Mary Jane Thomas, Wife To Hank Williams Jr., Suddenly Passes

Mary Jane Thomas and 2020 inductee Hank Williams Jr. seen during the 2021 Medallion Ceremony, celebrating the Induction of the Class of 2020 at Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on November 21, 2021. Photo: Jason Kempin

Mary Jane Thomas, wife to country icon Hank Williams Jr., has passed away at the age of 58.

MusicRow has confirmed that Thomas passed away Tuesday (March 22) in Jupiter, Florida from what appears to be a complication following a recent medical procedure. At this time, her death does not appear to be suspicious.

Thomas, a former model for Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion, has been married to Williams since 1990. The couple separated in 2007, but fully reconciled in 2011 as they celebrated their 21st anniversary.

The pair had 2 children together, daughter Katie Williams-Dunning and son Samuel Williams. In 2020, Katie tragically died in a car accident in Tennessee.

Sam Williams & Mary Jane Thomas. Photo: Courtesy of BB Gun Press

“My dear Mama Mary Jane was a beautiful soul who forever affected everyone who knew her,” Sam, who is also a rising country artist, shares in a statement. “She had a smile and presence that lit up every room and she never met a stranger she didn’t befriend. Her spirit was gentle and giving. She could take down a ten-point buck and fix dinner for her grandchildren at the same time! Now she gets to radiate from above with my sister Katherine Diana right by her side.

“She grew up competing in baton and cheerleading and was one of Hawaiian Tropic’s top models. My father fell in love with the Daytona Beach beauty the minute he set eyes on her in the early 80s. They went on to live the most powerful love story of travel and hunting and raising a family,” he continues. “Rest in peace Mama, I will always be the son of Mary Jane.”

Thomas is survived by Hank; parents Ramona and Bill; brother Andy; sister Angelason; son Sam Williams; and 3 grandchildren, Beau Weston, Tennyson Hiram and Audrey Jane.

Imperials Gospel Great David O. Will Passes

Gospel-quartet mainstay David O. Will died at age 78 on March 4 in Hendersonville.

He was best known as a 23-year veteran of The Imperials. During his tenure with the group, it won three Grammy Awards and was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.

He was born in Scottsbluff, Nebraska and became a licensed minister in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Following stints with The Keystones Quartet, The Statesmen and The Tribunes, he joined The Imperials as a baritone vocalist in 1976.

Fiery-voiced Russ Taff joined the group as its lead singer that same year. During the next decade, the group had its biggest successes. The albums Sail On, Imperials Live, Heed the Call, One More Song for You, Christmas With the Imperials and Priority made the group a bridge between the gospel-quartet tradition and the emerging Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) pop style.

While Will was in The Imperials, they were nominated for Grammy Awards 11 times and won for their recordings Sail On (1977), Heed the Call (1979) and Priority (1981).

The album Side By Side (1983) was a double LP with each member of the Imperials singing solo on a side. It won a Dove Award, one of many such accolades from the Gospel Music Association. The Imperials were the organization’s Artist of the Year in 1981.

The act went back to traditional, four-part harmony singing on The Imperials Sing the Classics (1984), then returned to a CCM/pop sound on Let the Wind Blow (1985).

Will was particularly noted for his performances of the ballads “One More Song for You” and “You’re the Only Jesus.” His self-composed “In the Same Old Fashioned Way” was another Imperials favorite.

The group was always known for its progressivism. The Imperials were the first bi-racial quartet in their field. The group stirred controversy when it released the rock-oriented This Year’s Model (1987). Its song “Power of God” was the theme song of the Christian bodybuilders The Power Team. In 1991-93, The Imperials surprised fans when they brought in a female singer, Pam Morales.

In the mid-1990s, the group scaled back its band and returned to performing in intimate, church settings. Instead of booking ticketed concert halls, The Imperials performed for free-will offerings at more than 200 church shows per year. Following a three-year recording hiatus, the act issued Til He Comes (1995), a return to the classic quartet sound.

The Imperials were inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1998. Without Will and incorporating various new members, the group continued to perform regularly until 2010.

