Country Instrumental Great Mike Auldridge Passes

Photo Credit: Matt McClain/The Washington Post

Photo Credit: Matt McClain/The Washington Post

Dobro master Mike Auldridge, famed for his work in The Seldom Scene and Chesapeake, has died at age 73.

A role model for such Nashville resophonic guitarists as Rob Ickes and Jerry Douglas, Auldridge passed away near his home in Maryland on Saturday, Dec. 29, following a long battle with cancer. The instrumentalist was a key participant on the Grammy Award winning 1994 album The Dobro Sessions, which was co-produced by Douglas.

Noted for his poetic, fluid touch on the Dobro, Auldridge was a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellow. The ceremony, staged in October, marked his final performance.

His band, The Seldom Scene, brought a modern tone to bluegrass music and incorporated the songs of Bob Dylan, John Prine and other contemporary composers into the style. He also released a series of acclaimed solo albums.

Mike Auldridge can be heard as a sideman on records by Emmylou Harris, Patty Loveless, Linda Ronstadt and Lyle Lovett. But he never pursued a Nashville career as a studio instrumentalist.

His final album will be released next year. It will be a trio collection with his admirers Douglas and Ickes.

Journalist, Author Martha Hume Passes

Noted music journalist and author Martha Hume died in her sleep at home in Nashville on Monday night, December 17.

The former managing editor of Country Music magazine was the author of the books You’re So Cold I’m Turnin’ Blue: Martha Hume’s Guide to the Greatest in Country Music (1982) and Kenny Rogers: Gambler, Dreamer, Lover (1980). Hume was the wife of CMT columnist Chet Flippo.

Born in 1947, she grew up in Stearns, Kentucky, a company-owned, coal-mining town. Her first journalism experience was writing for the McCreary County Record, a weekly newspaper owned by her parents. She graduated from the University of Kentucky, then obtained a Master’s Degree in Journalism at the University of Texas in 1974.

Martha Hume and Chet Flippo initially rose to prominence as music journalists in New York. He became a reporter for Rolling Stone. She became managing editor at Country Music. By the early 1980s, she had also written for Texas Monthly, The Chicago Sun-Times, US magazine, McCall’s, Rolling Stone and more. She was the pop-music columnist for The New York Daily News.

After relocating to Nashville, she became the editor for several educational publications based in Knoxville. Martha Hume was the first writer to reveal the story of Hank Williams “lost” daughter, Jett Williams. She also wrote liner notes for recordings, including 1999’s Intimate Portrait: Women of Country. In later years, she worked for agencies combating substance abuse.

It was her wish to be cremated. Funeral and/or memorial services have not been announced.

Star Percussionist Willie Ackerman Passes

Willie Ackerman on the set of Hee Haw. He was on the show for 25 years.

Willie Ackerman, a longtime drummer on the Grand Ole Opry, on Hee Haw and on Music Row recording sessions has died at age 73.

Ackerman passed away at Skyline Medical Center last Thursday, Dec. 13. Born William Paul Ackerman, he was a Nashville native who became a professional musician at age 17.

He rose to prominence during the Nashville Sound era of the 1950s and 1960s and can be heard on records by Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Charley Pride, Tom T. Hall, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Chet Atkins, Ray Price, Faron Young, Roger Miller, Johnny Paycheck, Bobby Bare, Jim Reeves and hundreds of others.

Among the hits he set the tempo for were “El Paso” by Marty Robbins, “The Grand Tour” by George Jones, “Amos Moses” by Jerry Reed, “Wings of a Dove” by Ferlin Husky, “Black Rose” by Waylon Jennings, “Walk on By” by Leroy Van Dyke, “Ahab the Arab” by Ray Stevens and “Girl on the Billboard” by Del Reeves. He was extremely active as a musician between 1957 and 1990.

Willie Ackerman was a member of the Nashville local of the American Federation of Musicians for 50 years and served on the union’s board of directors. He was also a Deputy Sheriff of Davidson County.

He is survived by his wife Jeannie, his musician son Trey, daughters Kelly Ackerman and Angela Pardaen, seven grandchildren, brother John Robert and sisters Helen Demonbreun, Sammie Guthrie and Frankie Corinne Boyle.

His memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. this morning [Monday, Dec. 17] at Marshall-Donnelly-Combs Funeral Home, followed by burial at Spring Hill Cemetery in Madison. Memorials can be made in his honor to the Opry Trust Fund.

Willie Ackerman and Jim Glazer, circa 1958.

Christian Music Manager Norman Miller Passes

Norman Miller

Prominent Christian music manager Norman Miller passed away on Monday (Dec. 3). He was 69.

In 1970, Miller started his own record label in the UK, which was later purchased by American-owned Christian music label Word Records, with Miller becoming the Executive Director of Word Europe. Miller founded his management company, Proper Management, in 1983. Proper Management represents Anthem Lights, Casting Crowns, Fireflight, Francesca Battistelli, Leeland, Nichole Nordeman, and The Afters, among others. Proper Management has previously produced and managed tours for numerous artists, including 2nd Chapter of Acts, Brandon Heath, Family Force 5, Michael W. Smith, Natalie Grant, Newsboys, NewSong, Point of Grace, Steven Curtis Chapman, Tenth Avenue North, Third Day and tobyMac, among others.

Miller is responsible for putting together several well-known groups in Christian music, including Avalon, ZOEgirl, Jump5 and PureNRG. He has also been the creator of several best selling Christian albums, including the Andrae Crouch Tribute Album as well as Soulful Celebration (a Gospel version of Handel’s Messiah). Miller won a GRAMMY Award for each of those albums.

Several prominent Christian artists expressed their condolences via Twitter.

Bart Millard of MercyMe: “A true hero of the faith passed away today. Norman Miller will be missed.”

Steven Curtis Chapman: “Praying for comfort for family of dear friend Norman Miller, a brilliant man who loved to tell THE STORY w/all he did..& his has only begun!”

Casting Crowns’ Mark Hall: “Yesterday afternoon, our close friend and manager Norman Miller went to be with Jesus. He was a hero for Christian music and for us. Please pray for his family during this time.”

Francesca Battistelli: “Heartbroken over the loss of my dear friend, mentor, and manager Norman Miller. Yet even as we mourn him, we rejoice that he is with Jesus.”

Jody McBrayer (formerly of Avalon): “My friend and manager Norman Miller passed away tonight. He was a unique, upright man and he will be missed. My heart is heavy. I know he is with The Lord whom he took such pleasure making music about. There would have been no Avalon without his nurturing and leadership. It’s difficult to imagine what my life would have been like had he not taken a chance on me. Norman, there is no one else like you and you will be missed.”

Miller’s memorial service will be held Monday (Dec. 10) at 3 p.m. CT at Brentwood Baptist Church, located at 777 Concord Rd. in Brentwood, Tenn. There will be no visitation.

Those who wish to send flowers can send them to Brentwood Baptist Church prior to 2 p.m. CT on Monday (Dec. 10). For those who wish to make a donation in lieu of flowers, the family has requested that all donations be made to World Vision.

Clint Black’s Father Passes

MusicRow extends condolences to Clint Black and his family on the recent loss of Black’s father, G.A. Black, who died on Sunday (Dec. 2) at the age of 78. According to a statement, it is believed that the elder Black chose to end his own suffering due to the loss of his wife and his own declining health. He had given no prior indication of his plans to family or friends.

“Our family is devastated by this news,” Clint said via a statement. “We are still in the beginning stages of preparations to honor our father, and at this time, we respectfully ask for privacy until we have had the opportunity to fully process what’s transpired over the last 48 hours.”Black is survived by sons Mark, Brian, Kevin, Clint and his extended family.

Country Songwriter Frank Dycus Passes

Pictured at the video shoot for "I Don't Need Your Rocking Chair," which included a cameo by George Foreman. (L-R): writer Billy Yates, George Foreman, Nancy and George Jones, and Frank Dycus. Photo by Alan Mayor

Country songwriting great Frank Dycus has died at age 72. The writer of hits for George Strait, Jerry Lee Lewis, George Jones, Mark Chesnutt, Porter Wagoner and others passed away on Friday, November 23, following years of failing health.

One of Music Row’s best raconteurs, Marion Franklin Dycus was born in Hardmoney, Kentucky and was one of 13 children. He was fronting a country band by the time he was in his teens. He hitchhiked to California at age 15, then returned to Kentucky and joined the Air Force for a seven-year stint.

