As we close out the year, we pause to recall the members of our music community we lost in 2022.
The Country Music Hall of Fame dimmed its lights for Loretta Lynn, Jeff Cook, Jerry Lee Lewis, Ralph Emery, Pig Robbins and Naomi Judd. Notable recording artists Mickey Gilley, Jody Miller, Jim Seals, Olivia Newton-John, Warner Mack, Tom Bresh, Jeff Carson, C.W. McCall, Ronnie Hawkins and Patrick Haggerty also passed this year.
The Nashville songwriting community was hit particularly hard, pained by the passing of Chick Rains, Kerry Chater, Bruce Burch, Hal Bynum, Jimbeau Hinson, Mike Dekle, Charles Quillen and Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Dallas Frazier. Record producers Jerry Crutchfield, Bill VornDick and Blake Mevis also left us.
Jazz great Beegie Adair, soul-gospel mainstay Deborah McCrary, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame member J.I. Allison, Bluegrass Music Hall of Famer Roland White and Fisk Jubilee Singers leader Dr. Paul Kwami were other losses. So were Musicians Hall of Fame member Ray Edenton and that organization’s founder Joe Chambers, TV moguls Jim Owens and Jane Dowden, conductor Bill Walker, Country Radio Hall of Fame member Charlie Monk, studio arranger/vocalist Anita Kerr and music journalist/singer-songwriter Peter Cooper.
Hail and farewell. We remember you all in our hearts.
JAY WEAVER, 42, died Jan. 2.Bassist of hit Curb Records Christian rock group Big Daddy Weave. Band had multiple No. 1 singles, including “I Know,” “Alive,” “Love Come To Life,” “The Only Name (Yours Will Be),” “Overwhelmed,” “My Story.” Platinum-certified “Redeemed” spent 11 weeks at No. 1, won Song of the Year at first annual K-LOVE Fan Awards and earned Dove and Billboard award nominations. Brother of Big Daddy Weave frontman Mike Weaver. COVID pandemic victim.
JERRY RAY JOHNSTON, 65, died Jan. 9.Drummer for the country group Bandana, who charted on Warner Bros. with 10 singles in the 1980s, including top-20 hits “The Killin’ Kind” (1982) and “Outside Lookin’ In” (1983). Later drummer in staff band at Opry. Father of Cadillac Three frontman Jaren Johnston. Father-in-law of ASCAP’s Even Mustoe Johnston. COVID pandemic victim.
JERRY CRUTCHFIELD, 87, died Jan. 11.Record producer, songwriter, label executive, vocalist, music publisher. Produced hits for Tanya, Greenwood, Tracy Byrd, more. Gospel productions nominated for Dove Awards. Ran MCA Publishing (now Universal) for 25 years. Headed Capitol Records’ Nashville office. Wrote hit songs, sang backup for many stars. Member of RCA pop group Country Gentlemen, later dubbed The Escorts. Songs recorded by George Jones, Tubb, Hank Jr., Porter, Faron, Tammy, Connie, Eddy Arnold, Roy Rogers, Hank Thompson, etc. Hits included Bare’s “Find Out What’s Happening,” Wanda’s “Fancy Satin Pillows,” Dottie’s “Every Word I Write,” Pride’s “Does My Ring Hurt Your Finger.” Also placed songs with r&b stars Irma Thomas, Slim Harpo, Dee Dee Warwick, Arthur Alexander & pop stars Ricky, Elvis, Brenda (“My Whole World Is Falling Down”), Nick Lowe. Backup vocalist for Hank Snow, Webb Pierce, Roger Miller, Jerry Reed, Bill Anderson, Hawkshaw Hawkins, etc.
Hired by Decca/MCA publishing 1962 & nurtured writers Don Schlitz, Dave Loggins, Russell Smith, Gary Burr, Rob Crosby, Mark Nesler. Produced hits for Barbara Fairchild (“The Teddy Bear Song,” 1973), Dave Loggins (“Please Come to Boston,” 1974), Greenwood (“God Bless the U.S.A.,” 1984), Gatlin (“Sure Feels Like Love,” 1982), Byrd (“The Keeper of the Stars,” 1995) and Tanya (more than 20 top-10 hits 1986-94). Also produced Glen Campbell, Jody Miller, Chris LeDoux, Anne Murray, Ringo, Sammy Kershaw, Shenandoah, Bogguss, Dan Seals, Cleve Francis, Brenda, Delbert, Jason Ringenberg, Mandrell, Buck, plus gospel’s Hemphills, Doug Oldham, Cynthia Clawson, Terry Bradshaw. Produced Jimmy Dean’s nationally syndicated TV series 1973-75. Began managing own publishing companies 1990s— cuts by McGraw, Strait, Martina. Wrote children’s book series The Adventures of Dr. Raccoon.
TOMMY NEAL, 73, died Jan. 11.Bluegrass banjo player who recorded with Del McCoury, Cliff Waldron & New Shades of Grass, Bluestone, others. Solo album Banjoland.
FRED GEIGER, 82, died Jan. 12.Guitarist & banjo player with 1977 solo LP fusing jazz, pop & bluegrass, plus album with Gary Ferguson Band (1992). Longtime columnist for Banjo Newsletter. Also contributed to Bluegrass Unlimited, Washington Star and Blueprint.
JANICE WENDELL, 79, died Jan. 13.Nashville entertainment executive. Worked in television, advertising, marketing. SOURCE award honoree 2011. Began career 1964 at Showbiz, marketing syndicated TV series Porter Wagoner Show, Gospel Jubilee, The Beat!!! and more. At ad agency Eric Ericson & Associates since 1969. Clients included Third National Bank (later SunTrust), Martha White Foods, Kentucky Fried Chicken, State of Tennessee, National Life & Accident Insurance Company with its Opryland USA theme park. Via National Life, met E.W. “Bud” Wendell, whom she married in 1984. On CMA board 1982-1996. Also on boards of Nashville Symphony, Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation, TPAC, Nashville Tourism Commission, Cheekwood, Country Music Foundation.
DALLAS FRAZIER, 82, died Jan. 14.Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member, one of greatest country songwriters in history, Classics include “There Goes My Everything,” “Beneath Still Waters,” “Elvira,” “Fourteen Carat Mind,” “All I Have to Offer You Is Me.” Also a recording artist. Discovered by Ferlin Husky & signed to Capitol Records. Regular as teen in 1954-58 on L.A. TV show Hometown Jamboree and on Trading Post TV series in Bakersfield. First scored as songwriter with pop novelty “Alley Oop” by Hollywood Argyles 1960. Moved to Nashville 1963. Husky’s record “Timber I’m Falling” Frazier’s first country hit 1964. “Mohair Sam” for Charlie Rich 1965. Recorded LPs for Capitol, Elvira (1966), Tell It Like It Is (1967).
Meanwhile songwriting hits for others — “Baby Ain’t That Fine” (1966 Gene Pitney & Melba Montgomery), “There Goes My Everything” (1966 Jack Greene = CMA Song of Year, plus 1971 Elvis), “Ain’t Had No Lovin’” (1966 Connie Smith), “I’m a People (1966 George Jones). Jones & Smith both recorded entire albums of Frazier songs. Jones also recorded “If My Heart Had Windows” (1967), “I Can’t Get There From Here” (1967), “Say It’s Not You” (1968), “Beneath Still Waters” (1968), “Tell Me My Lying Eyes Are Wrong” (1970). Smith encored with “Run Away Little Tears” (1968), “Where Is My Castle” (1971), “I’m Sorry If My Love Got in Your Way” (1971), “Just for What I Am” (1972), “If It Ain’t Love (Let’s Leave It Alone)” (1972), “Dream Painter” (1973) and “Ain’t Love a Good Thing” (1973). Pride recorded “All I Have to Offer You Is Me” (1969), “I’m So Afraid of Losing You Again” (1969), “I Can’t Believe That You’ve Stopped Loving Me” (1970) “Then Who Am I” (1974) as No. 1 hits. Greene recorded “Back in the Arms of Love” (1969), “Until My Dreams Come True” (1969), “Lord Is That Me” (1970). Brenda hit with “Johnny One Time” (1969), “If This Is Our Last Time” (1971). Also songwriting success with Charlie Louvin’s “Will You Visit Me on Sundays” (1968), Jerry Lee’s “Touching Home” (1971), Ferlin’s “White Fences and Evergreen Trees” (1968), Elvis’ “Where Did They Go Lord” (1971), Nat Stuckey’s “She Wakes Me With a Kiss Every Morning” (1971), Johnny Russell’s “Baptism of Jesse Taylor” (1974), Roy Head’s “The Door I Used to Close” (1976), Moe Bandy’s “Does Anyone Make Love at Home Anymore” (1976), Tanya’s “What’s Your Mama’s Name” (1973), Stoney Edwards’s “Hank and Lefty Raised My Country Soul” (1974), O.C. Smith’s “Son of Hickory Hollow’s Tramp” (1968).
Recorded RCA LPs Singing My Songs (1970) and My Baby Packed Up My Mind and Left Me (1967). Johnny Russell revived “Son of Hickory Hollow’s Tramp” (1968) & Rodney Crowell revived “Elvira” (1978). Revivals continued with Emmylou “Beneath Still Waters” (1980), Whites “If It Ain’t Love” (1985), Loveless “If My Heart Had Windows” (1988), Oaks “Elvira” (1981, Platinum Record, Grammy Award, CMA Single of Year). Gene Watson hit No. 1 with Frazier’s “Fourteen Carat Mind” (1981). Others who recorded his songs Willie, Merle, Dottie, Bare, Tubb, Hank Jr., Vince, Tammy, Loretta, Skaggs, Twitty, Kitty, Don Gibson, Bill Anderson, Glen Campbell, Peggy Lee, Englebert, Tom Jones, Keith Richards, Kenny Rogers, Ray Price, Patti Page, Anne Murray, Hank Snow, Webb Pierce, Eddy Arnold, Percy Sledge, Nick Lowe, Manfred Mann, Quincy Jones, Bobby Rydell, Mickey Gilley, Statlers, Slim Harpo, Beach Boys, Sonny James. Quit show biz 1990s. Appearance at the Country Music Hall of Fame 2006 inspired creation of “Poets & Prophets” series. Subject of Elvira: The True Story of Dallas Frazier 2020 documentary film.
RALPH EMERY, 88, died Jan. 15.Country Music Hall of Fame member known as “Dean of Country Music Broadcasters.” On-air personality for 50+ years, first on radio then as genre’s ambassador on cable TV. Also recording artist, book author. Hired by WSM (1957) to host all-night show. “Open door” on-air philosophy led to visits by Marty Robbins, Patsy, Tex Ritter, Jim Reeves, Loretta, others. By the time he signed off in 1972, all-night show was known as “Opry Star Spotlight.” Announcer on Opry (1961-64). Married to Opry star Skeeter Davis (1960-64). Recorded “Hello Fool” as top-10 hit 1961. Hosted WSMV-TV’s early-morning broadcast (1963-1991). Program featured one of local TV’s only surviving studio bands & was notable for giving breaks to up-and-comers such as Judds, Randy Travis, Lorrie Morgan. Featured in movies Country Music on Broadway (1965), Nashville Rebel (1966), Girl From Tobacco Road (1966), Road to Nashville (1967). Launched syndicated radio show Take Five for Country Music then Goody’s Presents Ralph Emery. Radio syndication led to syndicated TV. Hosted Pop Goes the Country in TV syndication in 1973-79. Announcer for Dolly Parton syndicated series 1976. Moved into cable TV (1980s). Hosted Nashville Now on TNN (1983-93). Reactivated recording career 1989 issuing Songs for Children and Christmas With Ralph & Red with Steve Hall puppet Shotgun Red. Elected to Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame (1989). Published NY Times Best Seller Memories: The Autobiography of Ralph Emery (1991), then More Memories (1993), The View From Nashville (1998), 50 Years Down a Country Road (2000). Returned to cable TV with Ralph Emery Live & Ralph Emery’s Memories on RFD-TV (2007-15). Inducted into Country Music Hall of Fame (2007), National Radio Hall of Fame (2010).
