an eight-year struggle with multiple myeloma.

For most of her career, she worked in artist management, helping to guide the careers of Jason & The Scorchers, Todd Snider, Deana Carter, The Georgia Satellites, Robbie Fulks and Jay Joyce.

She also helped to launch the Americana music radio series Music City Roots. McDonald worked at Praxis International, Vector Management, Rising Tide Records, Thirty Tigers, TomKats catering, CMT, and her own Magnolia Way Management firm.

Born Allison Lynn McDonald, she grew up in Chattanooga. She excelled at competitive fast-pitch softball, basketball and tennis as a high-school student. McDonald graduated from MTSU’s Recording Industry Management program in 1984. Although she had a fine singing voice, she concentrated on the business side of music, initially working with Nashville’s alt-rock bands.

Among her accomplishments was helping to launch the Loveless Barn music venue, which is where Music City Roots began.

McDonald is survived by her son Gates Knight and his father, her former husband Sam Knight. Her parents—Darrell and Marilyn McDonald—also survive her, along with aunts Linda Lesley and Faye McDonald, uncle Roger Coe and numerous cousins.

Donations can be made in her name at Second Harvest Food Bank, 331 Great Circle Road, Nashville 37228.

There will be a memorial service at a later date. In the meantime, friends are encouraged to post pictures, comments and reminiscences at

Services To Be Held For Esteemed Publicist Susan Keel

Susan Keel.

Entertainment publicist Susan Keel died on Nov. 20 at age 58. A memorial service will be held on Sunday (Dec. 6) at 2 p.m. at Mount Olivet Funeral Home & Cemetery, following a visitation beginning at noon. The 2 p.m. service will be streamed on Facebook Live.

During her career in Music City, she was associated with Conway Twitty, Ray Stevens, Opry Mills, the Ryman Auditorium, TPAC, Kroger and the Tennessee Titans.

Keel was a Nashville native, the daughter of Pinckney Keel, a Nashville Banner newspaper editor and of Gloria Keel Coles, a marketing executive at Donelson Hospital. After graduating from the Recording Industry Management program at MTSU, she worked for Cashbox magazine, Bullet Recording studio and the Top Billing booking agency. She next worked for U.S. Sen. Jim Sasser and The Tennessean’s John Seigenthaler. She then returned to the music business.

Much of her career was subsequently spent at The Andrews Agency. She and company founder Susan Andrews were known as “The Susans” during the 1990s.

After leaving The Andrews Agency, Keel became director of public relations for Fletcher Rowley Inc. She ended her career with her own firm, Keel PR.

Susan Keel is survived by her mother, brother Dr. William Keel, stepsisters, nieces and a nephew. Also surviving is sister Beverly Keel, a dean at MTSU who has been a record label executive, a music journalist and a Music Row publicist.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to MusiCares or to the Music Health Alliance.

Country Hit Maker & Opry Star Hal Ketchum Dies

Hal Ketchum. Photo: Pete Lacker

Singer-songwriter Hal Ketchum died on Monday (Nov. 23) at age 67, following a struggle with early-onset dementia.

Known for such top country hits as “Small Town Saturday Night” and “Past the Point of Rescue,” Ketchum has been a member of the Grand Ole Opry cast since 1994.

He was born and raised in Greenwich, NY, in the Adirondack Mountains near the Vermont state line. Ketchum’s father was a country banjo player, but the boy got his start in music as a drummer for a local R&B band at age 15.

At age 17, Hal Michael Ketchum became a master carpenter, initially plying his trade in Florida, then moving to Austin, TX. A visit to the legendary showplace Gruene Hall changed his life in 1981. Ketchum became captivated by Lone Star State tunesmiths Townes Van Zandt and Lyle Lovett. Determined to follow in their footsteps, he taught himself guitar and began playing open-mic nights at the venue.

He recorded his debut LP Threadbare Alibis in 1986. It contained the first 10 songs he’d ever written. He showcased at the Kerrville Folk Festival in 1987 and was spotted by songwriter Pat Alger, who took Ketchum’s music to Nashville. Music Row’s Forerunner Music signed him as a staff songwriter in 1988. His album was released in Europe the following year, leading to career-long popularity overseas.