David O. Will is survived by his wife of 56 years, Janice Will, by daughters Lisa Will Brinker, Angela Will Smith and Nicole Will McDougal and by a granddaughter and two sisters.

A celebration of his life will be held Saturday April 2, at Christ Church Wallace Chapel, 15354 Old Hickory Blvd. Visitation will be from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. with services to follow. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in David O. Will’s memory to Mercy Multiplied, PO Box 111060, Nashville, TN 37222. Arrangements were handled by Lumen Cremation of Nashville.

Former CMHOF Executive Carolyn Tate Passes

Carolyn Tate

Carolyn Tate, the former Sr. VP of Museum Services at the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum, passed away on March 3. She was 65.

A Nashville native, Tate had over 25 years of executive museum management experience at the Country Music Hall of Fame. She exited her role at the museum in March of 2018.

Tate fulfilled two tenures at the museum. From 1986 until 1994, she took on the role of Production and Advertising Manager, where she was responsible for copywriting, creative direction and editorial supervision. She also managed the production of books, magazines, and historical albums.

During her second term at the Museum, Tate supervised a collection of over 2 million artifacts, the exhibition program, digitization program, the Frist Archive and Library and special construction projects. She also served as project manager for the $100 million addition to the museum completed in 2014, which added state-of-the-art archives for the collection and additional exhibition and event space to the facility. Tate also supervised Hatch Show Print, the Taylor Swift Education Center, special projects, public programming and various development projects.

Tate’s career also included stints at LooneyRicksKiss, an architectural firm in Memphis, where she served as Director of Museum Services and supervised the design of the STAX Museum. She also directed the Museum Services Division at 1220 Exhibits in Nashville, where she worked on design, fabrication and installation of many public and private museum projects.

Tate is preceded by her father, Charles E. Tate; sister, Mary Gail Tate; and uncle, Terry Lee Davidson. She is survived by her mother, Norma Davidson Tate; aunt, Carolyn Davidson Oldham (James); niece, Rebakah Jean; nephew, Adam Lee; and cousin, Seth Lee.

The visitation is this afternoon (March 18) from 2 – 4 p.m. at Woodlawn-Roesch-Patton Funeral Home & Woodlawn Memorial Park (660 Thompson Ln, Nashville, Tenn. 37204).

Singer-Songwriter Brad Martin Dies At 48

Country singer-songwriter Brad Martin passed away on Friday, March 11, at the age of 48. The cause of death has not yet been disclosed.

Raised in Greenfield, Ohio, Martin learned how to play guitar at a young age and quickly gained interest in songwriting. He moved to Nashville in his early 20s and performed daily at a local nightclub before being spotted by Joe Carter, an artist manager who had previously worked with Tracy Byrd. Martin became a client at Carter’s management firm, Carter and Company.

In 1997, Martin signed with the late producer, Blake Mevis, who produced acts such as George Strait, Keith Whitley and Brad’s late father, Richard Martin. In 1999, Brad signed his first publishing deal with Curb Publishing.

Martin made his major-label country debut in 2002 with Wings of a Honky-Tonk Angel via Epic Records, whom he signed with in 2000. The project, which reached No. 34 on the Billboard Country Albums chart, produced his Top 20 hit single “Before I Knew Better.” He released one more solo single, “One of Those Days” (2003), before his deal came to an end.

The vocalist later joined singer-songwriter John Ramey to form country duo Martin Ramey. The pair signed to Curb Records in 2008 and released their debut single “Twisted” in 2010.

Visitation for Martin will be on Sunday, March 20 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 250 Lafayette St., Greenfield. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. on Monday, March 21 at the same church.

A GoFundMe has been set up to cover funeral expenses. To donate, click here.

Hit Country Songwriter Bruce Burch Dies

Bruce Burch. Photo: Ed Rode

Country songwriter Bruce Burch, who wrote such hits as Reba McEntire’s “Rumor Has It” and “It’s Your Call,” died on Saturday, March 12. He was 69.

Burch fought a nearly 30-year battle with leukemia. According to a news source out of Burch’s home town of Gainesville, Georgia, his health had worsened before his death on Saturday.