TIM STACY, 68, died Jan. 15.Country bassist, singer, songwriter. Toured with Hank Jr., Charlie Louvin. Sang backups on sessions. In groups The SouthSiders, Wood Brothers, Crossfire.
DAN EINSTEIN, 61, died Jan. 15.Co-founder of John Prine’s Oh Boy Records and of Steve Goodman’s Red Pajamas Records in 1981. These were models of artist-owned labels, long before it was common. Produced albums for both artists. Won “Best Folk Record” Grammy for producing Tribute to Steve Goodman (1987). Labels also attracted Donnie Fritts, Todd Snider, The Bis-Quits. Formerly booked college concerts. Left music biz 2003 to establish acclaimed Sweet 16th Bakery shop in East Nashville.
SLIM ANDREWS, 90, died Jan. 15.New England country singer-songwriter with five indie albums. Founder of Maine Country Music Hall of Fame Museum. Led Berkshire Mountain Boys on radio & in live performance. Concert promoter, nightclub owner, booking agent (real name: Leonard Andrews Huntington Jr.).
MARSHA GRAY BASORE, 77, died Jan. 21.Manager at the Music Valley Museums & Attractions as well as the Music Valley Walk of Fame. Widow of steel guitarist Stu Basore.
CHICK RAINS, 83, died Jan. 21.Widely loved hit country songwriting veteran. Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame 2008. Catalog includes “A Headache Tomorrow (Or a Heartache Tonight)” (Gilley, 1981), “Somebody Should Leave” (Reba, 1985), “Down to My Last Broken Heart” (Janie Fricke, 1981), “Now I Know” (Lari White, 1994), “Disenchanted” (Michael Martin Murphey, 1984), “Radio Land” (MMM, 1984), “Cowboy Logic” (MMM, 1990), “One in a Million” (Johnny Lee, 1980), “Paradise Knife & Gun Club” (Roy Clark, 1982), “Old Enough to Know Better” (Wade Hayes, 1994), “That’s What Your Love Does to Me” (Holly Dunn, 1988), “Born to Love You” (Mark Collie, 1993), “Dreams Die Hard” (Gary Morris, 1982), “I’m Still Dancin’ With You” (Hayes, 1995), “Don’t Stop” (Hayes, 1995), “Where Do I Go to Start All Over” (Hayes, 1996), ”I Wish That I Had Loved You Better” (Eddy Arnold, 1974), “What More Can a Man Need” (Overstreet, 1979), “Drowning in Memories” (T. Graham Brown, 1985). Known as a master country song craftsman. (Full name: Charles Victor Rains)
BEEGIE ADAIR, 84, died Jan. 23.Pianist/singer. Nashville jazz legend. Recorded more than 35 albums, played on sessions for country & pop stars, composed ad jingles, headlined at Carnegie Hall, jazz educator. Began Nashville career in Hank Garland Quartet. Spent a decade in house band at WSMV-TV’s The Waking Crew & Afternoon Show. Session musician on recordings or broadcasts by Dolly, Chet, Vince, Mancini, Delbert McClinton, Dinah Shore, Milsap, Ray Stevens, Boots Randolph, Peggy Lee, Hank Snow, Como, Eddy Arnold, Jerry Reed J.J. Cale, Connie Francis, Mandy Barnett, Waylon, Neil Diamond etc.. Pianist in bands of Johnny Cash Show, Ralph Emery Show. On the soundtracks of films Every Which Way But Loose (1978), Smokey and the Bandit (1977), Perfect World (1993). In early 1970s, performed in 10-piece rock band Sweet Thunder. Formed ad-jingle company with husband Billy Adair — Purity Dairies, HCA, Allstate, United Airlines, Hamburger Helper, McDonald’s , Wrangler, etc. Formed Adair-Solee Quartet a.k.a Be-Bop Co-Op with saxophonist Denis Solee 1982.
Best known for Beegie Adair Trio with 36 CDs, including Escape to New York (1991), Nat King Cole Collection (1998), Jazz Piano Christmas (1999), Dream Dancing: Songs of Cole Porter (2000), Love, Elvis (2000), Jazz on Broadway (2005), Sentimental Journey (2006), Too Marvelous for Words (2015). Trio’s Frank Sinatra Collection won 1998 Nashville Music Award as Jazz Album of Year. In 2002 issued six-CD, boxed-set collection Centennial Composers. Hosted own radio series, Improvised Thoughts on NPR in early 1990s. Began annual appearances at legendary Birdland Jazz Club in N.Y.C.Y. Sold out showcase auditorium in Carnegie Hall 2016, 2017. Taught at Vanderbilt, Nashville Jazz Workshop. (Birth name: Bobbe Gorin Long).
GEORGE WINN, 88, died Jan. 23.Mandolinist who led long-lived Virginia Partners bluegrass band. Toured for State Department, USO to 14 nations. Five solo albums.
ELIUD TREVINO, 77, died Jan. 24.Prominent Nashville Hispanic leader as a radio broadcaster, newspaper publisher and community advocate. COVID pandemic victim.
FRANK WOODARD, 76, died Jan. 29.Director of security for the Opry House, Opryland Hotel and Opryland USA theme park for 40 years.
HARGUS “PIG” ROBBINS, 84, died Jan. 30.Country Music Hall of Fame member as immortal Nashville session musician on piano. His distinctive licks provided memorable intro’s to Crystal Gayle’s “Don’t It Make My Brown Eyes Blue” (1977) and Charlie Rich’s “Behind Closed Doors” (1974), plus pounding piano rhythm of George Jones’s “White Lightning” (1959) and keyboard creativity on Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde (1966). Heard on hundreds of other hits. Sessions backing Loretta, Tritt, Baez, Dolly (“Coat of Many Colors”), Statlers, Kenny Rogers (“The Gambler”), Roger Miller, Connie Smith, Arthur Alexander (“Anna”), Bryan White, Tritt, Aaron Neville, Patsy (“I Fall to Pieces”), Sturgill Simpson, Ween, Gordon Lightfoot & many others. CMA Instrumentalist of Year 1976, 2000. Grammy Award for own LP Country Instrumentalist of the Year (1977). Other solo LPs Pig in a Poke (1978), Unbreakable Hearts (1979), Play It Again Hargus (1968), One More Time (1969), Hargus Robbins (1969), Alive From Austin City Limits (1979). Hall of Fame induction 2012.
JACK PRUETT JR., 65, died Feb. 1.Nashville bass player for Johnny Russell, Jim Glaser, etc. Son of Grand Ole Opry star Jeanne Pruett and of Marty Robbins guitarist Jack Pruett (1933-2011).
LEONARD ZINN, 97, died Feb. 3.Steel Guitar Hall of Fame member. Former owner of Zinn’s Music Store in Hanover, PA. Last surviving member of the 101 Ranch Boys. Founded in Kansas City and rising to fame in York, PA, group flourished in 1930s & 1940s with own national ABC radio show.
KERRY CHATER, 76, died Feb. 4.Chart-topping Nashville songwriter. Biggest hits: “You Look So Good in Love” (Strait, 1984), “I Know a Heartache When I See One” (Jennifer Warnes, 1979), “You’re the First Time I’ve Thought About Leaving” (Reba, 1983), “If I Had You” (Alabama, 1989) and Grammy nominated “I.O.U.” (Lee Greenwood, 1983). Also co-wrote Michael Martin Murphey’s “What She Wants” (1985), Charlie Rich’s “Even a Fool Would Let Go” (1980), Paul Brandt’s “I Meant to Do That” (1997), Jessica Andrews’ “You Go First” (1999). Songs recorded by Kenny Rogers, Joe Cocker, Mindy McCready, Restless Heart, Highway 101, Loretta & Conway, Anne Murray, Eddy Raven, Dolly, Lorrie, etc. Founding member of star pop group Gary Puckett & The Union Gap (“Woman, Woman,” “Young Girl,” “Lady Willpower,” etc.). Played bass in group, was bandleader, co-wrote some of its album tracks 1966-70. Solo LPs Part Time Love 1976, Love on a Shoestring 1978. Husband of former Nashville Entertainment Association exec Lynn Gillespie Chater, his songwriting collaborator and co-author of fictional thrillers Kill Point, Blood Debt, Fortune’s Web. Four later solo CDs.
HEATHER DUNBAR, 71, died Feb. 7.Country broadcaster as host of “The Salt Creek Show” on WVBR-FM in Ithaca, NY, 1978-2000. Showcased classic honky-tonk, bluegrass & roots music. Later in public radio via WSKG in Vestal, NY. Also an Americana promoter, emcee and music journalist.
BLAKE MEVIS, 73, died Feb. 9.Producer, songwriter, publisher. Noted for producing Strait, Whitley, Pride, Kendalls, Gosdin, Moe & Joe, Clay Walker. Co-wrote hits “Fool Hearted Memory” (Strait, 1982), “Night Games” (Pride, 1983), “Brokenheartsville” (Joe Nichols, 2003). Songs also recorded by Jim Ed Brown, Helen Cornelius, England Dan & John Ford Coley, Dave & Sugar, Charlie Rich, Don Williams. Formerly worked for Loretta’s Coal Miner’s Music at ABC and MCA labels. In 1980s, headed Pride Music Group. COVID pandemic victim.
ED STONE, 81, died Feb. 11.Former V.P. of marketing & PR of Opryland USA. Father of Music Row banker Lori Badgett.
BILLY SMITH, 84, died Feb. 11.Former drummer for The Casuals, Nashville’s first rock ’n’ roll band & Brenda Lee’s backing group on the road in the 1960s. Later president of One-Niters Talent Agency, booking show bands.
SCOTTY WRAY, 64, died Feb. 18.Member of The Wray Brothers Band a.k.a. The Wrays with charted singles “Reason to Believe” (1983), “Until We Meet Again” (1985), “I Don’t Wanna Know Your Name” (1986), “You Lay a Lotta Love on Me” (1987). Brother Bubba Wray became solo country star Collin Raye. Scotty Wray became guitarist, bandleader and best friends with Miranda Lambert for 20 years, 2001-2021, until illness forced retirement. Began career as a child backing mother Lois Marie Chandler Wray, a local Arkansas singer who opened for Elvis, Cash, Jerry Lee, Carl Perkins.
MIKE DEKLE, 77, died Feb. 24.Hit country songwriter. Best known for “Scarlet Fever” Kenny Rogers (1983), “Don’t Love Make a Diamond Shine” Tracy Byrd (1997), “Size Matters (Someday)” Joe Nichols (2006), “Country Must Be Country Wide” Brantley Gilbert (2011). Gilbert’s version of their co-written “One Hell of an Amen” topped country charts 2014. Songs also recorded by Gene Watson, Rhonda Vincent, Ricky Skaggs, Hank Thompson, Moe Bandy, Whites. T.G. Sheppard, Scooter Lee, Colt Ford, Mark Chestnut, Keith Whitley. As a singer, charted with self-composed “Hanky-Panky” & “The Minstrel” 1984. Albums: Wood and Wire (1982), Fine Tuned (1999), Sketches (2003), Tunesmith (2005), Tributes (2009), That Kinda Guy (2019).
ROBERT HICKS, 71, died Feb. 25.Best-selling author of novels The Widow of the South (2005), A Separate Country (2009), The Orphan Mother (2016). Historic preservationist of Battle of Franklin, Leiper’s Fork, Fort Negley. Nationally known art & antiques collector. Previously in music publishing, working with George Ducas, Amy Grant, Vince Gill, John Hiatt, more. Partner with B.B. King in creative of chain of blues restaurant/nightclubs.
MAC MARTIN, 96, died Feb. 28.Pittsburgh bluegrass veteran multi-instrumentalist with long tenures in city’s lounges, clubs, restaurants, lodges, festivals. Began 1940s in Pike County Boys. Own group Dixie Travelers since 1950s. More than a dozen albums on Gateway, Rural Rhythm, County, Revonah labels (real name: William Dermott Colleran).