Ketchum moved to Music City in 1990 and was signed by Curb Records. “Small Town Saturday Night” made him a star in the summer of 1991. It was named the No. 1 country single of the year by Radio & Records magazine. Its hilarious accompanying music video won Breakthrough Video of the Year honors from MusicRow, and Ketchum was nominated for the CMA’s Horizon Award.

He followed his breakthrough smash with his self-composed “I Know Where Love Lives,” then rang up a trio of 1992 hits – “Past the Point of Rescue,” “Five O’Clock World” and “Sure Love.” His debut Curb album, Past the Point of Rescue, was certified as a Gold Record.

The string of hits continued in 1993 with “Mama Knows the Highway” and his self-written “Hearts Are Gonna Roll” and “Someplace Far Away.” Ketchum sang the songs of such top Nashville songwriters as Alger, Gary Burr, Allen Reynolds and Shawn Camp. In addition, he often co-wrote his singles, as was the case with “(Tonight We Just Might) Fall in Love Again” (with Al Anderson, 1994), “Stay Forever” (with Benmont Tench, 1995), and “Every Little Word” (with Marcus Hummon, 1995).

He fell in love with the Opry when he first guested on the show in 1991 and began dropping hints that he’d love to be invited to join the cast. Those efforts paid off in January 1994. Hal Ketchum called his induction the highlight of his life.

His album output on Curb continued with Sure Love (1992), Every Little Word (1994) and I Saw the Light (1998). But Ketchum’s career was troubled by health issues. He went to rehab for substance abuse in 1992 and 1997 before attaining sobriety in early 1998. Later that year, he was diagnosed with acute transverse myelitis, a neurologic disorder that can cause paralysis. He had to learn to sing and play guitar all over again.

He battled back with the Curb collections Awaiting Redemption (1999), Lucky Man (2001) and The King of Love (2003). Then speech impairment, balance issues and arm paralysis led to a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, the disease that had killed his mother. Months of physical therapy allowed him to reemerge on stage via a role in The Nashville Ballet’s 2006 production of The Nutcracker and on disc with the 2008 CD Father Time.

Ketchum temporarily retired from music and moved back to Texas in 2008. He took up painting, resumed woodworking and wrote poetry and short stories. His paintings were featured in one of the art galleries in Santa Fe, NM.

In 2014, he reemerged with the album I’m the Troubadour and resumed touring regionally. Ketchum appeared sporadically in Texas venues throughout the next four years.

In April 2019, he announced his retirement and his dementia diagnosis, which was accompanied by Alzheimer’s Disease. His wife Andrea stated that he died at home on Monday night.

Hal Ketchum was married four times and had five children. Funeral arrangements had not been announced at press time.

Country TV Titan Walter Miller Dies

Walter C. Miller on set during rehearsals for “The 36th Annual CMA Awards” at Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry House on Nov. 3, 2002. Photo Credit: Theresa Montgomery/CMA

Producer/director Walter C. Miller has died at age 94.

As the impresario behind the CMA Awards for more than 40 years, Miller arguably put more eyes on country music than anyone in history. He created televised anniversary celebrations for the Grand Ole Opry, directed more than a half dozen Johnny Cash network specials and brought stars from Perry Como to George Burns to Music City for all-star country TV events.

He worked on the annual CMA shows from 1970 to 2004. He directed the Grammy Awards 15 times between 1984 and 2009. He had an unbroken 10-year run as the director of the Tony Awards, 1987-97. Walter Miller also orchestrated TV coverage of the Emmys, the People’s Choice Awards, Comic Relief and other extremely challenging productions involving multiple stars, sets and crews.

He was the definitive director of the award show/live event television genre. Miller wrote the book when it came to multi-camera coverage of events, a logistical nightmare for most directors. He could simultaneously watch 20 cameras “in the booth,” quickly calling which shots to air, live. As a violinist, he was sensitive to musicians’ moments, allowing millions of viewers to feel as if they were at the shows in person.