In addition to his two hit singles for McEntire, Burch wrote many other songs for artists including T. Graham Brown, Faith Hill, Aaron Tippin, The Oak Ridge Boys, George Jones, Barbara Mandrell, John Anderson and Wayne Newton, among others. He published a book in 1996 about his music career called Songs that Changed Our Lives, in which he shares stories about his songs.

The Georgia native helped establish an annual concert series in Gainesville originally known as the “Bruce Burch & Friends Honor John Jarrard Concert.” The benefit shows have raised money for local nonprofits over the past 20 years through the John Jarrard Foundation, including for Good News Clinics, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Hall County and the Georgia Mountain Food Bank. Burch grew up with Jarrard, a fellow songwriter and Georgia Music Hall of Famer, who died of complications related to diabetes in 2001.

In 2012, Burch started teaching entertainment business classes at Brenau University after he helped start music business programs at the University of Georgia and Kennesaw State University. He also operated his own publishing companies, worked for EMI Publishing, and worked as an artist manager.

Burch is survived by his daughter, Sarah Stenzel; his son, Matthew Burch; as well as his four grandchildren, Lucy and Maisy Stenzel and Jack and Walter Burch.

Bobbie Nelson, Beloved Musician & Sister Of Willie Nelson, Dies At 91

Willie & Bobbie Nelson. Photo: Todd V. Wolfson

Bobbie Nelson, beloved musician, author and sister to country legend Willie Nelson, passed away Thursday morning (March 10). She was 91.

Bobbie was the first member of Willie’s band, Willie Nelson and Family, serving as his pianist and a vocalist. She spent more than 50 years recording and touring with her brother.

By the time the siblings were in their teens, they were playing honky-tonks together in a band with Bobbie’s husband Bud Fletcher and their guitar-playing father Ira Nelson. After Bud’s untimely death in a car accident, Bobbie was left with three young sons to raise on her own. She gave up playing music to attend a business college in Fort Worth where she learned secretarial skills.

However, music helped her land her first job out of school when the Hammond Organ Company hired Bobbie for both her office skills to work in the company’s music library and to demonstrate the company’s organs. As her children grew, she also began working as a piano entertainer in restaurants, lounges and supper clubs, eventually earning her living as a pianist in Austin and Nashville.

In 1972, Willie, freshly-signed to a recording deal with Atlantic Records, invited Bobbie to join him in New York City for a recording session, and then asked her to join his band.

Bobbie released her debut album, Audiobiography, in 2007. The Justice Records release features a collection of 12 of her favorite songs—two of them featuring Willie singing and playing guitar with her. In recent years, she was featured on the 2021 project, The Willie Nelson Family (Legacy Recordings), which contains a collection of country, gospel-flavored songs performed by Willie’s Family Band.

The siblings also collaborated on two books: the 2020 memoir Me and Sister Bobbie: True Tales of The Family Band (Random House) and the only children’s book they penned, the 2021 Sister, Brother, Family: An American Childhood in Music (Doubleday).

Memorial arrangements have not yet been announced.

Nashville Troubadour Jimbeau Hinson Passes

Jimbeau Hinson

Singer-songwriter Jimbeau Hinson passed away on Friday afternoon (March 4) at age 70.

He wrote hits for such artists as The Oak Ridge Boys, Kathy Mattea, David Lee Murphy, Brenda Lee, John Conlee and Steve Earle. Hinson was also widely loved as a Nashville nightclub entertainer. He starred as the subject of a 2013 documentary film, was an HIV/AIDS activist and became a mentor to numerous younger artists.

He was also one of the songwriting community’s most colorful personalities. The Mississippi native was born James Leon Hinson Jr. in 1951. The son of a mechanic and a waitress, the self-taught pianist became a performer at age 10. He entertained at local barn dances, talent contests, regional fairs and honky-tonks.

At age 11, he had his own radio show in his hometown of Newton, Mississippi.

Country superstar Loretta Lynn discovered him when he was 14. Hinson’s father had taken him to a Lynn concert, and they talked their way backstage. After hearing him, she brought the youngster onstage to sing and invited him to Nashville.