WARNER MACK, 86, died March 1.Hit country singer-songwriter. BMI Awards for country evergreens “Is It Wrong (For Loving You),” “Talkin’ to the Wall,” “After the Lights Go Out.” Began career as DJ on hometown WVIM in Vicksburg. Hired as professional country vocalist Louisiana Hayride KWKH in Shreveport, then on Ozark Jubilee, Springfield, MO. Recording contract with Decca 1957. Hit with “Is It Wrong (For Loving You)” 1958. Covered by Webb Pierce (1960), Sonny James (No. 1, 1974), Bare, Loretta, Wanda, Gilley, others. More Decca hits with “Surely” & “Sittin’ in an All-Night Cafe” 1964. No. 1 hit with “The Bridge Washed Out” (1965), covered by Marty Stuart, Junior Brown, Rick Nelson, George Jones, Buck Owens. Seven consecutive top-10 singles 1966-68, including “Talkin’ to the Wall,” revived as top-10 hit by Lynn Anderson (1974). Had 23 charted titles & nine albums in ‘60s & ‘70s. First country artist to record a national Coca-Cola jingle. During 1970s, established own record label (Pageboy), song-publishing company (Bridgewood) and retail establishment (Warner Mack’s Country Store). Songs recorded by Brenda, Kitty, Bill Anderson, Pat Boone, Charlie Louvin, Jean Shepard, others. In 1992, Ricky Van Shelton big hit with songwriter’s “After the Lights Go Out.”
CAROLYN TATE, 65, died March 3.Former VP at Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum. Production & advertising manager 1986-94. Executive level 2001-18, overseeing Hatch Show Print, book & magazine publishing, reissue album production, $100 million museum expansion, collection supervision, archive management, Taylor Swift Education Center, public programming. Prior experience included co-creating Stax Museum in Memphis and directing museum-design division at 1220 Exhibits in Nashville.
JIM OWENS, 84, died March 4.Kingpin of country TV production. Began career by producing nationally syndicated A Concert Behind Prison Walls with Cash (1977). Launched Music City News Country Awards 1978-96. Produced This Week in Country Music with Charlie Chase & Lorainne Crook beginning 1983. Also Crook & Chase, Weekend, Weekday, Country Standard Time, Yesteryear, Celebrities Off Stage, Funny Business, This Year in Country Music. Syndicated radio series Crook & Chase Country Countdown since 1989. Owner of TNN/Nashville Network trademark. Library of 10,000+ hours of programming spanning 45 years. Husband of Lorianne Crook.
JIMBEAU HINSON, 70, died March 4.Hit country songwriter, AIDS/HIV activist, documentary film star. Co-writer of “Party Crowd” (David Lee Murphy, 1995), “Train of Memories” (Mattea, 1987), “Fancy Free” (Oaks, 1981), “Sugar in the Flowers” (Anthony Armstrong Jones, 1970), “Angel With a Broken Wing” (Mel Street, 1972), “Hillbilly Highway” (Steve Earle, 1986), “A Far Cry From You” (Connie, 1986), “Harmony” (John Conlee, 1986), “After All” (Patty, 1987), “Don’t Give Candy to a Stranger” (Larry Boone, 1988). Four singles by Brenda Lee: “Find Yourself Another Puppet” (1976), “Don’t Promise Me Anything Do It” (1980), “Broken Trust” (1980) and “Just for the Moment” (1982). Songs also recorded by Tracy Lawrence, Lee Greenwood, Alecia Nugent, Rodney Crowell, Michael Peterson, Ty Herndon, Billy Burnette, Sony Isaacs, Porter Wagoner, Billy Walker & Barbara Fairchild, Rita Coolidge, Atlanta, The Goldens, Floyd Cramer, Tammy Wynette, Carol Channing, Lost Trailers, Reba McEntire, Ricky Skaggs, Randy Gurley, Lynn Anderson, etc. Managed Oaks’ publishing companies Silverline/Goldline. Recorded for Chart Records 1970s. Own label with CDs An American Romance (2001) and A Dozen American Beauties for My One and Only Rose (2002). Also on Wrinkled Records with Strong Medicine (2013). Subject of 2014 documentary Beautiful Jim. Competitor on TV’s Star Search 1987-88. Husband of Brenda Fielder, noted for TV commercials for family’s home-renovation firm.
DAVID O. WILL, 78, died March 4.Baritone singer for Imperials for 23 years. During his tenure, group won three Grammys, 11 Dove Awards, Gospel Music Hall of Fame induction. Formerly in Keystones Quartet, Statesmen, Tribunes, he joined Imperials 1976. Albums Sail On, Imperials Live, Heed the Call, One More Song for You, Christmas With the Imperials, Priority made group a bridge between gospel-quartet tradition and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) pop style. Grammys for LPs Sail On (1977), Heed the Call (1979), Priority (1981). GMA Dove Award as Artists of the Year 1981. Particularly noted for his performances of ballads “One More Song for You” & “You’re the Only Jesus.” Self-composed “In the Same Old Fashioned Way” another Imperials favorite. Group was first bi-racial quartet in their field. Courted rock audience with This Year’s Model (1987). Its “Power of God” was theme song of Christian bodybuilders The Power Team. Will left Imperials 1999. Group continued to perform regularly until 2010.
BOBBIE NELSON, 91, died March 10.Lifelong pianist/sister with Willie. They performed in her husband Bob Fletcher’s Texans country band in early 1950s. Worked as piano entertainer in restaurants, lounges, supper clubs in Austin & Nashville. Joined Willie’s band 1972, recorded & toured with him thereafter. Solo album Audiobiography (2007). Also prominent on Willie’s albums Family Bible (1980) and The Willie Nelson Family (2020). Two books with Willie, Me and Sister Bobbie (2020) and Sister, Brother, Family: An American Childhood in Music (2021).
BRAD MARTIN, 48, died March 11.Country singer with three charted titles on Epic 2002-03: “Before I Knew Better,” “Rub Me the Right Way,” “One of Those Days.” Album: Wings of a Honky Tonk Angel. Also in Curb duo Martin Ramey (with John Ramey).
BRUCE BURCH, 69, died March 12.Hit country songwriter. Top tunes “Rumor Has It” (Reba, 1991), “I Got It Honest” (Tippin, 1994), “My Train of Thought” (Mandrell, 1989), “It’s Your Call” (Reba, 1993), plus T. Graham Brown’s “Last Resort” (1988) and AA-themed “Wine Into Water” (1989). Songs recorded by more than 20 others: Oaks, Wynonna, Collin, Faith, Billy Joe Royal, Dobie Gray, Wayne Newton, Dave & Sugar, Mark Collie, Gene Watson, Dan Seals, John Anderson, Doug Stone, Jeff Stevens, etc. Music biz educator at Georgia’s Brenau University. Also worked in artist management, music publishing. Book: Songs That Changed Our Lives (1996).
JOHN “BUCKWHEAT” GREEN, 68, died March 17.West Virginia bluegrass songwriter & performer. In West Virginia Gentlemen & on its 1975 LP Sing the Gospel. In Laurel Mountain Boys & on its 1979 LP Long Black Beauty. In High Time Pickin’ Band & on its 1979 self-titled LP. In Lonesome River Band 1980. In The Gabeharts & on their 2013 CD I Was Raised in a Railroad Town. Later a journalist in Bluegrass Today.
MARY JANE THOMAS, 58, died March 22.Wife to country icon Hank Williams Jr. A former model for Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion. Had two children with Hank, including daughter Katie Williams-Dunning and son Samuel Williams. In 2020, Katie tragically died in a car accident in Tennessee.
JANE DOWDEN, 90, died March 24.Major figure in transforming Nashville into a center for television production. Particularly noted for nationally syndicated country-music TV series in 1960s & 1970s. Source Foundation awardee. Began career at WGAP radio in Maryville, TN. Joined WSM-TV 1951, initially working in advertising & sales. During mid-1950s, became one of the South’s most influential women in advertising as VP – Media Director at Noble-Drury & Associates in Nashville. Began working in television production 1959. President of Show Biz, Inc. 1965, guided it to become largest producer and syndicator of country television in the world. Dowden oversaw production of more than 1,200 country shows. Two of the most successful Show Biz series were Porter Wagoner Show (1960-79) and Wilburn Brothers Show (1963-74). The former introduced Dolly and the latter showcased Loretta. Other Show Biz productions The Country Place with Jim Ed Brown (1970-72), Billy Walker’s Country Carnival (1968), Del Reeves’ Country Carnival (1969-73) & company’s leading program, Pop! Goes the Country, hosted by Ralph Emery, Tom T. Hall. Series ran from 1974 to 1983 & at its peak carried in 140 markets. Jim Ed Brown, Jerry Clower & Jim Stafford hosted Nashville on the Road (1975-83). Show Biz also syndicated Bobby Goldsboro Show (1973-76), Marty Robbins Spotlight (1977), Dolly (1976-77), Flatt & Scruggs Grand Ole Opry (1961-65), National Life Grand Ole Opry (1965-69) and That Good Ole Nashville Music (1969-77). Dowden also produced 1966 Waylon Jennings feature film Nashville Rebel. Produced “Nashville in the Garden,” two live, multi-artist Madison Square Garden concerts in early ‘70s. In 1975, named President & GM of WTVC in Chattanooga, becoming first female head of a network-affiliated TV station. In 1984, returned to Nashville to join Opryland USA as VP of its Gaylord Syndicom. Retired 2006, the year she was honored by Source Foundation. In retirement, became a Master Gardener in Sedona, Arizona. (Full name: Jane Claybough Dowden Grams).
JEFF CARSON, 58, died March 26.Country hit maker on Curb Records 1995-2003. No. 1 hit with “Not on Your Love” 1995. Top-10 successes “The Car” (ACM Video of Year, 1995), “Holdin’ Onto Somethin’” (1996). Charted 14 times, including “Real Life” (2001), “Butterfly Kisses” (1997), “I Can Only Imagine” (2003), “Shine On” (1998). Began Nashville career as demo singer for Tracy Byrd, Tracy Lawrence, Reba, Faith, Mark Wills, Tim McGraw, Diamond Rio, etc. Later a police officer in Franklin. (Real name: Jeffrey Lee Herndon).
BOBBY LEE ATKINS, 88, died March 27.Banjo player in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in 1950s, 1960s. Formed Dixie Mountaineers, house band at Old Dominion Barn Dance in Richmond, VA. Launched The Countrymen 1970s & recorded more than 15 albums with group for Old Homestead & Thunderbolt labels. On movie soundtracks for Preacherman, Preacherman Meets the Widder. Launched own bluegrass festival Madison, NC.
ROLAND WHITE, 83, died April 1.Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame member. Mandolinist/guitarist/singer noted for work in Kentucky Colonels, Country Gazette (eight albums), Nashville Bluegrass Band. Grammy Awards with last named for LPs Waitin’ for the Hard Times to Go (1994) & Unleashed (1996). Solo albums in 1976, 1984. Own Roland White Band albums 2003, 2018. Previously in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys 1976-69, Lester Flatt’s Nashville Grass 1969-73 (six albums), Lester Flatt & Mac Wiseman (three albums), The Dreadful Snakes (one album). Also recorded with Monroe, Doc Watson, Clint Black, Ry Cooder, Marty Stuart, Alan Munde, Bernadette Peters, Ricky Skaggs, Valarie Smith, Stuart Duncan, David Grier, Gene Wooten, Glenn Duncan, Bobby Hicks, The Whites, Butch Robbins, etc. In “founding family” of The Station Inn & longtime ambassador, host, greeter, jam-session regular at the bluegrass mecca.
C..W. McCALL, 93, died April 1.Nom-de-disc of William Dale Fries Jr., award-winning ad agency exec. McCall’s spoken-word “Convoy” a massive trucker hit 1975 collaboration with Chip Davis (of Manheim Steamroller fame). Other hits “Old Home Filler-Up An’ Keep On-A-Truckin’ Cafe” (1974), “Wolf Creek Pass” (1975), “Classified” (1975), “Black Bear Road” (1975), “There Won’t Be No Country Music” (1976), “Roses for Mama” (1977). Fries later elected mayor of Ouray, Colorado, 1986-92.
GREGORY BRIAN WRIGHT, 60, died April 5.Widely loved tour manager and sound engineer for Sammy Kershaw for 30 years. Previously on the road with Kendalls, Mark Collie, handling logistics at concert venues, county fairs, honky-tonks & on tour buses.
TOM WILKERSON, 86, died April 7.Country drummer who toured with Tom T. Hall, Marty Robbins, Tex Ritter, others. Played on Opry. Recorded with Robbins, Sonny James, etc.