Miller was nominated for 19 Emmy Awards and won five of them. He was also a three-time Directors Guild of America award winner. He was presented with the CMA President’s Award in 2007, its Irving Waugh Award in 2009 and a Grammy Trustees Award in 2010.

Born Walter Corwin Miller in New York, he served in World War II, then began his television career in the late 1940s. He was the lighting director for NBC’s Horn & Hardart Children’s Hour. Other early television credits included The Bell Telephone Hour, Startime and Sing Along with Mitch.

By the mid 1960s, he was directing specials. One of his early big ones was with Barbra Streisand in 1967. He went on to craft specials for Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Mac Davis, Stevie Wonder, Kathie Lee Gifford, Donny & Marie Osmond, Roy Acuff, Andy Williams, Bobby Rydell, Sammy Davis Jr., Irving Berlin, Sha Na Na, Tennessee Ernie Ford and magician Doug Henning, among many others.

He was particularly noted for comedy specials. He was at the helm of shows starring Rodney Dangerfield, Steve Martin, Minnie Pearl, Sam Kinison, Bill Cosby, Rich Little, Rosie O’Donnell, Alan King and Bob Hope.

He directed the televised musicals You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Dames at Sea, The Will Rogers Follies and George M! In 1995 he created the Soul Train 25th Anniversary TV celebration. In 1989, he directed the Presidential Inaugural Gala. He appeared in the 1991 Bette Midler movie For the Boys. He worked on projects with everyone from Al Green to Justin Timberlake.

Ken Ehrlich, who worked alongside Miller on numerous Grammy telecasts, eulogized his friend in a loving tribute in Variety. He recalled Miller’s special fondness for the country music family. Miller loved working in Nashville and always praised its television production community as being the equal of any in New York or L.A.

While in production, Miller was wildly funny and often profane. As Ehrlich remembered, “We might have been doing a G-rated show, but it was an X-rated headset, as we were all to discover one year when a highly censored couple of minutes of Walter’s headset wound up on Rick Dees radio show and almost brought the Recording Academy and the network to its knees. Apologies and mea culpas followed, but Walter was back in the [director’s] chair the next year.”

He was a master at dealing with both crews and artists, able to charm even the most difficult divas. He could tug at the heartstrings by presenting Alan Jackson’s first public performance of “Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning).” Or he could howl with laughter backstage with K.T. Oslin. He could throw his spotlight on a favored up-and-comer like Mary Chapin Carpenter as effortlessly as on a superstar like Garth Brooks.

A master of the one-liner, an encyclopedia of jokes and a fabulous raconteur, Miller loved to regale listeners with his TV tales. He was particularly entertaining talking about the early days of live television dramas and variety shows.

He tickled the ribs of everyone from Dolly Parton to Jack Lemmon. An avid golfer, Walter Miller was particularly fond of Vince Gill, with whom he worked many times.

“Walter Miller was unique,” wrote Ehrlich. “Loved by almost everyone he worked with….the picture of a person not often found anymore in this or any other business. I often said—to his face—that beneath that gruff exterior was an even rougher interior. But that’s the kind of joke Wally loved.

“I loved him and miss him very much. We won’t see another one like him. Ever.”

Walter Miller died on Friday evening (Nov. 13) surrounded by family and friends. His son is television 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 and more.

1990s Country Hitmaker Doug Supernaw Dies

Doug Supernaw. Photo: Courtesy Robert K. Oermann

Texas singer-songwriter Doug Supernaw, who topped the country charts in 1993-96, died Nov. 13, following a battle with cancer.

He is best known for “Reno” (1993), “I Don’t Call Him Daddy” (1993) and “Not Enough Hours in the Night” (1996). Supernaw, who was 60 when he passed, was nominated as the ACM’s New Male Artist of the Year and earned a Gold record for his Red and Rio Grande album in 1994.

Noted as a top songwriter as well as a good-time showman, Supernaw’s career was derailed by mental illness and substance abuse. But during the last few years of his life he fought to reclaim it.