He spent time in Kansas working at Boeing and hosting a radio show before moving to Nashville in 1967. Dycus first tasted songwriting success in 1970, when George Morgan had a hit with his co-written “Lilacs and Fire.” Porter Wagoner took the Dycus song “Charley’s Picture” to No. 15 in 1971.

The songwriter’s first top-10 hit was with the 1974 Jerry Lee Lewis single “He Can’t Fill My Shoes.” The Wagoner and Dolly Parton 1976 top-10 hit duet “Is Forever Longer Than Always” was also from the Dycus catalog.

Dycus is perhaps best known for the trio of hits he co-wrote for George Strait, 1981’s “Unwound” and “Down and Out,” plus 1982’s “Marina Del Ray.” George Jones won a 1992 CMA Award for “I Don’t Need Your Rockin’ Chair,” which Dycus also co-wrote.

The songwriter hit No. 1 with “Gonna Get a Life,” sung by Mark Chesnutt in 1995, which helped Dycus earn SESAC’s Songwriter of the Year honors.

Dycus also wrote charted singles for Johnny Bush, Red Sovine, Johnny Paycheck, Joe Sun, Stella Parton, David Ball, Doug Supernaw, Gary Allan, Ronny Robbins. The Rovers, Southern Reign, Gary Stewart and his frequent song collaborator, Dean Dillon.

Other Frank Dycus co-writers have included Jim Lauderdale, Larry Kingston, Porter Wagoner, Billy Yates and Kerry Kurt Phillips.

Frank Dycus is survived by his wife, Mary Johnson; by children Sheila Dycus, Shannon Foxen, Shawn Bilbrey and Robert Dycus; by siblings Don Dycus, Jerry Dycus and Dana Forbes; by stepchildren Jamie Scott, Donna Stevenson, Dean Birkheimer and Glen Birkheimer and by grandchildren Vinnie Johnson and Samantha Bilbrey.

Jones-Stewart Funeral Home in Lyons, Georgia is handling the funeral arrangements. Dycus wished to have his ashes scattered off the coast of Tybee Island, Georgia. Donations in his name can be made to Vanderbilt Children’s Cancer Center in Nashville.

Songwriting Great Jan Crutchfield Dies

Hit songwriter Jan Crutchfield passed away on Thursday, October 30 at the age of 74.

During his career, Crutchfield earned seven BMI Awards and was twice nominated for the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. His “Statue of a Fool” was a top-10 hit three different times.

A native of Paducah, KY, Jan Crutchfield emerged on Nashville’s country-music scene in the early 1960s. In 1963, Faron Young sang the first of the songwriter’s many subsequent country hits, “Down By the River” and “We’ve Got Something in Common.” In 1965, Perry Como took Crutchfield’s “Dream on Little Dreamer” onto the pop hit parade.

Bonnie Guitar scored with his “I’m Living in Two Worlds” in 1966, and the song went on to be recorded by at least eight other stars, including Loretta Lynn and Dinah Shore. Charley Pride sang Crutchfield’s “Does My Ring Burn Your Finger” into the country top-10 in 1967.

In that same year, Wilma Burgess introduced the songwriter’s melodic “Tear Time.” It was revived and taken to No. 1 by Dave & Sugar in 1978 and re-recorded by K.T. Oslin in 1996.

The classic “Statue of a Fool” became one of Jack Greene’s signature songs in 1967, when it became a No. 1 hit. He continues to sing it on Grand Ole Opry broadcasts today. Brian Collins returned the song to the country top-10 in 1974, and it became a major hit a third time when sung by Ricky Van Shelton in 1989.

Jean Shepard (1970’s “Another Lonely Night”), Wanda Jackson (1971’s “Fancy Satin Pillows”), Faron Young (1972’s “This Little Girl of Mine”) and Tanya Tucker (1977’s “Ridin’ Rainbows”) kept Jan Crutchfield’s songs on the charts during the 1970s.

Lee Greenwood revived the songwriter’s fortunes in the 1980s by recording the Crutchfield-penned “It Turns Me Inside Out” (1981), “She’s Lying” (1982) and “Going, Going, Gone” (1984). Both Tucker and Greenwood were produced by Jan Crutchfield’s brother, Jerry Crutchfield.