DOC GONZALES, 59, died April 15.Owner of Triple Crown Management. Clients included Trick Pony, Lonestar, Little Texas, Billy Dean, Heartland, Dallas Remington, Donovan Chapman, Steve Holy, Flat River Band. Formerly record promoter at Nine North Records, plus 16 years with Graham Management Company.
BAYRON BINKLEY, 89, died April 25.Nashville TV producer/director. Created local programming at WSMV-TV in 1950s &1960s, worked on country stars’ syndicated shows of 1960s & 1970s, graduated to cable television in 1980s & 1990s. At WSMV he created a children’s TV character named “Happy A. Clown” and portrayed him for several years before shifting to directing local series Opry Almanac, The Ralph Emery Show and The Noon Show. Became producer/director for syndicated series hosted by Flatt & Scruggs, Jim Ed Brown, Kitty Wells & Johnny Wright, Del Reeves, others. In 1981, he created the TBS groundbreaking cable series Nashville Alive. When TNN launched in 1983, Binkley tapped to create some of its early shows — Church Street Station (1984), New Country (1986), Rock n Roll Palace (1988). Created TNN specials for Bobby Goldsboro (1989), Ricky Van Shelton (1989), Willie Nelson (1990). In 2005, directed all-star special celebrating Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge.
GEORGE YANOK, 83, died April 29.Emmy Award winning TV writer in Nashville since 1990s. Early credit writing for Hee Haw when it launched in 1969. Other credits: Glen Campbell Good Time Hour, Welcome Back Kotter, Sanford & Son, Bob Newhart Show, Lily Tomlin Show, Tabitha & Love, American Style. Specials for Paul Lynde, Flip Wilson, Barbara Eden, more. In Nashville became writer/director/producer for TNN’s Prime Time Country. Also co-wrote IMAX country movie Twang, worked as researcher for Judge Judy, taught TV writing at Watkins, played drums with jazz combos, authored 2017 novel Romeo in Shubert Alley.
NAOMI JUDD, 76, died April 30.Country Music Hall of Fame member in The Judds (2022). Duo with daughter Wynonna scored 15 No. 1 hits & 20 top-10s in 1983-1992. Six Grammy Awards. Hugely influential. Among many memorable singles “Why Not Me” (1984), “Girls Night Out” (1985), “Love Is Alive” (1985), “Grandpa” (1986), “Mama He’s Crazy” (1984), “Rockin’ With the Rhythm of the Rain” (1986). Wrote or cowrote duo’s “Change of Heart” (1988), “Guardian Angels” (1990) and Judds signature song “Love Can Build a Bridge” (1990), as well as Wynonna single “My Strongest Weakness” (1993). CMA Horizon Award 1984. Vocal Group 1985, 86, 87. Vocal Duo 1988, 89, 90, 91. Seven ACM Awards. Nine Gold Albums, six Platinum, two Double Platinum. Major touring attraction, headlining at Houston Astrodome, Radio City Music Hall, London Palladium, Super Bowl, Kennedy Center, etc. CBS-TV special Across the Heartland 1989. Pay-per-view live telecast 12/4/91 of duo’s “finale” concert. Following duo’s 1990-91 farewell tour, a popular motivational/convention speaker. Acted in films & TV shows. Reality TV series on Oprah Winfrey Network 2011. Author: River of Time (2016), Naomi’s Guide to Aging Gratefully (2007), Naomi’s Breakthrough Guide (2004), Naomi’s Home Companion (1997), The Transparent Life (2005) & autobiography Love Can Build a Bridge (1993).
SHANE YELLOWBIRD, 42, died May 2.Indigenous-American Canadian country singer. Best known for his 2007 top-5 hit in Canada, “Pickup Truck.” It earned the reservation-raised Cree Indian the Canadian Country Music Association (CCMA) Rising Star Award (2007).
GARRY LEE RENTFRO, 70, died May 2.Former music administrator for Nashville gospel firm Galilee of the Nations Music.
MICKEY GILLEY, 86, died May 7.Houston-based country star. House act and co-owner at famed Gilley’s nightclub with mechanical bull (1971-89), immortalized in 1980 hit movie Urban Cowboy. Three ACM Awards, 34 top-10 hits, 17 No. 1’s, 46 charted titles in 1968-90. After much small-label experience, broke through with “Room Full of Roses” 1974, first of 15+ hit oldie revivals. Other notable singles “Don’t the Girls All Get Prettier at Closing Time” (1976), “A Headache Tomorrow (Or a Heartache Tonight)” (1981), “She’s Pulliing Me Back Again” (1977), “The Power of Positive Drinkin’” (1978), “Stand By Me” revival (from Urban Cowboy soundtrack, 1980). Duet partners Barbi Benton, Charly McClain, Ray Charles. Guest starred on TV’s Murder She Wrote, The Fall Guy, Fantasy Island, Dukes of Hazzard. Cousin of Jerry Lee Lewis & evangelist Jimmy Swaggart. Author: Mickey Gilley’s Texas Cookbook (1984).
ROXIE CAWOOD GIBSON, age not clear, died May 8.Nashville author of more than a dozen books in her Hey God! series (1971-2020). Several were the basis of musicals and records in collaboration with Ken Krause, one of which was nominated for a Grammy.
PETE REINIGER, 73, died May 13.Recording engineer for Smithsonian/Folkways on 200+ albums, many devoted to bluegrass & old-time music. Seldom Scene, Country Gentlemen, Ola Belle Reed, Lily Brothers, Dan Crary, etc. Best Historical Album Grammy for Anthology of American Folk Music (1987).
THOM BRESH, 74, died May 23.Top guitar picker who scored top-10 country hit with 1976’s “Home Made Love.” Widely admired as a showman. In addition to dazzling instrumentalist, a humorist, songwriter, impressionist, designer of guitars, TV personality. Son of Country Music Hall of Fame member Merle Travis (1917-1983), whose guitar legacy he carried forward. Collaborated on disc with Travis, plus Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed, Hank Thompson, Lane Brody, Steve Wariner. Initially performed at age 3. By age 7, worked as juvenile stunt man in cowboy movies. Debuted on TV as musician at age 11 in L.A. Appeared on stage in productions of musicals Finian’s Rainbow, The Music Man, Harvey. In rock band The Crescents, which charted with instrumental “Pink Dominos” 1964. At age 16, appeared with western-swing bandleader Hank Penny in Vegas. Recorded the topical single “D.B. Cooper Where Are You” for Kapp 1971. Signed with MGM for singles 1974. Hit pay dirt on Farr Records with “Home Made Love” & “Sad Country Love Song” 1976. Moved to Nashville, signed with ABC-Dot & issued two albums and six singles 1977-79, including 1978 remake of Travis’s co-written “Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! That Cigarette” which included 13 celebrity impersonations. Nominated as the ACM Top New Male Vocalist 1977. Hosted Canadian TV series Nashville Swing. Became record producer. His 1981 work with father, Travis Picking, nominated for a Grammy. Also produced Lane Brody’s 1983 “Over You” on the soundtrack of Oscar nominated Tender Mercies. He and Brody charted with 1982 duet “When It Coms to Love.” In the 1990s, became popular in Europe, opened for Brenda Lee in Vegas, appeared on TV shows of Dinah Shore, Lee Greenwood, Barbara Mandrell, Rich Little, Mike Douglas. Instrumental CD, Wires to the Wood 1996. Producer/director for music videos, concert TV specials, home-video packages. Designed several guitar models. Particularly noted for double-sided stage guitar. One side had steel strings, the other in a classical mode with nylon strings. In 2000s, gained wide respect as guitar instructor & became photographer.
JAMES PRICE, 57, died May 23.West Virginia fiddler with Ralph Stanley’s Clinch Mountain Boys 1995-2003, many albums, including two Jim Lauderdale/Stanley collaborations. Previously recorded with Goins Brothers on Still Goin’ Strong (1993), We’ll Carry On (1995). Later a sideman for Jimmy Dickens, Johnny Paycheck. Three solo albums, The Old Mountaineer, Southern Flavor, Fiddlin’ the Old Time Way.
JOE GILCHRIST, 80, died May 25.Owner of the legendary Flora-Bama nightclub on the Gulf Coast. Founder of the much loved and ongoing Frank Brown Songwriting Fest (since 1984). Regulars have included Buffett, Prine, Dean Dillon, Gove, Larry Jon Wilson, Allen Rhody, Red Lane, Hank Cochran, Gatemouth Brown, Wet Willie etc. Chesney staged Flora-Bama Jama national TV special there 2014. Noted for community involvement, hosting everything from weekly religious services to military-appreciation galas. Club noted for bras hanging from ceiling, laid-back friendliness and annual “Mullet Toss” on its beach.
NOLAN FAULKNER, 89, died May 25.Detroit bluegrass mandolinist with Red Ellis & Huron Valley Boys, Big Sandy Boys, Miller Brothers, Candy Moutain Boys. Recorded albums with Millers. Session work for Wade Mainer, Joe Meadows. Solo LP: Legendary Kentucky Mandolin (full name: Lee Nolan Faulkner).
BILL WALKER, 96, died May 26.Among most prominent musical arrangers in history of Nashville music. Famed for elegant written instrumental settings that polished the Nashville Sound in late 1960s. Musical director of Johnny Cash Show ABC-TV (1969-71), led orchestras for annual CMA Awards Show, produced sitar-making hits of Donna Fargo. Provided charts for dozens of TV specials, music director of The Statler Brothers Show TNN (1991-98), co-owned indie record label. Born Australia, classically trained keyboardist, producer at RCA in South Africa. Produced records & soundtrack for Jim Reeves. Moved to Nashville 1964. Arranged giant Eddy Arnold 1965 pop-country hit “Make the World Go Away.” Other hits featuring his string arrangements Cash’s “Sunday Morning Coming Down” (1970), Marty Robbins’ “My Woman My Woman My Wife” (1970), Arnold’s “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” (1968), Roy Clark’s “Come Live With Me” (1973), Sammi Smith’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night” (1971), George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (1980).
Also worked as session musician on piano, harpsichord, vibraphone, organ. Either as arranger or sideman on discs by Claude King, Carl Perkins, Slim Whitman, Connie, Haggard, Al Hirt, Floyd Cramer, Jerry Wallace, Bare, Skeeter, Vinton, Locklin, Jerry Reed, Rev. Billy Graham, Hank Snow, Grandpa, Boots, Dolly, more. TV work following Cash series & specials included Ann-Margret: Rhinestone Cowgirl, Music Hall America, Nashville Remembers Elvis on His Birthday, Perry Como and His Nashville Friends, Lynn Anderson & Tina Turner in Nashville, Conway Twitty on the Mississippi, Opryland in Russia, Crystal Gayle in Sweden, George Burns in Nashville and annual Music City News Awards. CMA Awards for 15 years in 1970s & 1980s. Married Anita Kerr Singers’ Jeanine Ogletree 1971. Produced for Capitol Records 1971-73 — Wanda Jackson, Roy Rogers, Billy Walker, Ferlin Husky, etc. Also produced Donna Fargo’s award-winning 1972 hits “Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.” and “Funny Face.”
With son Jeff Walker (1950-2015) formed Con Brio Records, most successful indie country label of 1975-79 via artists Jan Howard, Reg Lindsay, Dale McBride, Don King, Terri Hollowell (who married Jeff), Chester Lester, etc. During 1980s, branched out into film soundtrack work. In 2015, saluted by Country Music Hall of Fame & Museum in “Nashville Cats” series. In recent years, Bill and Jeanine Walker collaborated on four gospel albums. She also taught voice at Belmont U. Son Jeff Walker founded Aristo Media publicity & promotions firm 1980. Now run by daughter, Christy Walker Watkins while son Jon Walker is technology professional with associated AristoDigital firm.
RONNIE HAWKINS, 87, died May 29.Arkansas-bred rockabilly star best known for 1959’s “Forty Days” and “Mary Lou.” His touring group The Hawks later became the rock superstars The Band. Long based in Toronto, he was key figure in Canadian rock & country scenes. Cousin of Dale Hawkins (1936-2010) of “Suzy Q” fame (1957).