He was born in 1960 and raised in middle-class circumstances in suburban Houston. He excelled as an athlete, particularly in baseball and golf. Supernaw earned a golf scholarship to the University of St. Thomas in 1978. He began writing songs and dropped out of school in 1979 to become the lead singer for the Carolina beach-party band The Occasions. Two years later, he returned to school, but flunked out of Texas Tech.

He went to work in the oil fields and continued to write songs. In 1986, he became the promoter and booker for the Arena Theater, a major venue in suburban Houston.

He took his songs to Nashville in 1987 and became a staff writer for a publisher on Music Row. But Supernaw yearned to record and to entertain. Four years later, he returned to the Lone Star State and formed his band Texas Steel. The honky-tonk group soon rose high on the lucrative East Texas music circuit.

At the urging of talent scout R.C. Bannon, RCA Records signed him and placed him on its BNA imprint. Supernaw debuted on the country charts with “Honky Tonkin’ Fool” in early 1993, but the single failed to crack the top-40. He co-wrote its follow-up, “Reno,” which hit No. 4. His third single was the divorced-fathers anthem “I Don’t Call Him Daddy,” which soared to No. 1 as 1993 drew to a close.

Doug Supernaw. Photo: Courtesy Robert K. Oermann

All three tunes appeared on Red and Rio Grande, which was certified as a Gold record in the summer of 1994. The Academy of Country Music nominated “I Don’t Call Him Daddy” as 1994’s Video of the Year and Song of the Year during the same year that Supernaw competed as the organization’s Best New Male Artist. He was also nominated for awards by TNN/Music City News, MusicRow and Billboard.

He appeared on the soundtrack of the movie comedy The Beverly Hillbillies singing the Buck Owens classic “Together Again.” During this period, he also became noted for his charity work on behalf of sick children, the handicapped, scholarship students and abused women.

His reputation as an entertainer was polished by such stunts as flying to the stage from the top of the Houston Astrodome on a guy wire and diving face-first into a mud pit at a Canadian festival without missing a note. Affectionately known as “Supe,” his witty antics at rollicking nightclub appearances drew enthusiastic crowds. His unpredictable candor made him a media favorite, as well.

In the mid-1990s, Supernaw temporarily faltered on the charts. He co-wrote 1994’s “Red and Rio Grande,” which hit No. 23. But his versions of Mickey Cates’ “State Fair” and Steve Goodman’s “You Never Even Called Me By My Name” (co-written by an uncredited John Prine) were less successful. Supernaw rebounded with Dennis Linde’s “What’ll You Do About Me” in 1995 when that single rose to No. 16.

Those last three singles appeared on his second album, Deep Thoughts From a Shallow Mind, as did six Supernaw originals and his version of Jimmy Buffett’s “He Went to Paris.” When that album failed to sell, BNA dropped him from its roster.

Supernaw broke his neck while surfing. He survived a head-on car accident and a case of food poisoning. He and his band—renamed The Possum Eatin’ Cowboys—had all of their equipment stolen, twice. He went through a divorce from his first wife, Trudy.

Supernaw’s BNA producer Richard Landis stayed with him. The team resurfaced on the Warner Bros. label Giant Records with You Still Got Me in late 1995. That collection’s “Not Enough Hours in the Night” became a smash hit when it went to No. 3.

In 1996, “She Never Looks Back” and Supernaw’s self-penned “You Still Got Me” stalled outside the top-40. His label began to decline in influence and eventually closed.

Supernaw’s last appearance on the country hit parade was a 1996 collaboration with The Beach Boys on the humorous novelty “Long Tall Texan.” His final big-label Nashville CD was the BNA compilation Encore Collection in 1997.

Throughout his hit-making years, he had remained a steadfast Texas artist. He co-wrote songs with his band and prided himself on being a country traditionalist. By resisting the temptations of Nashville, Supernaw saw himself as a country-music rebel.

The independent label Tack Records issued a Doug Supernaw album sadly but aptly titled Fadin’ Renegade in 1999. The comeback attempt failed.