The songwriter’s last charted title was 1985’s “It Should Have Been Love by Now,” a duet by Barbara Mandrell and Greenwood. But he continued to have songs recorded in the 1990s, such as 1993’s “Heartaches on Parade” by Cleve Francis. Even more recently, Ray Price recorded the Jan Crutchfield tune “You Just Don’t Love Me Anymore” in 2002.

Jan Crutchfield is survived by daughters Rose Lynn Newberry, Janalyn Bornstein and Holly Jo Walker; by brothers Jon Thomas and Jerry Don Crutchfield; by sisters Julia Lee Emberton, Jean Ann Crutchfield and Jane Ella Merry; and by five grandchildren and two great grandchildren.

A celebration of life will begin at 2 p.m. today [Monday] at Williamson Memorial Funeral Homeat 3009 Columbia Ave. in Franklin. Visitation will be held there from noon to 2 p.m.

[Updated Arrangements] Songwriter Tim Johnson Passes

Tim Johnson

A memorial service for Tim Johnson will be held Thurs., Nov. 1, 2 to 4 p.m. at the Cheekwood Botanical Garden’s Massey Hall. There will be no admission charge for attendees. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to MusiCares at www.grammy.org/musicares/donate.

• • • •

Songwriter Tim Johnson passed away Sun., Oct. 21, following a two-year battle with cancer. He was 52 and died at home. The established member of Nashville’s music community had more than 100 major label cuts to his credit, with some of his biggest hits including Diamond Rio’s “God Only Cries,” Jimmy Wayne’s “Do You Believe Me Now,” and Daryle Singletary’s “I Let Her Lie.”

His list of singles and cuts also includes Joey + Rory’s “Remember Me” and “That’s Important to Me,” Tim Rushlow’s “She Misses Him,” Jeannie Kendall’s “Out of Loneliness,” Rockie Lynne’s “I Can’t Believe It’s Me,” Tracy Lawrence’s “Up to Him,” Blaine Larsen’s “The Best Man,” Derek Sholl’s “When They Come Back,” and Doug Stone’s “Nice Problem.” Johnson’s “I Can’t Take My Eyes Off You,” written with Jon Wolfe and James Dean Hicks, was recorded by Joe Nichols for his 2011 album release.

Johnson’s talent extended to the studio, where he produced artists including Blaine Larsen. The respected songwriter was active with NSAI, where he served on its Song Camp faculty and was a longtime board member. He assisted the organization with its legislative work in Washington, D.C. Friends say he was a champion of songs and songwriters, and always encouraged aspiring writers. He also founded the Songwriter’s Institute.

In 2007 Johnson teamed with Rory Feek and Jeff Skillen to establish the Song Trust, which had success with “Bring Him Home Santa,” a song about fathers who serve in the military. Feek and his wife, Joey, said they are “saddened with the loss of our good friend. His passing leaves a big hole in our hearts and an even bigger one in the heart of country music.”

Growing up in Noti, Oregon, one of Johnson’s early songwriting influences was Mickey Newbury.

Johnson is survived by wife Meg, son Jack and daughter CeyMusicRow extends sincere condolences to his loved ones.

Funeral arrangements have not been announced. Check MusicRow.com for updates.

Friend and songwriter James Dean Hicks shared his thoughts on Tim:

He was one of the biggest personalities and talents that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. He made this world a better place in all ways and was a great friend to so many. He was one of the best songwriters and was a master at writing alone. “I Let Her Lie” and “She Misses Him” are a couple of the supreme works that Tim created alone. I believe what made him happiest was writing songs with his buddies and lifting us up and sharing success with us. His mission in life was to make sure songwriters got paid and recognized for their talents. And he always made us all smile. He was the funniest guy I have ever known. He was writing until the very end and was at the top of his game. I know we will be blessed to hear many of his songs in the future. Our loss is heaven’s gain. God bless Tim Johnson and his beautiful family.

Nashville Sound Mainstay Louis Nunley Passes

Louis Nunley

Louis Nunley, the baritone voice of both The Anita Kerr Singers and The Jordanaires, has died at age 81.

He was a veteran of the Music Row recording scene and a major contributor to the development of the classic Nashville Sound. That style softened the sound of Country recordings to make them accessible to pop-music fans. The Anita Kerr Singers earned two Grammy Awards during Nunley’s tenure with the group. After he joined The Jordanaires, that group also earned a Grammy.