CHRIS FORD, 51, died May 29.Nashville rock musician who became an L.A. concert promoter (real name: John Christopher Sanford).
SAUNDRA STEELE, 72, died May 30.Pop and country vocalist who recorded for Royal American, Monument, United Artists, EMI. Popular headliner in Printers Alley clubs Western Room, Carousel, etc. Toured as backup singer for George Jones, Johnny Rodriguez, Ronnie Milsap, Johnny Tillotson, Boots Randolph, Stamps Quartet. Music Row demo singer for decades. Worked in studio with Garth Fundis, Ralph Murphy, Allen Reynolds, Roger Cook, Bobby Wood and longtime musical partner Lloyd Green. Designed decor for Symphony Ball, co-chaired inaugural Opera Gala & Children’s Miracle Network Telethon. Avant-garde art collector, philanthropist. Formerly child and teen entertainer in West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania. “Star of Tomorrow” on Atlantic City’s Steel Pier & performed on Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour on CBS-TV. Founded Owl’s Creek Nature Sanctuary in Williamson County (born: Saundra Joyce Rucker).
DEBORAH McCRARY, 67, died June 1.Member of The McCrary Sisters, the most important Black female group in Nashville history, along with siblings Ann, Regina, Alfreda. She was low-harmony voice in quartet and a beatific stage presence. McCrarys issued five albums, served in “house band” at annual Americana Awards, first-call session vocalists, backed who’s-who including Elvis, Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes. Daughter of Rev. Sam McCrary (1913-1991), founder of legendary, influential gospel quartet The Fairfield Four. As teen in 1960s & 1970s, sang in Nashville’s BC&M Mass Choir. Deborah McCrary Person became a nurse and worked as such for most of her life. Sisters disc debut 2010 album Our Journey. Deborah sang lead on record’s traditional tune “Dig A Little Deeper.” Albums All the Way & Let’s Go followed 2013 & 2015. Recorded or performed with Sheryl, Mike Farris, Carrie, Margo, Keb Mo, Miranda, Mary Gauthier, Buddy Guy, Delbert, Black Keys, Martina, Eric Church, Patty Griffin, Winans, Rosanne, Hank Jr., Dr. John, Widespread Panic, Maren, Lee Ann, Ray Stevens, Stapleton, Brandi Carlile, Steve Earle, Gregg Allman, etc. Appeared on TV specials for PBS, ABC, BET, CMT. Numerous music festivals in U.S. & abroad. Sang at Country Music Hall of Fame, Saturday Night Live, Grand Ole Opry, Madison Square Garden, White House, Ryman, Station Inn. McCrary Sisters Live CD 2017. Deborah co-wrote its track “Let It Go.” A Very McCrary Christmas 2019. Book: Cooking With Love 2015.
HAL BYNUM, 87, died June 2.Nashville songwriter best known for “Lucille,” cowritten with Roger Bowling (1944-1982). First cut “I’m Hot to Trot,” Terry Fell 1953. George Jones “The Old, Old House” 1963, subsequently a bluegrass favorite by Bill Monroe, Ralph Stanley, Peter Rowan, Country Gazette, IIIrd Tyme Out, Marty Stuart. First top-10 hit Jim Reeves “Nobody’s Fool” 1970. “You Can’t Take It with You” (Ray Price 1970, covered by Wynn Stewart, Johnny Bush, Clinton Gregory, Kenny Price). “Papa Was a Good Man” (Johnny Cash 1971 a top-20 hit). “I’ve Been So Wrong For So Long” (Jeanne Pruett 1973), “Easy to Love” (Diahann Carroll 1974, covered by Tom Jones). Struck songwriting gold with “Lucille.” Song turned Kenny Rogers into pop & country superstar, won him a Grammy, sold a million, became a country standard and earned Bynum & Bowling CMA Song of the Year 1977. “There Ain’t No Good Chain Gang” (Waylon & Cash 1978, No. 1). “As If I Didn’t Know” (1987, covered by Suzy Bogguss, Lee Greenwood), “Chains” (Patty Loveless 1990, No. 1). Wrote/co-wrote 200+ songs recorded by Merle, Tubb, Dickens, Curtis Potter, T.G. Sheppard, Dave & Sugar, Charlie Rich, Diana Trask, Cal Smith, John Anderson, Roy Clark etc. Second career as spoken-word recording artist with albums If I Could Do Anything (1998), The Promise (2002), An American Prayer (2004). Autobiography The Promise (2002).
MARTHA OWEN, 90, died June 2.Mother of Alabama’s Randy Owen. Introduced Randy to music, formed The Singing Owen Family and performed gospel music in churches and at events in Alabama and the south during the ’60s and ’70s.
JIM SEALS, 80, died June 6.Nashville pop star famed as half of 1970s duo Seals & Crofts with big hits “Summer Breeze,” “Diamond Girl,” “Get Closer,” more. Sang lead, wrote the lyrics, co-wrote melodies with partner Dash Crofts. Won Texas State Fiddle Championship age 9. Also mastered saxophone, guitar. Disc debut 1958 with instrumental singles. Seals & Crofts joined The Champs (“Tequila”) 1958, moved to L.A. Blossomed as songwriter via cuts by Brenda Lee, Knickerbockers, Gene Vincent, Rick Nelson, Lenny Welch, Champs. Left band 1965. Formed Vegas act The Dawnbreakers. Converted to Baha’i faith. Began writing with Crofts. Debuted as duo 1969. Two albums 1970. Signed with Warner Bros. 1971. Hit career launched with “Summer Breeze,” “Hummingbird” 1972. “Diamond Girl,” “We May Never Pass This Way Again” 1973. Progress derailed 1974 via controversial, anti-abortion single “Unborn Child.” Momentum regained with “I’ll Play for You” 1975, plus two-million selling Greatest Hits album. Duo joined by Carolyn Willis (of Honey Cone) on 1976’s “Get Closer,” biggest hit of career.
Films One on One (1977), Foolin’ Around (1980) featured Seals & Crofts soundtrack songs. Premiere season of TV’s The Paper Chase (1977-78) employed duo’s “First Years” as theme song. In 1977-78 continued to be mainstays on A/C charts with “Goodbye Old Buddies,” “My Fair Share,” “You’re the Love.” Duo ended 1980, reunited for tour 1991-92. Lived in Nashville on and off for several years before he officially relocated 2004. Second reunion resulted in 2004 album Traces. Jim & younger brother Dan Seals began to co-write songs, record and perform together until Dan’s death 2009. “Summer Breeze” revived by Isley Brothers. Voltage Brothers revived “Get Closer.” “We May Never Pass This Way Again” a high-school graduation favorite. All Seals & Crofts hits oldie airplay evergreens. Jim Seals part of sizable musical clan: Older cousin Johnny Duncan (1938-2006) a 1970s country star; uncle Chuck Seals (1922-1997) co-wrote country standard “Crazy Arms;” younger brother Dan Seals (1948-2009) had pop hits in England Dan & John Ford Coley, then a major solo country star of 1980s; brother, Eddie Seals performed music, comedy, impressions in popular Printer’s Alley nightclub act Eddie & Joe (with Joe Grant); older cousin Troy Seals elected to Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame; nephew Brady Seals in country bands Little Texas & Hot Apple Pie, plus a well-regarded solo artist.
DAVE OSBORNE, 75, died June 8.North Carolina banjo player. Sideman for Faron Young, Don Ho, Pickwick Pickers, Southern Comfort. Founded enduring Music Barn 1972 in Greensboro, NC selling instruments & offering music instruction. Founded Fiddlers Cove nightclub 1978, also in Greensboro. Staff musician at Renfro Valley Barn Dance in Kentucky in 1990s. Own group Southern Blend recorded for Rich-R-Tone. Solo album: Banjo Harvest on Old Homestead.
AL COOLEY, 75, died June 9.Longtime Nashville music exec, perhaps best known for tenure at Combine Music, publishing home of Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame members Dennis Linde, Kris Kristofferson, John Scott Sherrill, Bob DiPiero, Larry Gatlin, Bob Morrison. Raised in Flushing, Queens & retained distinctive New York accent throughout career on Music Row. First came to Nashville as music journalist for Zoo World: The Music Megapaper 1972-75. Profiled “Nashville underground” in Zoo World 1973. Wrote liner notes for Billy Swann album Rock ’N’ Roll Moon 1975. Hired by Combine as song plugger 1976. Staff songwriters Swann, Woody Bomar, Thomas Cain, Tony Joe White, Pat McManus, Debbie Hupp, Patti Ryan, Mark Germino, Tim Krekel, plus Hall of Famers above. Gave future star Kathy Mattea her first recording session as Combine demo singer. Helped launch MusicRow as its first columnist 1981. Remained at Combine until 1986, when it was sold to SBK. Stints at MTM Music & MCA Publishing. Became the A&R Director at Atlantic Nashville Records 1991 with Tracy Lawrence, Neal McCoy, Confederate Railroad, Robin Lee, John Michael Montgomery. Rose to VP 1994. Named Manager of Koch Nashville’s publishing division. Company associated with Robert Earl Keen, Dean Miller, Gene Watson, Tractors, Daryle Singletary, Dwight Yoakam, David Lee Murphy, John Anderson. (real name: Al Bianculli).
BRUCENE HARRISON, 89, died June 9.Notable classical pianist. Songwriter. Promoted country concerts in Memphis with husband Shelton Harrison (1934-2013) — Loretta, Conway, Dottie, Pride, Tom T. Hall, Floyd Cramer, Marty Robbins, etc. Mother of singer-songwriter Camille Harrison.
BAXTER BLACK, 77, died June 10.Biggest star of cowboy poets subculture. Dubbed “America’s Poet Lariat.” Featured at annual cowboy-poetry gatherings. Syndicated column “On the Edge of Common Sense” in 100+ newspapers for 40 years. Guested on The Tonight Show. NPR commentator. Syndicated radio series to 150 stations. Author of more than 30 books — fiction, children’s literature, poetry — that sold 2+ million copies. More than 10 spoken-word albums.
JOEL WHITBURN, 82, died June 14.Compiler of indispensable music-industry data books that chronicle Billboard popularity charts. More than 300 titles published under his Record Research imprint, beginning with Top Pop Singles in 1970. Top Country Singles, Top R&B Singles, Top Pop Albums, Top Country Albums, Pop Memories, Top A/C Singles, Hot Dance/Disco, Christmas In the Charts, Rock Tracks, etc. Most with periodic updates. Also volumes devoted to Cash Box, Record World pop charts.
STEVE TRAVIS, 62, died June 16.Formerly co-owner of the Nashville advertising/marketing/publicity company Bill Hudson Agency.
JAMES REAMS, 66, died June 17.Led bluegrass group James Reams & The Barnstormers for 30 years, beginning in 1994. A dozen albums & DVD projects, plus a biographical documentary, Like a Flowing River: A Bluegrass Passage. Gigs at Lincoln Center, The Bottom Line, etc. Own music festival for traditional country music in Brooklyn, The Park Slope Bluegrass & Old-Time Jamboree. Nominated for IBMA Award 2014 as Event of the Year. Later president of Arizona Bluegrass Association. Graduate of Leadership Bluegrass.
KEN BRIGHAM, 82, died June 18.Member of the Nashville pop group The Crescendos, who hit No. 5 on the national hit parade with “Oh Julie” in 1958. Later an acclaimed physician and/or professor at Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins, U.S. Public Health Service, University of California, Emory, National Institutes of Health as pulmonary specialist. More than 400 articles in medical journals, four non-fiction books, five novels, two memoirs.