His career and life began to unravel. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Doug Supernaw was charged with drunk driving, assaulting a police officer, failure to make child-support payments, marijuana possession, jumping bail, public intoxication, contempt of court and disorderly conduct. The band quit in 1998. In 2004, second wife Debbie filed for divorce.

As recounted by journalist John Nova Lomax in The Houston Press, Supernaw’s pronouncements became increasingly erratic. He claimed he was a Native American, was implanted with a chip in his head, was swindled out of racehorses and that there was an international conspiracy to silence him because he was the illegitimate son of Marilyn Monroe and John F. Kennedy. On one occasion he was found naked, rambling that his wife had been decapitated and unable to recall his own name.

He told Lomax that he had been held hostage in a “mentally retarded home for terrorists” in Paris, France. He said he had been labeled “an alchaholik” and had a “bi-polar bear” as well as “sickle cell amnesia.” A judge stated that he was mentally incompetent to stand trial and ordered a psychiatric evaluation.

By 2007, Supernaw was cleared of most of the charges against him. During the next decade, his behavior stabilized, and he resumed touring. He acquired a new management team. He also returned to recording in Nashville.

In 2016, Doug Supernaw was inducted into the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame. In April, 2017, he released an album containing new recordings of his hits, plus two new songs, including his single “The Company I Keep.” That June, he returned to the CMA Music Festival stage in Nashville. In the fall, Dierks Bentley invited him to be part of an all-star Ralph Stanley Tribute Concert at the Opry House. In November 2018, Doug Supernaw married Cissy Allen live on Facebook from Las Vegas.

In January 2019, he sought treatment for a persistent cough. His initial diagnosis was pneumonia, but subsequent tests revealed Stage IV cancer in his lungs and bladder. A bladder tumor was removed in March 2019

On Sunday, Oct. 18, Cissy Supernaw posted on Facebook that her husband had been placed in home hospice care and that the cancer had spread to his brain and spine.

He is survived by his third wife, children, and grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.

Billy Joe Shaver Dies At 81

Billy Joe Shaver at a 2014 tribute concert in Austin, Texas. Photo: Courtesy Conqueroo

Billy Joe Shaver has died at age 81. The country singer-songwriter died from a stroke on Wednesday (Oct. 28) in Waco, Texas. He was born in Corsicana, Texas, on Aug. 16, 1939.

According to a release, Shaver was raised mainly by his grandmother; his father left before he was born and his mother had a job in Waco, some 60 miles away. As a youth, he spent more time working on family farms than in school. As he wrote in his song “Fast Train,” “I have an eighth grade education … I got all my country learning picking cotton, raising hell and bailing hay.”

His grandmother gave him a Gene Autry guitar when he was 11; however, his grandfather gave it away several years later. Shaver left home at 16 to serve in the Navy and afterwards took a series of jobs, including one in the professional rodeo. After losing several fingers in a sawmill accident, he decided to do what he really loved to do: write songs.

In 1965, Shaver hitchhiked to Nashville in the back of a cantaloupe truck. Camping himself at the office of country singer Bobby Bare, he convinced the Nashville star to listen to his songs. Impressed, Bare signed him to a $50 a week job as a songwriter. Bare recorded “Ride Me Down Easy” and other musicians took notice of his tunes too. Kris Kristofferson did “Good Christian Soldier” and Tom T. Hall “Willie the Wandering Gypsy and Me.”

One of these songs, “You Asked Me To,” was a Top 10 hit for Jennings and later covered by Elvis Presley.

Jennings would record 1973’s Honky Tonk Heroes, a project including nearly all Shaver-penned songs. Shaver went on to pen songs including Johnny Rodriguez’s “I Couldn’t Be Me Without You.” Other notable cuts include Bobby Bare’s “Ride Me Down Easy,” Patty Loveless’ “When the Fallen Angels Fly,” and Elvis Presley’s “You Asked Me To.”