She introduced him to her mentors, The Wilburn Brothers, and they signed him to their song-publishing company. Hinson moved to Nashville at age 16 and became part of the Wilburns’ road show, touring with Hank Williams Jr., Kitty Wells, Faron Young, Wanda Jackson, Charley Pride and other notables.

Country singer Anthony Armstrong Jones recorded Hinson’s “Sugar in the Flowers” in 1970, and it earned the teenager his first ASCAP award. Jones recorded for Chart Records, which signed “Jimmy Hinson” to its roster. His three singles for the label failed to chart. However, fellow Chart artist Lynn Anderson became another singer who recorded his early songs.

He next became affiliated with the Royal American label and its executive, Dick Heard. The company’s Mel Street recorded the Hinson/Heard song “Angel With a Broken Wing” in 1972. When Broadway legend Carol Channing came to Nashville in 1973, she recorded three of their songs.

Jimbeau Hinson was openly bisexual, which limited any further opportunities as a country recording artist in the 1970s. Instead, he concentrated on his talent as a lyricist.

The Oak Ridge Boys hired him to work at their publishing company, and within six months, Hinson was managing it. Brenda Lee scored a hit with the songwriter’s “Find Yourself Another Puppet” in 1976, the first of four singles he wrote for her. The others were “Don’t Promise Me Anything Do It” (1980), “Broken Trust” (top 10, 1980) and “Just for the Moment” (1982).

The last two were Brenda Lee vocal collaborations with the Oaks, for whom Hinson co-wrote the chart-topping “Fancy Free” in 1981. The song has now been programmed more than two million times on radio.

The group also recorded Hinson’s “Let Me Be the One,” which was revived by Randy Gurley in 1978 and became a duet by Billy Walker & Barbara Fairchild the following year. In 1986, The Oak Ridge Boys turned Hinson’s “When You Give It Away” into a Christmas favorite, and their albums contain more than a dozen of his songs.

Jimbeau Hinson married Brenda Fielder in 1980. She was familiar to Nashvillians as the TV spokesperson for her family’s home-renovation business. Their relationship became known as one of the great Music Row love stories.

During the next few years, Hinson wrote songs recorded by Porter Wagoner, Rita Coolidge, Atlanta, The Goldens, Floyd Cramer, Tammy Wynette and others.

Steve Earle became a regular songwriting collaborator. He charted with their “Hillbilly Highway” in 1986, and it was later revived by Ricky Skaggs (1997). Connie Smith charted with the Earle/Hinson song “A Far Cry From You” in 1985, which was revived by Rhonda Vincent in 1990.

Hinson also began collaborating with David Lee Murphy. Their “Red Roses (Won’t Work Now)” was recorded by Reba McEntire in 1985. Although never a single, this song became a big fan favorite at her concerts.

John Conlee returned Jimbeau Hinson to the country top-10 by issuing “Harmony” in 1986. Kathy Mattea did the same with her hit treatment of “Train of Memories” in 1987. Also making the charts were Patty Loveless with his song “After All” (1987) and Larry Boone with “Don’t Give Candy to a Stranger” (1988, another top 10 hit).

Jimbeau Hinson emerged as a Music City club attraction via a series of showcases in 1986, capped by an annual Christmas show dubbed “Mistletoe Time With Jimbeau.” His warmth, soulful singing, raconteur humor and showmanship made him an audience favorite.

He competed on TV’s Star Search in 1987-88, beating future country star Billy Dean during the show’s early rounds and making it to the finals.

But these events came at a difficult personal time for Jimbeau Hinson. The Oaks sold their publishing company, rendering him temporarily “jobless.” In 1985, he was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, which in those days was practically a death sentence. He spent the next 10 years battling the disease. By 1996 he weighed a skeletal 110 pounds, slipped into a coma and nearly died.

David Lee Murphy aided him financially by scoring a 1995 top 10 hit with their co-written “Party Crowd.” It was named the country airplay single of the year by Radio & Records.

Hinson miraculously regained his health. Between 1999 and 2010, he reactivated his songwriting career with recordings of his songs by Tracy Lawrence, Lee Greenwood, Alecia Nugent, Rodney Crowell, Michael Peterson, Ty Herndon, Billy Burnette, Sonya Isaacs and more than a dozen independent country artists he mentored. The Lost Trailers charted with his “Why Me” on BNA Records in 2006.