EDDIE EDWARDS, 75, died June 19.Country Radio Hall of Fame personality & programmer. Spent spent 25 years as Program Director at WNOE New Orleans. ACM Personality of Year 1986, CMA Medium Market Personality of Year 1987. Prior career stops XEPRS-AM San Diego, WMC-AM Memphis, WSIX Nashville, KLAC-AM L.A., KAJA San Antonio, KEBC Oklahoma City. Left WNOE 2017, covered mornings for WUUU Covington, Louisiana, a MusicRow reporter. Inducted into Country Radio Hall of Fame 2013. (Real name: Eddie Drennan)
BIL VORNDICK, 72, died July 5.Revered producer/engineer, particularly noted for recordings with acoustic artists — Bela Fleck, Alison Krauss, Doc Watson, Jesse Winchester, IIIrd Time Out, Charlie McCoy, Trace Adkins, Marty Stuart, Rhonda Vincent, Jim Lauderdale, Marty Robbins, Fairfield Four, Asleep at the Wheel, Webb Wilder, Vassar Clements, Dillards, Robert Earl Keen, Maura O’Connell, Earls of Leicester, Doyle Lawson, Jerry Douglas, John McEuen, many more. Albums he worked on had 40 Grammy noms & 9 wins. Produced all-star, Grammy-nominated Ralph Stanley 36-track duets album Clinch Mountain Country (1998) named Rolling Stone Country Album of Year, earned two IBMA awards. Chief engineer at Robbins’ studio & Stargem Studio, founder of The Music Shop, owner of Music Row Audio, Mountainside Music Group Productions. Advisory and/or instructional work for MTSU, Belmont, Folk Alliance, IBMA, Recording Academy, MerleFest, Telluride, South Plains College, Kerrville Folk Festival, Vol State, etc. Campaigned to save RCA Studio A from demolition, promoted popularity charts for roots music, championed health insurance for music people. Former chairman of Nashville chapter of Audio Engineering Society (AES).
GLENN MEADOWS, 68, died July 7.Iconic Nashville mastering engineer on thousands of hit records. Noted for longtime Masterfonics facility on Music Row. Two Grammy Awards, Lifetime Achievement from Nashville chapter of AES in 2019.
NIKO EVERETTE, 32, died July 9.Former drummer for Luke Bryan, Cowboy Mouth, Saliva. Member of band Whiskey Kiss.
DEWEY LEE FARMER, 79, died July 12.North Carolina bluegrass mandolinist in Carl Story’s Rambling Mountaineers (1968-69), A.L. Wood’s Smokey Ridge Boys (1969-74), The Legendaires (1976-79), Rosewood (1982-86), Dixie Blue Grass Boys (2010), others. Recordings for Rebel & other labels. Backed Mac Wiseman, Clyde Moody, Chubby Wise, Jim Eanes, Butch Robbins, Larry Perkins, Snuffy Jenkins, etc.
NOLAN NEAL, 41, died July 18.Nashville-native pop singer who competed on Season 11 of The Voice and Season 15 of America’s Got Talent. Formerly in the rock band Hinder.
WALTER RILEY KING, 71, died July 19.Nashville saxophonist who toured backing & arranging B.B. King Orchestra for 35+ years. Recorded with Etta James, Oak Ridge Boys, Mac Davis, Roy Clark, Z.Z. Hill, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Billy Ocean, Hot, Joe Tex, Denise LaSalle, Clapton, Albert King. Grew up in Memphis eldest of 19 children. Educated at TSU & performed for three years in “Aristocrat of Marching Bands.” Music educator at Goodlettsville High, Pearl High. In Nashville nightspots via Tyrone Smith Revue, Jimmy Church Band, etc. In addition to B.B., performed live with Temptations, Dells, Gladys, Dr. John, U2, Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson, Muscle Shoals Horns, Nelson Riddle. Longtime resident of Omaha & served as guest conductor of Omaha Youth Symphony. Songwriter, actor, flutist, black-belt Karate master.
SHONKA DUKUREH, 44, died July 21.Nashville blues singer who portrayed Big Mama Thornton and sang “Hound Dog” in the 2022 movie Elvis. Worked as a vocalist with Doja Cat, Nick Cave, Mike Farris, Pete Rock, Smoke Dza.
MARY G. DAWSON, 59, died July 22.Office worker for Randy Travis, Reba McEntire’s Starstruck and radio station Lightning 100. Professional church singer. Later in publishing, video production, costuming, real estate.
MARILYN JOHNSTON BLANKENSHIP, 69, died July 22.Past president of Tennessee chapter of American Women in Radio & Television. Award winner for media sales at Channel 4, Channel 5 & radio stations. Later award winner as Nashville real estate broker.
MARK HOWARD, 65, died July 24.Co-host of “The Wake-Up Zone” on 104.5 FM, Nashville’s No. 1 rated morning radio show in 2004-2020. Previously TV sports anchor on WTVF, Channel 5 in 1986-2002. Regular guest on radio shows of Charlie Monk, Carl P. Mayfield (real name: Howard Mark Levenson).
BIG JOHN TRIMBLE, 84, died July 24.Country DJ Hall of Famer. Host of “All Night Trucker Show” from Spokane, Shreveport, Richmond & online. Affiliated with KWKH, WRVA, WXGI, WLCM, more.
RICHARD LAW, 77, died July 26.Nashville session vocalist in Lea Jane Singers, Sound Seventy Singers, Richard Law Singers. Toured with Roy Orbison. Many jingles.
CLAY HART, 86, died July 28.Pop-country singer and former Nashvillian who was the resident country performer on The Lawrence Welk Show 1969-75. Road warrior for decades at fairs, cruise ships, lounges in upbeat duo with wife and fellow Welk alumnus Sally Flynn Hart. Helped launch career of hit country songwriter Bob Regan.
ED HARDY, 73, died July 31.President of GAC 2004-2012. Formerly in radio as head of 19-station Dischutes River Broadcasting. Boards of Music City Inc., CMA, W.O. Smith Community Music School. Served as interim chief of CMA 2013. Country Radio Hall of Fame President’s Award 2014. CMA Chairman’s Award 2013.
JERRY PAUL ARNOLD, 86, died July 31.Music City drummer noted for long-tenured, five-days-a-week, gig in house band of WSMV early-morning local TV show. Also performed in house bands of Pop! Goes the Country, Nashville on the Road, Nashville Now national TV series. Longtime music educator in Nashville school system.
OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN, 73, died Aug. 8.CMA Female Vocalist of Year 1974. Sold 50+ million records. Seven top-10 country-pop hits: Gold-selling “Let Me Be There” (1973 Country Grammy), Gold “If You Love Me (Let Me Know)” (1974), Gold “I Honestly Love You” (1974, Pop Grammy & Grammy Record of Year), Gold “Have You Never Been Mellow” (1975), Gold “Please Mr. Please” (1975), “Let It Shine” (1975), “Come On Over” (1976). Other notable country singles: “If Not for You” (1971), “Banks of the Ohio” (1971), ‘Take Me Home Country Roads” (1973), “Every Face Tells a Story” (1976), “Don’t Stop Believin’” (1976). Starred in 1978 movie musical Grease, yielding Gold-selling “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” pop-chart topping & Platinum-selling “You’re the One That I Want” duet with co-star John Travolta, Gold “Summer Nights.” More pop successes via Gold “A Little More Love” (1978), “Deeper Than the Night” (1979), Andy Gibb duet “I Can’t Help It” (1980). Starred in 1980 movie Xanadu, yielding pop-chart topping & Gold “Magic,” “Xanadu” (with Electric Light Orchestra), “Suddenly” (with Cliff Richard). Biggest pop hit 1981’s “Physical” No. 1 for 10 weeks (Video Grammy). Others: “Make a Move on Me” (1982), “Heart Attack” (1982), “Twist of Fate” (1983), “Soul Kiss” (1985), “The Rumour” (1988, written & produced by Elton John). Returned to country music via Back With a Heart CD (1998) & its track “Love Is a Gift” (song Daytime Emmy Award due to use on soap As the World Turns). Co-wrote with Gary Burr, Victoria Shaw, Annie Roboff, Chris Farren, Steve Seskin, Beth Nielsen Chapman. Teamed with Shaw, Garth, Faith, Bryan White, Billy Dean, Neal McCoy, Michael McDonald on 1998’s “One Heart at a Time.” Tis the Season, Xmas album with Vince Gill (2000). Trio album with Chapman, Amy Sky Live On (2016). Multiple accolades from American Music Awards, ACM, ASCAP, NARM, People’s Choice, Billboard, Cashbox, Record World. Global touring attraction. Eight Gold and/or Platinum albums. Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame. Notable for socially conscious efforts for environment, animal welfare, breast cancer awareness, alternative medicine.
BEN FARRELL, 76, died Aug. 10.President of Varnell Enterprises. Major concert promoter, notably for 30 years for Garth Brooks. Other clients a Nashville who’s-who, including Statlers, Skaggs, Haggard, Strait, Milsap, Pride, Mandrell, Chesney, Paisley, Miranda, Dierks, Aldean, Chris Young, Rascal Flatts, Toby Keith, Alan Jackson, Luke Bryan, etc. Also Osmonds, Carpenters, Neil Diamond, Elvis, Elton, Lawrence Welk, Guy Lombardo. Formerly minor-league pro baseball player in Astros, White Sox farm clubs.
BOB BURWELL, 71, died Aug. 13.Noted Nashville promoter/entrepreneur. Managed, promoted or booked Kenny Rogers, Lee Roy Parnell, Steve Vai, John Jorgensen, Oaks, Michael Martin Murphey, others. Co-created Warner Western label & developed such cowboy-music events as West/Fest. Worked at Jim Halsey in Tulsa and on Music Row at DreamCather & Vector. Warner Western roster 1992-98 included Murphey, Sons of San Joaquin, Don Edwards, Bill Miller, Herb Jeffries, Red Steagall, Waddie Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Ranger Doug, Bill & Bonnie Hearne, Rex Allen Jr., Robert Mirabal, Tim Ryan, Joni Harms.
RANDY BAILEY, 68, died Aug. 16.Host of New Jersey’s “Bluegrass Jam” radio show on WBJB for more than 20 years, 1988-2012.
CHARLES QUILLEN, 84, died Aug. 19.Hit country songwriter: “Back on My Mind Again” (1979), “My Heart” (1980), “I Wouldn’t Have Missed it for the World” (1981) chart toppers for Milsap. Also Wariner’s top-10s “Your Memory” (1980) & “By Now” (1981).
Con Hunley’s hits “They Never Lost You” (1980), “What’s New With You” (1981). Other chart successes “Our Wedding Band” Louise Mandrell & R.C. Bannon (1982), “She Used to Love Me a Lot” David Allan Coe (1985), “I Talked a Lot About Leaving” Larry Boone (1987), “The Jukebox Played Along” Gene Watson (1989), “Why Don’t That Telephone Ring” Tracy Byrd (1993).
Returned to No. 1 in 1986 via John Schneider’s “What’s a Memory Like You (Doing in a Love Like This).” Songs recorded by Country Hall of Famers Strait, Twitty, Cash, Barbara, Pride, Charlie Louvin, Floyd Cramer. Dozens of other cuts — Blake, Bandy, Wayne Newton, Sylvia, Marie Osmond, Chesnutt, Jim & Jesse, Charly McClain, Ricky Van Shelton. 12 ASCAP Awards & numerous Gold/Platinum Records.
J.I. ALLISON, 82, died Aug. 22.Jerry Ivan Allison last survivor of original Crickets. With band’s leader Buddy Holly (1936-1959) co-wrote 1950s classic “Peggy Sue,” “That’ll Be the Day,” “Well All Right,” “Look at Me,” “Tell Me How,” “Early in the Morning.” Also claimed but not credited for “Not Fade Away.” Ronstadt revived “That’ll Be the Day” 1976. Memorable drummer on “Peggy Sue,” Everlys’ “Til I Kissed You,” sides for Eddie Cochran, Johnny Burnette, Johnny Rivers, J.J. Cale, more. Also recorded solo “Real Wild Child” (1958) billed as “Ivan,” later a rock classic for Iggy Pop. Led post-Holly Crickets, writing group’s 1961 chart entry “He’s Old Enough to Know Better,” plus Bobby Vee’s “More Than I Can Say” (1961) revived by Leo Sayer 1980. Crickets hit UK top 40 with 1963’s “My Little Girl” and “Don’t Try to Change Me.” Band’s “California Sun” (1964) in surf-rock genre. Backup vocalist on Eric Clapton’s debut solo LP (1970). Crickets toured with Waylon 1970s, Nanci Grittith 1990s. Paul McCartney on band’s “T-Shirt” (1988). Album The Crickets and Their Buddies 2004 with guests Griffith, Clapton, Waylon, John Prine, Graham Nash, Rodney Crowell, others. Inducted into Musicians Hall of Fame 2007. Allison & Crickets into Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 2012.