Shaver’s debut album, the Kristofferson-produced Old Five and Dimers Like Me, came out in 1973 on the Monument Records. Shaver went on to release more than 20 albums for such labels as MGM, Capricorn, Columbia, Zoo/Praxis, New West, and Sugar Hill Records. His 2007 album, Everybody’s Brother (Compadre Records), earned him a Grammy nomination for Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Album and his most recent release, 2014’s Long in the Tooth (Lightning Rod Records), was his first to chart in Billboard’s Top Country Albums.

While he experienced many successes in his life, Shaver also had more than his share of tragedies. In 1999, he lost his mother to cancer as well as his wife, Brenda, a woman he married three times (and divorced twice). On December 31, 2000, his son Eddy died of a heroin overdose. Shaver had teamed up with his guitarist son for several highly praised albums in the 1990s. Then, on July 4, 2001, Shaver suffered a massive, and nearly fatal heart attack while performing on stage. He later received some unwanted notoriety when, in 2007, a bar argument wound up with Shaver shooting the other man. Shaver was acquitted of charges, and wrote about the incident in the song “Wacko From Waco.”

One of Shaver’s signature songs, “Live Forever,” was performed by Robert Duvall in the film Crazy Heart. A long-time admirer and friend, Duvall cast Shaver in his 1996 movie The Apostle, and Shaver later acted in such films as Secondhand Lions, The Wendell Baker Story, and Bait Shop. Duvall also produced the documentary A Portrait of Billy Joe.

Shaver’s music attracted many illustrious admirers over the years. Johnny Cash, who covered Shaver’s “I’m Just an Old Chunk of Coal (But I’m Gonna Be a Diamond Some Day),” called him “my favorite songwriter,” while Willie Nelson, a frequently Shaver collaborator, declared that “Billy Joe is definitely the best writer in Texas.” Bob Dylan not only has performed Shaver’s “Old Five and Dimers Like Me” in concert, but even name-checked him in his tune “I Feel a Change Comin’ On.”

He earned the first Americana Music Award for Lifetime Achievement in Songwriting in 2002, was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004, followed by the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame in 2006, and honored with the ACM Poet’s Award in 2019.

No funeral arrangements have been announced at this time.


Songwriter Bryan Wayne Galentine Dies

Bryan Wayne Galentine records his album While You Wait.

Songwriter Bryan Wayne Galentine died Oct. 22 at age 53, following a battle with ALS. He was the sole writer for Tommy Shane Steiner’s debut single “What If She’s An Angel,” which reached No. 2 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart in 2002.

He also earned a Top 25 single as a writer with Chris Cagle’s “Country By The Grace of God” and his song “Kick My Ass” was included on Big & Rich’s 3x multi-Platinum debut album. Galentine also earned cuts with Clay Walker, Emerson Drive, and more.

Galentine was diagnosed with terminal ALS in 2017. Faced with the possibility of losing his ability to speak or sing, he went into the studio to make his debut full-length project While You Wait. The album included the single “Simplify,” which featured Big & Rich, James Otto, Shannon Lawson and Joanna Janet. The album was recorded in the home studio of Big & Rich member Big Kenny Alphin, as well as Starstruck Studios and Dave Brainard’s deciBel. The project released in 2018 and included Bryan’s own version of “What If She’s An Angel.”

Music Industry Exec Joe Meador Dies At 73

Joe Meador

Joe Meador, best known for his work with Ronnie McDowell and Killen Entertainment Group, died Oct. 21 at age 73. Funeral services were held Oct. 25 in Hendersonville, TN.

Meador, a Kentucky native, graduated from Draughon’s Business College in Nashville, TN, and began working for the Federal Reserve Bank in Nashville, where he met his future wife, Sally Wise. Meador also worked at Hewgley’s Music Shop, and then teamed with co-owner Jim Vantrease to launch Sumner County Music Center in Gallatin. He also joined the group Glass Hammer, which opened for Ricky Nelson, as well as Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons.

Meador later became a road manager, and later manager, for Ronnie McDowell. McDowell, Meador, and Buddy Killen formed Killen Entertainment Group, which managed McDowell and Six Shooter. Later, Meador became CEO/President of Grand Entertainment Group and launched three publishing companies.