He formed his own American Romance record label. In 2001-2002, Jimbeau Hinson released An American Romance and A Dozen American Beauties for My One and Only Rose as albums on his label. Both were dedicated to Brenda, who was pictured on their CD jackets with him.

He also became an advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness. Songs based on his survival formed the backbone of his 2013 album Strong Medicine.

That CD inspired the creation of Beautiful Jim, a documentary film by Rex Jones based on Hinson’s life. The movie was screened at the 2014 Nashville Film Festival and became an audience favorite at other festivals.

At the time of his passing, Hinson was working on an autobiography titled The All of Everything in the Life and Times of Jimbeau Hinson.

According to publicist and friend Schatzi Hageman, Jimbeau Hinson underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery on June 30. While in recovery, he suffered a stroke on July 1. He apparently had another stroke last week while in Hospice care.

Jimbeau Hinson is survived by Brenda Fielder, his wife of 42 years, by sisters Cindee Sorrels of Nashville, TN and Beth Allgood of Decatur, MS and brother Mike Hinson of Hickory, MS, and by several nieces and nephews. A Celebration of Life is being planned and will be announced at a later date.

Country Music’s Visionary TV Producer Jim Owens Dies

Jim Owens

Jim Owens, the visionary producer who revolutionized country music television production, died on Friday (March 4). His wife of nearly 40 years, Lorianne Crook, was by his side.

Owens was born in South Carolina on Aug. 27, 1937. Trained in New York, Owens would become one of the most influential television producers in country music. His first foray into national syndication came in 1977 when he created and produced A Concert Behind Prison Walls with Johnny Cash, Linda Ronstadt, and Roy Clark.

The following year Owens launched country music’s first fan-voted, big budget, live award show: the Music City News Country Awards. Rated No. 1 in national syndication, the program recognized the appetite for country music content. Owens produced and syndicated the awards show via his own company through 1984.

Pictured (L-R): Lorianne Crook, Jim Owens, Charlie Chase

In 1983, Owens paired entertainment news correspondent Lorianne Crook with veteran radio personality and local television host Charlie Chase to create an Entertainment Tonight-esque program for country music. The program became Owens’ landmark show, This Week in Country Music, providing entertainment news, interviews and performances to the country lifestyle viewer. With Owens at the helm, Crook & Chase quickly gained recognition and popularity. The duo was named official TNN ambassadors and took the show on location around the world. Between 1985 and 1999 productions originated from Los Angeles, Houston, New York, Myrtle Beach, and Orlando, as well as Canada, Japan, Mexico, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

In 1985, The Nashville Network entered an agreement to exclusively partner with Jim Owens Entertainment for original content creation. Over the next 15 years, Owens independently created and produced much of the highest rated programming on TNN: the first daily and weekly country music news shows, award shows, variety specials, musical documentaries, lifestyle programming, and more. Owens and Crook also married in 1985.

Owens delivered a massive amount of programming for TNN in the 1980s and 1990s, including the TNN/Music City News Country Awards (1985-1996), Weekday (1988-1990), Weekend (1988-1990), Country Standard Time (1990-1991), TNN/Music City News Songwriters Awards (1991-1995), and Yesteryear (1994-1995).

In 1993, Owens negotiated with TNN to place Crook & Chase in the primetime 90-minute flagship slot held by Ralph Emery’s Nashville Now. With more than 500 episodes in the vaults, Music City Tonight signed off in 1995 at the height of country’s boom to enable the duo to morph Crook & Chase back into national syndication from Universal Studios in Hollywood. At the same time, the duo released their best-selling autobiography Crook & Chase: Our Lives, The Music & The Stars.

During this era, Owens also contributed to Celebrities Offstage with Lorianne Crook (1988-1995), Funny Business with Charlie Chase (1989-1995), Crook & Chase Tonight (1997) and This Year In Country Music (1989-1999).