CARLEE ANN VAUGHN, 45, died Aug. 23.Wife of Warner Chappell Nashville President & CEO Ben Vaughn. Belmont University grad and mother to three.
STEVE ARKIN, 78, died Aug. 24.Banjo player in Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys 1962. Also in Trouble Creek String Band, Down State Rebels. Banjo champ at Philadelphia Folk Festival. Cousin of actor & Terriers member Alan Arkin.
JERRY BENTLEY, 79, died Aug. 28.Manager of Lee Greenwood for 30 years. Formerly Alabama concert promoter for shows by Oaks, Gatlin, Hank Jr., Merle, Buffett, Mandrell, Tammy, T.G. Sheppard, Don Williams, Marty Robbins, George Jones, etc.
LUKE BELL, 32, died Aug. 29.Traditionalist alt-country singer with 2016 self-titled Thirty Tigers album and “Sometimes” video, plus 2021 single “Jealous Guy.” Opened for Willie, Dwight, Dirt Band, Hayes Carll.
ART ROSENBAUM, 83, died Sept. 4.Georgia painter/art professor and banjo player whose tapes of old-time country & blues musicians became 2009 Art of Field Recording CDs on Dust-to-Digital label. Boxed set won Best Historical Album Grammy. Also produced 13 other traditional-music albums. Author of Folk Visions and Voices (1983), Shout Because You’re Free (1998), The Mary Lomax Ballad Book (2013), Art Rosenbaum’s Old-Time Banjo Book (2015).
BILL HUMBLE, 79, died Sept. 6.Bassist & trombonist who played with Nashville Symphony & on Music Row sessions 1970-82. On LPs by Hank Mizell, J.J. Cale, Buzz Rabin, Sleepy LaBeef, Vassar Clements, etc. Later in Navy Band 1982-96.
HERSCHEL SIZEMORE, 87, died Sept. 9.Mandolinist for Jimmy Martin, Del McCoury, Dixie Gentlemen, Rambler’s Choice, Bluegrass Cardinals, Boys From Shiloh, Country Grass, Shenandoah Cut-Ups. Many LPs as sideman, three solo LPs.
PAUL KWAMI, 70, died Sept. 10.Director of Fisk Jubilee Singers. Guided group to a Grammy, Gospel Music Hall of Fame, Music City Walk of Fame, National Medal of Arts, Legacy of Americana Award, Tennessee Governors Award in the Arts. Leadership Music class ’06.
JOHN CIRILLO, 67, died Sept. 12.Nashville songwriter in 2011-22 with several indie artist cuts.
TERRY CHOATE, 68, died Sept. 14.Known as a consummate “song man,” who served as a song plugger, record producer, label executive, music publisher, instrumentalist, audio engineer and a music supervisor for television. Produced projects for Larry Gatlin & The Gatlin Brothers, The Time Jumpers, Del Reeves, Simon & Verity, Jay Booker, The Osmonds, Tammy Cline and Gene Stroman. Signed New Grass Revival, Tanya Tucker, Dobie Gray, Dan Seals, Barbara Mandrell, Kix Brooks, Tom Wopat, Suzy Bogguss, T. Graham Brown, Don Williams, The Osmonds and Johnny Rodriguez. Was also highly active in a number of Music Row organizations, including the Nashville chapter of The Recording Academy, NSAI, the AFM, and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
ARTHUR WARD ELLER, 92, died Sept. 20.Founding member of Church Brothers. & Blue Ridge Ramblers, which recorded for pioneering bluegrass label Rich-R-Tone 1950.
BUDDY SPURLOCK, 81, died Sept. 21.Kentucky banjo stylist founder of Bluegrass Alliance.
RAY EDENTON, 95, died Sept. 22.A-Team guitarist & Musicians Hall of Fame inductee 2007. After stints at Old Dominion Barn Dance WRVA Richmond, WNOX Knoxville and WSM Grand Ole Opry Nashville he began studio work 1953. Early sideman hits “There Stands the Glass” (Webb Pierce 1953), “One By One” (Kitty Wells & Red Foley 1954). Played lead guitar on Marty Robbins 1956 smash “Singing the Blues.” Also played mandolin, bass, banjo, ukulele. But far more famed for rhythm-guitar prowess on sessions. Prominent on 1957 Everly hits “Bye, Bye Love” & “Wake Up Little Susie.” Between 1960 & 1990 played on more than 10,000 recording sessions, appearing on records with more than 50 members of Country Music Hall of Fame. Hundreds of other major stars, pop and country: Neil Young, Roger Miller, Dolly, Willie, Cash, Rosemary Clooney, Louvins, Jerry Lee, Orbison, Kenny Rogers, Reba, Hank Jr., Crystal, B.J. Thomas, Duane Eddy, Brenda, Lefty, Hag, Porter, John Denver, Leon Russell, Patti Page, Sir Douglas Quintet, etc. Honored as Nashville Cat by Country Music Hall of Fame 2007.
JUDY MASSEY, 81, died Sept. 25.TV producer of syndicated programs for Show Biz, Inc.
JOE BUSSARD, 86, died Sept. 26.Record archivist with one of the nation’s leading 78 rpm collections of country, jazz and blues
JOE CHAMBERS, 80 died Sept. 28.Musicians Hall of Fame founder. Previously Music Row guitarist, record producer, songwriter. His Georgia rock group won Battle of Bands & Conway Twitty offered studio time & advice. Billy Sherrill mentored & signed him as publisher. During 1980s/1990s, his songs recorded by Twitty, Jones, Diffie, Ronnie McDowell, Paycheck, Mel McDaniel, Lacy J. Dalton, Bama Band, Terri Gibbs, Leon Everette, B.J. Thomas, Ken Mellons etc. Among notable copyrights “I Meant Every Word He Said” (Ricky Van Shelton, 1990), “It’s Hard to Be the Dreamer (When I Used to Be the Dream)” (Donna Fargo, 1982), “Old 8×10” (Randy Travis, 1988), “Beneath a Painted Sky” (Tammy & Emmylou, 1988), “Somebody Lied” (Ricky Van Shelton, 1987). Opened Chambers Guitars 1985, leading to contacts in many genres. Launched Musicians Hall of Fame 2006 with annual star-studded awards galas. Museum moved to Municipal Auditorium 2013. Houses Grammy Museum outpost & SOURCE honorees.
BILLIE BURTON, 98, died Oct. 1.Female singer in The Briarhoppers 1936-40, legendary string band on WBT Charlotte, NC radio. Later and blues & pop singer. (Full name: Billie Burton Daniel).
MARY McCASLIN, 75, died Oct. 2.Folk singer, songwriter and guitarist who recorded songs about the Old West. Known as “The Prairie Songstress.” Recorded several LPs for Philo/Rounder. Songs recorded by Tom Russell, David Bromberg, Kate Wolf.
LORETTA LYNN, 90, died Oct. 4.Music icon. Member Country Music Hall of Fame (1988), Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame (1983). Known to millions as “The Coal Miner’s Daughter,” subject of Oscar winning film of that name. Released more than 60 albums, wrote 160+ songs, 16 No. 1’s, 50 top-10 hits. Charted 82 titles, six Gold Records, sold 45 million units. Only female country artist to chart in six consecutive decades. Feisty feminist sensibility. Wrote evergreens “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin,’” “Fist City,” “You Ain’t Woman Enough,” “You’re Lookin’ at Country,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Also immortalized others’ songs — “One’s On the Way,” “Blue Kentucky Girl,” “The Pill,” “Love Is the Foundation,” etc. Hit duets with Ernest Tubb (1914-1984), Conway Twitty (1933-1993).
Pushed into career by husband Oliver “Doolittle”/”Mooney” Lynn (1927-1996). Featured on Takoma TV show of Buck Owens (1929-2006) began to feature her on his Takoma television show. Self-penned 1960 debut single “I’m a Honky Tonk Girl” brought her to Nashville. Wilburn Brothers signed her to management and publishing contracts. Teddy Wilburn (1931-2003) helped her polish her songwriting. Doyle Wilburn (1930-1982) engineered Decca Records contract with producer Owen Bradley (1915-1998), featured her on duo’s national TV show. On strength of 1962 hit “Success,” became Opry member Sept. 24, 1962. “Before I’m Over You” (1963), “Wine, Women and Song” (1964) were next big hits. Tubb/Lynn duets “Mr. and Mrs. Used To Be” (1964), “Our Hearts Are Holding Hands” (1965), “Sweet Thang” (1967), “Who’s Gonna Take the Garbage Out” (1969). Solo hits continued with “Happy Birthday,” “Blue Kentucky Girl,” “The Home You’re Tearin’ Down” all 1965. “Dear Uncle Sam” (1966), “You Ain’t Woman Enough” (1966), “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’” (1967), “If You’re Not Gone Too Long” (1967), “What Kind of Girl” (1967) led to CMA Female Vocalist win 1967. More classics “Fist City” (1968), “You’ve Just Stepped In” (1968), “Your Squaw Is On the Warpath” (1968), “Woman of the World” (1969), “To Make a Man” (1969), “Wings Upon Your Horns” (1969). Then 1970’s “I Know How,” “You Wanna Give Me a Lift,” “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Twitty/Lynn duets “After the Fire Is Gone” (1971, Grammy Award), “Lead Me On” (1971), “Louisiana Woman Mississippi Man” (1973), “Feelin’s” (1975), “I Can’t Love You Enough” (1977), “You’re the Reason Our Kids Are Ugly” (1978), “Lovin’ What Your Lovin’ Does to Me” (1981), many others. Team won four CMA Duo of the Year awards 1972-75. More solo hits in 1971-73 “I Wanna Be Free,” “You’re Lookin’ at Country,” “One’s on the Way,” “Here I Am Again,” “Rated X,” “Love Is the Foundation,” “Hey Loretta” resulted in CMA Female Vocalist honors 1972 & 1973, plus Entertainer of Year 1972, first woman so awarded.
Featured in Ms magazine and on covers of Newsweek (1973), Redbook (1974). TV talk-show favorite. Starred in TV commercials for Crisco. Her 1976 autobiography a New York Times best-seller. Fan club an industry model, creating International Fan Club Organization (IFCO) and Fan Fair (now CMA Music Festival) in 1972. Hits continued with “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like My Daddy” (1974), “Trouble in Paradise” (1974), “The Pill” (1975), “When the Tingle Becomes a Chill” (1976), “Somebody Somewhere” (1976). Gratitude for mentor Patsy Cline (1932-1963) in early 1960s led to tribute LP and 1977 hits “She’s Got You,” “Why Can’t He Be You.” Rounded out 1970s with hits “Out of My Head and Back in My Bed” (1977), “Spring Fever” (1978), “We’ve Come a Long Way Baby” (1978), “I Can’t Feel You Anymore” (1979), “I’ve Got a Picture of Us in My Mind” (1979). Coal Miner’s Daughter became film triumph 1980 & Sissy Spacek won Academy Award.
Formed own booking agency, song publishing company, western-wear clothing stores. Loretta Lynn Dude Ranch at antebellum property in Hurricane Mills, TN. Top-20 winners with “Cheatin’ on a Cheater” (1980), “Somebody Led Me Away” (1981), “I Lie” (1982), “Making Love From Memory” (1982), “Heart Don’t Do This to Me” (1985). ACM Artist of the Decade for 1970s. Grammy-nominated 1987 “Honky Tonk Angels Medley” with k.d. lang, Brenda Lee, Kitty Wells. Grammy-nominated 1993 Honky Tonk Angels with Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton plus single/video “Silver Threads and Golden Needles.” Comeback solo disc Still Country (2000) — its single “Country in My Genes” made her country’s senior charting female artist at age 68.