He co-wrote the George Strait-recorded song “Under These Conditions,” and songs including “All Tied Up” and “I’m Still Missing You” for McDowell.

Meador also co-produced the documentary Dixie Rose, which earned Best SXSW Documentary at the Telluride, Colorado Indie Festival. Meador also co-authored the book The Genuine Elvis: Photos and Untold Stories about the King.

Meador is preceded in death by his grandmother, Mamie Meador, of Adolphus, KY and his father Ralph Meador and mother Beatrice (Rather) Meador.

Joe Meador is survived by wife Sally (Wise) Meador and daughter, Laura Kathryn Meador, brother-in-law Mike Wise, sister-in-law Kathleen Wise, brother-in-law Sam Alfano and sister-in-law Jo Alfano, along with three nephews and two nieces. Joe is also survived by his cousin Patti (Graves) Pearson and her husband Wendell Pearson, along with their two children, Bradley Pearson and Shelley Pearson.

“Mr. Bojangles” Creator Jerry Jeff Walker Dies

Jerry Jeff Walker. Photo:

Texas music legend Jerry Jeff Walker died on Friday, Oct. 23 following a three-year battle with throat cancer.

Walker, 78, is best known for writing the classic story song “Mr. Bojangles.” He was one of the founding figures of the Austin, Texas “outlaw” country scene, a top showman and the host of the TNN television series The Texas Connection.

He was born Ronald Clyde Crosby in Oneonta, New York, in 1942 and performed in a number of local teen combos in the 1950s. After going AWOL from the National Guard, he became a folk troubadour, traveling to Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

In 1965, he was arrested for public intoxication in New Orleans and spent the night in a drunk tank with an itinerant street performer named “Bojangles.” While performing in Washington, D.C. the following year, the musician changed his name to Jerry Jeff Walker.

Relocating to New York City, he formed the house band at the Electric Circus nightclub. Dubbed Circus Maximus, the band recorded two albums for Vanguard Records in 1966-67.

After the band’s demise, Walker resumed working in the Greenwich Village folk scene. He fashioned a song based on Bojangles and used it as the title tune of his 1968 solo debut LP. Walker introduced “Mr. Bojangles” at the Newport Folk Festival, and the song became a minor pop chart entry for him that summer. In 1970, the song became the first top-10 hit of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. That version is now in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

“Mr. Bojangles” has gone on to become one of the most recorded titles in the BMI repertoire. Among its hundreds of versions are those by Harry Belafonte, Nina Simone, John Denver, Neil Diamond, Bob Dylan, Frankie Laine, Johnny Paycheck, Bobbie Gentry, Tom T. Hall, Harry Nilsson, Sammi Smith, Nancy Wilson and Walker’s Newport Folk Festival cohort David Bromberg. It was a key feature of Sammy Davis Jr.’s nightclub act for decades.

Jerry Jeff Walker took Jimmy Buffett to Key West in 1970. They co-wrote “Railroad Lady,” which later became a Lefty Frizzell country single. Buffett remained in Florida.

In 1971, Walker moved to Austin. He and his Lost Gonzo Band became mainstays of the movement variously described as “alternative country,” “outlaw country” and “progressive country.” Their freewheeling, rollicking shows became wildly popular.

Jerry Jeff Walker became a songwriting connoisseur. He popularized such Texas classics as Ray Wiley Hubbard’s “Up Against the Wall Redneck Mother,” Billy Joe Shaver’s “Old Five and Dimers Like Me,” Guy Clark’s “L.A. Freeway” and “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” Jesse Winchester’s “Mississippi You’re on My Mind,” Willie Nelson’s “Pick Up the Tempo,” Gary P. Nunn’s “London Homesick Blues (Home with the Armadillo),” Michael Martin Murphy’s “Backsliders Wine” and Rusty Weir’s “Don’t It Make You Wanna Dance.”

Following three LPs for Atco, he signed with MCA Records in 1972. Viva Terlingua was issued the following year. Regarded as a classic, the album earned a Gold record and became his biggest seller. He issued 10 other collections on MCA before forming his own Tried and True imprint in 1986.