When TNN closed in 2000, Owens produced, and Crook hosted a series of Celebrities Offstage specials as well as 180 episodes of Celebrity Kitchen for GAC. In 2007, Owens navigated the return of Crook & Chase to television, initially on RFD and later in syndication through 2014. Since 1989, The Crook & Chase Countdown, currently distributed by iHeart Media, is heard on hundreds of radio stations across North America. Owens executive produced the countdown, along with its companion podcast, Crook & Chase Nashville Chats, until his passing.

Since 2011, Jim Owens Entertainment has held the trademarks for TNN: The Nashville Network. With a 45-year library of original productions and raw footage totaling over 10,000 hours, Owens’ legacy of presenting compelling country lifestyle programming is secured.

In lieu of flowers, the family encourages donations in Owens’ name to the Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum’s digital preservation efforts. Supporting this initiative will honor Owens’ lifelong mission to forever document country music’s global impact. Arrangements are pending.

‘60s Country Star Warner Mack Passes

Warner Mack, who died on Tuesday (March 1) in suburban Nashville, had a dozen top 10 country hits during the 1960s and is remembered as an award-winning songwriter.

Mack wrote the country evergreens “Is It Wrong (For Loving You),” “Talkin’ to the Wall” and “After the Lights Go Out,” all of which won BMI awards. As a singer, he scored a No. 1 hit with “The Bridge Washed Out” in 1965. His career was hampered by health problems that lasted for decades.

He was born Warner Hensley McPherson Jr. in Nashville on April 2, 1935. His father was a Presbyterian minister. The family moved to Jackson, Tennessee when he was seven and to Vicksburg, Mississippi when he was nine.

From an early age, Mack was enthralled by music. He taught himself to play guitar and was writing songs by his teens. He reportedly wrote “Is It Wrong” at age 13 in the wake of a teenage romance.

He became a standout athlete in high school. His football skills led to scholarship offers from Louisiana and Mississippi. Because of his baseball prowess, the St. Louis Cardinals scouted him.

But music was his calling. The McPherson family — Warner, his parents and his two sisters — sang together at many community events. He convinced WVIM in Vicksburg to hire him as a DJ. Warner Mack got his start as a professional performer on The Louisiana Hayride over KWKH in Shreveport. Joining Red Foley’s televised Ozark Jubilee in Springfield, Missouri, garnered him a wider following.

A 1957 demo recording session in Jackson, Mississippi led to a recording contract with Decca, which shortened his last name from McPherson to Mack. The label issued his “Is It Wrong (For Loving You)” in 1958. It became a top 10 hit and crossed over to the pop charts. Webb Pierce made the song a hit again in 1960, and Sonny James took it to No. 1 on the country hit parade in 1974. It has also been recorded by Bobby Bare, Loretta Lynn, Mike Lunsford, Wanda Jackson, Ray Peterson, Mickey Gilley, Gilbert Ortega and many more.

Decca aimed his subsequent singles at the emerging teen-music market. Warner Mack’s “Roc-A-Chicka” is considered a rockabilly classic. But the record stalled on the pop charts when radio programmers believed they heard the “f” word in its lyrics. Mack left Decca in 1959. When he returned to the label in 1962, it was as a solidly country performer.

His second Decca career took off in 1964 with the hits “Surely” and “Sittin’ in an All-Night Cafe.” Late that year, Warner Mack was severely injured in an automobile accident during a snowstorm near Princeton, Indiana. He was laid up for months.

He returned to the country charts with the No. 1 hit “The Bridge Washed Out” in 1965. Marty Stuart recorded his version of this classic in 2010. The song has also been recorded by Junior Brown, Rick Nelson, George Jones and Buck Owens.

Warner Mack notched up seven consecutive top 10 country hits in 1966-68. One of them, 1966’s “Talkin’ to the Wall,” also became a top-10 hit for Lynn Anderson in 1974.

In 1965, Warner Mack became the first country artist to record a national Coca-Cola jingle. He recorded a string of radio shows directed to the armed serves. Between 1964 and 1971, he released nine albums.

Success continued for Mack in 1969 with his self-composed top-10 hits “Leave My Dream Alone” and “I’ll Still Be Missing You.” During the next four years, he placed eight more singles on the country charts, all of which he wrote.