Nunley sang on Nashville hits from the early 1950s until his retirement in 2010. Among the hundreds of stars he backed are Jim Reeves, George Jones, Roy Orbison, Eddy Arnold, Dolly Parton, Willie Nelson, Hank Snow and Red Foley. Nunley was the “whispering” voice in Brenda Lee’s landmark 1959 hit “Sweet Nothin’s,” and he has also backed such contemporary vocalists as Kristin Chenoweth and Mandy Barnett.

He was a native of Sikeston, MO who was raised in Anderson, IN. He moved to Nashville in 1948 to attend David Lipscomb University. His first recording session was in 1949.

The Anita Kerr Singers initially performed as regulars on WSM’s radio show “Sunday Down South.” Producer Owen Bradley and singer Red Foley began using the group on recording sessions around 1950.

In 1956, Kerr’s group became a quartet to compete on Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts on television. After winning, they became regulars on Godfrey’s CBS-TV series. In addition to Kerr and Nunley, the quartet included Dottie Dillard and Gil Wright.

The singers earned Grammy Awards in 1965 for the albums We Dig Mancini and Southland Favorites (with George Beverly Shea). They also continued to provide background vocals on hundreds of records.

Nunley was active as a session vocalist outside the group, recording as an independent contractor for decades. He sang on ad jingles, movie soundtracks and television specials such as the CMA Awards Show and the Music City News Awards. He was also a regular on the TNN series by The Statler Brothers. He served in leadership roles in the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) at both the local and national levels.

He joined The Jordanaires in 1999 and became the group’s musical director in 2000. The group arned a Grammy in 2002 for the CD We Called Him Mr. Gospel Music: The James Blackwood Tribute Album.

Louis Nunley died on Friday, October 26. He is survived by his wife Mary Ann Fluty Nunley, sons Louis Jr. and Lee, sister Jean Nunley Dennison and numerous nieces and nephews. Visitation with the family will be Wednesday (10/31) at Woodlawn Roesch-Patton Funeral Home from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the following day. The funeral service will then be held with burial to follow at Woodlawn Memorial Park.

Bluegrass Pioneer Passes Away

Connie Gately

Bluegrass headliner Connie Gately was laid to rest in Hermitage Memorial Gardens over the weekend.

The lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of Connie & Babe and The Backwoods Boys died on Monday, October 15. He was 83 years old. The International Bluegrass Music Association (IBMA) has identified Gately as a “bluegrass pioneer” and selected him for its oral-history program.

Born in St. Louis in 1929, he grew up in Middle Tennessee. Gately attended university at Lipscomb, Memphis State and Peabody, earning a masters degree while playing college baseball.

He formed The Backwoods Boys with guitarist/singer Babe Lofton (1929-1993) around 1952, when it debuted on disc on the Nashville independent label Republic Records. The core of the group also included banjo player Joe Drumright.

Gately and Drumwright served a brief stint as members of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys band in the late 1950s, but maintained their membership in Connie & Babe as well. Gately’s group recorded extensively for Starday Records in the late 1950s.

All of the Backwoods Boys also had careers outside of music. Writer Walt Saunders has speculated that this might be a reason why the group was able to survive for more than 40 years. Gately was in management at Aladdin Industries in Nashville for more than three decades.

Following a long hiatus from the studio, Connie & Babe and The Backwoods Boys resumed recording in 1992. Rounder Records issued the group’s comeback CD, Down the Road to Home, in 1995.

Among the band’s noteworthy performances were “Toil, Tears and Trouble,” “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” “Lonely Years,” “How Will the Flowers Bloom,” “Roll On Blues” and “Grave on the Rolling Hillside.” All of these were composed by Gately. His “Home Is Where the Heart Is” was later recorded by Jerry Garcia and David Grisman.

Gately’s son Fred Gately and Drumwright’s son Jody Drumwright have reportedly continued the group as Sons of the Backwoods.

Connie Gately is survived by his wife Bernita, son Fred and daughters Connie and Carol, as well as grandchildren, great grandchildren, step-children and step-grandchildren. Services at the Hermitage Funeral Home and the burial were held on Saturday, October 20.