Following in the footsteps of Nashville’s John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker became a model of do-it-yourself career success. He maintained a fan base of 50,000, communicating via regular newsletters, annual record releases and enthusiastic tours.

His partner in the business was his wife. Walker had married Susan Streit in 1974 and given up his hard-partying vices in 1978. She became his manager and booking agent. Merchandise, tour promotion and publicity were also handled in-house.

Live at Gruene Hall (1989), Navajo Rug (1990), Hill Country Rain (1992), Cowboy Boots & Bathin’ Suits (1998) and many more releases polished his reputation as a record maker. Walker also continued to write, with “Sangria Wine,” “Gettin’ By,” “Gypsy Songman,” “Hairy Ass Hillbillies,” “Pissin’ in the Wind,” “Hill Country Rain” and “Leavin’ Texas” becoming particular audience favorites. He also wrote a tribute to an enduring baseball legend, “Nolan Ryan.”

In 1991, he began hosting the series The Texas Connection on TNN. The show continued for a second season in 1992.

Walker presided at annual fan-club gatherings coinciding with his birthday in March and Labor Day in September. In 1999, he published his autobiography, Gypsy Songman: A Life in Music.

By then, Jerry Jeff Walker had become a musical inspiration for a generation of younger troubadours such as Nanci Griffith, Townes Van Zandt, Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Lucinda Williams, Robert Earl Keen, Todd Snider and Jack Ingram. During his career, he released more than 40 albums, including live recordings and compilations.

He was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2017. Walker donated his career’s archive to Texas State University. His final album appeared in 2018.

Jerry Jeff Walker is survived by wife Susan, daughter Jessie Jane McCarty, son Django Walker, two grandchildren and a sister. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.

Session Guitar Great J.T. Corenflos Dies

Top Nashville session musician J.T. Corenflos has died of cancer at age 56.

The guitarist can be heard on the records of such contemporary country hit makers as Eric Church, Chris Janson, Kenny Chesney, Darius Rucker, Luke Bryan, Tim McGraw, Dustin Lynch, Little Big Town, Thomas Rhett, Blake Shelton, Lee Brice, Josh Turner, Cody Johnson, Kacey Musgraves, Dierks Bentey and Jon Pardi.

Jerry Corenflos, known as “J.T.,” was born and raised in Terre Haute, Indiana. He performed in local bands throughout the 1970s and moved to Nashville in 1982. His initial jobs were in the bands of Jean Shepard and Joe Stampley. On the Nashville club scene, he played in The Blue Tick Hounds backing singer-songwriter David Lee Murphy. He has continued to work with Murphy periodically.

In 1990, Corenflos decided to concentrate on studio work. His performances as a guitarist on publishers’ song demos led to being hired for master sessions beginning in 1993.

Generally hired for his electric-guitar prowess, he played on sessions for Tanya Tucker, Rodney Crowell, Big & Rich, Lorrie Morgan, Pam Tillis, Rascal Flatts, LeAnn Rimes, Joe Diffie, Toby Keith, Easton Corbin, John Anderson, Billy Currington, Trace Adkins, Joe Nichols, Aaron Tippin and Sara Evans, among many others.

Corenflos has backed such Country Music Hall of Fame members as George Jones, Alabama, Reba McEntire, George Strait, Brooks & Dunn, Charley Pride, Kenny Rogers, Hank Williams Jr., Alan Jackson and Dolly Parton. Among the pop and rock acts he has recorded with as Bob Seger, Jose Feliciano, Kelly Clarkson, Richard Marx, The Doobie Brothers, Sheryl Crow, Don Henley, Paul Carrack, Cliff Richard and Dobie Gray.

In 2013, the Academy of Country Music named him its Guitar Player of the Year. Corenflos was also regularly cited as one of Nashville’s top session musicians.

J.T. Corenflos issued his solo album in 2015, Somewhere Under the Radar.

His death was announced on social media on Saturday, Oct. 24. Funeral arrangements have not been announced.