But throughout this period, he was plagued by after effects from the car crash. He underwent 11 surgeries for internal injuries. By 1974, he was unable to continue, and Decca released him from its roster.

During the 1970s, he established his own record label (Pageboy), song-publishing company (Bridgewood) and retail establishment (Warner Mack’s Country Store). His songwriting sustained him. Warner Mack’s songs have been recorded by Brenda Lee, Bill Anderson, Kitty Wells, Pat Boone, Charlie Louvin and Jean Shepard, among others. In 1992, Ricky Van Shelton had a big hit with the songwriter’s “After the Lights Go Out.”

Warner Mack toured England in 1982 and 1984. He released two newly recorded albums in 1992. His final project was apparently a 2020 collection titled Better Than Ever. The German label Bear Family Records reissued Warner Mack’s rockabilly and teen-pop discs on a 2011 CD collection titled Baby Squeeze Me.

The singer-songwriter had been in ill health, reportedly battling various ailments, eye problems and Parkinson’s Disease. Warner Mack’s passing was reported on several online sites — Wikipedia, Country Insider, Country Aircheck, and on Facebook (by Richard L. White).

Arrangements are pending and being handled by Woodbine Hickory Chapel Funeral Home, 5852 Nolensville Pike, Nashville.

Hit Country Songwriter Mike Dekle Passes

Georgia-based songwriter Mike Dekle died Thursday (Feb. 24) at age 77 after a battle with lung disease.

His biggest songwriting hits included “Scarlet Fever” by Kenny Rogers (1983), “Don’t Love Make a Diamond Shine” by Tracy Byrd (1997), “Size Matters (Someday)” by Joe Nichols (2006) and “Country Must Be Country Wide” by Brantley Gilbert (2011). Gilbert’s version of their co-written “One Hell of an Amen” topped the country charts in 2014.

Pictured (L-R): Co-writers Mike Dekle, Brantley Gilbert, and Brian Davis at the No. 1 party for “One Hell of An Amen.” Photo: Valory Music Co.

Noted as a hard-core country tunesmith, Dekle had his songs recorded by Ricky Skaggs, Hank Thompson, Moe Bandy, The Whites. T.G. Sheppard, Scooter Lee, Colt Ford and Rhonda Vincent, among others.

He was born in Panama City, Florida, and the family moved to Athens, Georgia when he was five. Dekle began his career as a folk singer in coffeehouses in the 1960s. He moved to Nashville in the 1970s, hoping to make a life as either a singer or a songwriter.

Neither career panned out. So Mike Dekle spent most of the next three decades in Athens, Georgia as a State Farm insurance agent while pursuing country songwriting on the side.

He met songwriter/publisher Byron Hill in 1982. Hill produced Dekle’s record of “Scarlet Fever.” Kenny Rogers picked up the tune and signed Dekle to his publishing company. The superstar subsequently recorded the Dekle tunes “Two Hearts One Love,” “People in Love,” “Someone Must Feel Like a Fool Tonight” and “Some Prisons Don’t Have Walls.”

As a singer, Mike Dekle made the bottom rungs of the country charts in 1984 with his self-composed “Hanky-Panky” and “The Minstrel.”

Following his stint writing for Rogers, Dekle signed with Byron Hill’s publishing company, Song Source. He also continued to co-write with Hill, securing a number of recordings during the next few years. Keith Whitley recorded the songwriting team’s “A Day in the Life of a Fool.” Gene Watson sang their collaboration “No Trash in My Trailer.” Dekle and Hill remained lifelong friends.

In 1990, Dekle launched his own song-publishing company, Square D Music. He signed with Almo Irving Music in 1994.

He continued to sing, as well. Mike Dekle released six albums, Wood and Wire (1982), Fine Tuned (1999), Sketches (2003), Tunesmith (2005), Tributes (2009) and That Kinda Guy (2019).

Mike Dekle is survived by his wife Crystie and by their children and grandchildren. His death was announced by Lord & Stephens Funeral Home East Chapel in Athens, Georgia. A Celebration of Life will be announced at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation, American Diabetes Association, Athens First Baptist Church Athens Building Fund or a charity of choice.