Kennedy Center Honor 2003. BMI Icon Award 2004. Books Still Woman Enough (2002) & You’re Cookin’ It Country (2004). Album Van Lear Rose (2004) with rock star Jack White won two Grammys. Inducted into New York’s Songwriters Hall of Fame 2008. Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award 2010. Presidential Medal of Freedom 2013. Loretta Lynn tribute album (2010) resulted in her last chart appearance, “Coal Miner’s Daughter” with Miranda Lambert & Sheryl Crow. Book Honky-Tonk Girl: My Life in Lyrics (2012). Resumed recording career with Full Circle (2015), White Christmas Blue (2016), Wouldn’t It Be Great (2018) co-produced by John Carter Cash & daughter Patsy Lynn. Suffered stroke 2017, broken hip 2018. Superstardom inspired signing of relatives to record deals — brother Jay Lee Webb (1937-1996), sisters Peggy Sue & Crystal Gayle (Brenda Gail Webb), twin daughters Patsy & Peggy, grandchildren, great grandchildren.
PATRICK EMERY, 72, died Oct. 5.Nashville real estate developer, noted for major corporate hub at Cool Springs, downtown’s Fifth + Broadway entertainment complex, National Museum of African American Music. Major community leader on many boards & commissions. Widower of show biz powerhouse Kitty Moon Emery (1946-2017).
JODY MILLER, 80, died Oct. 6.Hit pop & country singer. Grammy Award for “Queen of the House” (1965). Recorded for Capitol 1960s — “He Walks Like a Man” (1964), “Home of the Brave” (1965), “Silver Threads & Golden Needles” (1965), “Long Black Limousine” (1968). Signed to Epic by Billy Sherrill 1970s — “He’s So Fine” (1971), “Baby I’m Yours” (1971), “Let’s All Go Down to the River” (with Paycheck, 1972), “There’s a Party Goin’ On” (1972), “Good News” (1973), “Darling You Can Always Come Back Home” (1973), “House of the Rising Sun” (1974), “Ashes of Love” (1976), “When the New Wears Off Our Love” (1977), etc. Recorded gospel albums 1990s. Final CD 2020 Wayfaring Stranger. Jody Miller Performing Arts Center named for her in Blanchard, OK.
ELOISE WYATT RUSSO, 98, died Oct. 7.Widely loved Grand Ole Opry hostess for nearly 30 years, retiring at age 93.
ANITA KERR, 94, died Oct. 10.Key figure in creation of The Nashville sound. Producer/arranger/vocalist. Three Grammy Awards. Anita Kerr Singers sang on international pop hits of Brenda Lee, Roy Orbison, plus on classics by Country Music Hall of Famers Foley, Jones, Cash, Loretta, Bill Anderson, Ray Price, Willie. At her peak, Kerr was singing on a quarter of the singles produced on Music Row. Began on WHBQ & WREC Memphis. Hired to sing on WSM’s “Sunday Down South” 1948. Began singing backup harmonies on records 1950, signed to Decca 1951. Anita Kerr Singers = lead soprano Anita, tenor Gil Wright, alto Dottie Dillard (1923-2015), baritone Louis Nunley (1931-2012). Group won on national TV’s Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts 1956 & became regulars on the show from New York, but continued to record in Nashville.
Hits featuring Singers were “My Special Angel” & “Jingle Bell Rock” Bobby Helms (1957), “I’m Sorry” & “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” Brenda (1960), “Only the Lonely” & “Running Scared” Orbison (1961), “Make the World Go Away” Eddy Arnold (1965), “Detroit City” Bobby Bare (1963), “The Three Bells” The Browns (1959), “He’ll Have to Go” Jim Reeves (1959). Billed as The Little Dippers, group scored its own top-10 pop hit with “Forever” 1960. Kerr hired by RCA 1961 to conduct sessions for Dottie, Porter, Don Gibson, Hank Snow, Waylon, Charlie Rich, George Hamilton IV, Hank Locklin.
Credited with introducing strings on country records. Nashville’s first female record producer. Arranger for Floyd Cramer’s “Last Date” 1961. Produced & arranged “End of the World” Skeeter Davis 1962. Backed pop acts Sue Thompson, Johnny Tillotson, Pat Boone, Everlys, Perry Como, Duane Eddy, Burl Ives, Esther Phillips, Ronnie Hawkins, Bobby Vinton, Jack Scott, Al Hirt, Brook Benton, Lorne Greene, Ann-Margret. Group also recorded hundreds of ad jingles & radio-station spots. Toured Europe, with Atkins, Reeves, Bare 1964. Billed as Anita & Th’ So-and-So’s, made pop charts via “Joey Baby” 1964. Grammy Awards for 1965 Nashville LPs We Dig Mancini (in pop) and Southland Favorites (in gospel, with George Beverly Shea).
Moved from Music City to L.A. & became a pre-curser of “new-age” music via her collaborations with Rod McKuen on LPs The Earth, The Sea and The Sky 1967-68. Created San Sebastian Strings. Choral director for Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour TV show 1967. Third Grammy Award 1966 for “A Man and a Woman.” Created many easy-listening, “mood music” albums. Moved to Switzerland 1970. Conducted orchestras, composed film soundtracks (as female pioneer in this field), built a recording studio, made four devotional albums for Word. Governor’s Award from Recording Academy 1992.
LOIS CURTIS SHEPHERD, 98, died Oct. 18.Singing duo with husband John in Lower Broadway venues for 50+ years. Also recorded & wrote songs with him. They co-founded “Broadway Revitalization Committee” 1980s to preserve entertainment district.
LESLIE JORDAN, 67, died Oct. 24.Emmy-winning TV actor, writer, comedian, singer. Debut country album, Company’s Comin’, 2021. Apple Music Country radio show Hunker Down Radio with Leslie Jordan & book How Y’all Doin’ also 2021.
JERRY LEE LEWIS, 87, died Oct. 28.Founding member Rock & Roll Hall of Fame (1986). Country Music Hall of Fame (2022). Renowned for his flamboyant, piano-pounding showmanship. Classics “Great Balls of Fire,” “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On” “Breathless,” “You Win Again” 1957-58 established him as one of rock’s founding figures. Began career in Memphis at Sun Records with producer Jack Clement (1931-2013) & label owner Sam Phillips (1923-2003). Debut single “Crazy Arms” 1956, followed by fiery big hits above. Movies High School Confidential, Jamboree both 1958. Fall from grace because of marriage to underage cousin. Portrayed Iago in L.A. play Catch My Soul, based on Othello.
Signed with Nashville division of Mercury/Smash 1963. Country breakthrough 1968 with honky-tonk ballad “Another Place, Another Time,” launching new era of career. Solidified country stardom with hit 1968 singles “What’s Made Milwaukee Famous (Has Made a Loser Out of Me),” “She Still Comes Around (To Love What’s Left of Me)” and the No. 1 “To Make Love Sweeter For You.” Teamed with sister Linda Gail Lewis for 1969’s “Don’t Let Me Cross Over.” Hits continued with 1969’s “One Has My Name,” “Invitation to Your Party,” “She Even Woke Me Up to Say Goodbye,” “One Minute Past Eternity.”
Big country hits in 1970s — “Once More With Feeling” (1970), “I Can’t Seem to Say Goodbye” (1970), the No. 1 smash “There Must Be More to Love Than This” (1970), “Touching Home” (1971) and No. 1 “Would You Take Another Chance on Me” (1971, backed with Kristofferson song “Me and Bobby McGee”). Biggest country hit 1972’s “Chantilly Lace” nominated for Grammy. More hits with “Sometimes a Memory Ain’t Enough” (1973), “He Can’t Fill My Shoes” (1974), “Let’s Put It Back Together Again” (1976). His 1977 hit “Middle Age Crazy” inspired a Hollywood film starring Bruce Dern and Ann-Margret. Back-to-back top-10 hits with 1978’s “Come On In” and “I’ll Find It Where I Can.”
Signed with Elektra Records & debuted on label with two-sided hit “Rockin’ My Life Away”/”I Wish I Was 18 Again” in 1979. “When Two Worlds Collide,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Thirty Nine and Holding” followed in 1980-81. No hits during 1982-83 tenure at MCA. Recorded Class of ’55 with Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins & Roy Orbison. Its interview disc won a Grammy 1986.
In 1989, cooperated on film biography, Great Balls of Fire starring Dennis Quaid. Star in Hollywood Walk of Fame 1989. Retained power as concert draw throughout 1990s, particularly in Europe & U.K.
Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award 2005. His 2006 album Last Man Standing sold a million. It featured collaborations with Springsteen, B.B. King, Jagger, Neil Young, Haggard, John Fogerty, Rod Stewart, Willie, Clapton, George Jones and others. Second all-star collection 2010’s Mean Old Man. Live album in Nashville 2011 at Jack White’s Third Man Records. Opened Jerry Lee Lewis’ Café & Honky Tonk on historic Beale Street in Memphis 2013. Cooperated with author Rick Bragg on 2014 biography, Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story, accompanied by another new album, Rock & Roll Time. “Jerry Lee’s 80th Birthday Tour” spanned U.S. and Europe 2014-15. Drew four encores at Ryman Auditorium 2014.
Books: Robert Palmer’s Jerry Lee Lewis Rocks! (1981), Robert Cain’s Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On (1981), Nick Tosches’ Hellfire (1982), Myra Lewis & Murray Silver’s Great Balls of Fire (1982), Jimmy Guterman’s Rockin’ My Life Away (1991), sister Linda Gail Lewis’s The Devil, Me and Jerry Lee (1998). Cousins evangelist Jimmy Swaggart and “Urban Cowboy” country star Mickey Gilley (1936-2022). Immortal honky-tonk vocal performances led to attending announcement of Country Music Hall of Fame induction, but illness prevented attending ceremony months later.
JERRY WHITEHURST, 84, died Oct. 30.Pianist noted for high-profile, long tenure on TNN’s Nashville Now with Ralph Emery & wrote show’s theme song. Also on Emery’s locally iconic WSMV’s The Morning Show. In house band of nationally broadcast Hee Haw. Worked syndicated TV series Pop Goes the Country, Bobby Lord Show, Dolly. Recording credits included Paycheck, J.J. Cale, Cash, Jim & Jesse, Pat Boone, Lester Flatt, Tubb, Dolly, Merle, Porter, etc.
TOMMY CORDELL, 65, died Oct. 30.Bluegrass fiddler noted for tenure in Dave Evans & River Bend, Larry Sparks, Boys From Indiana, Big Timber Bluegrass. Solo LP Florida Blues 1987. Florida State Fiddle Champion 1992, 1993, 1994.
PATRICK HAGGERTY, 78, died Oct. 31.Regarded as first openly gay country singer-songwriter via 1972 LP Lavender Country. Album reissued 2014, resulting in overdue recognition. Subject of award-winning 2016 documentary. Second album, Blackberry Rose, 2022.
BOBBI STAFF, 77, died Nov. 2.Country singer on RCA 1965-68 produced by Chet Atkins. Charted with “Chicken Feed” 1966. Regular on TV series starring Arthur Smith, George Hamilton IV. Hosted own local daytime TV show. Ex-wife of Nashville Now & Hee Haw pianist Jerry Whitehurst (1938-2022). (real name: Barbara Grindstaff Whitehurst).
JEFF COOK, 73, died Nov. 7.Country Music Hall of Fame member (2005) as lead guitarist, fiddler for superstar group Alabama. Musicians Hall of Fame inductee with band. Alabama’s founding member, along with cousins Teddy Gentry & Randy Owen (lead vocalist), with whom he sang three-part harmonies. Band charted 80 titles 1977-2011; 52 top-10 hits; 32 No. 1’s. Sold 80 million records as best-selling country group in history. CMA Entertainers of Year 1982, ’83, ’84. Two Grammy Awards. Cook particularly prominent on “Tennessee River” (1980), “Mountain Music” (1982), “Dixieland Delight” (1983), “If You’re Gonna Play in Texas” (1984), “Jukebox in My Mind” (1980). Co-wrote band’s holiday classic “Christmas in Dixie” and multiple album cuts. Several solo albums, including collaborations with Charlie Daniels, Williams Shatner (the comedic Why Not Me). Former disc jockey in Ft. Payne, AL. Owned recording studio, TV stations & radio stations.
KEN MANSFIELD, 85, died Nov. 17.Nashville producer of Waylon Jennings (“Are You Ready for the Country,” “Amanda,” “We Had It All”), Willie Nelson, Jessi Colter (“I’m Not Lisa”), Tompall Glaser, The Imperials, Gaither Vocal Band (Dove winning Homecoming), Byron Berline & Sundance, Flying Burrito Brothers, etc. Formerly at Capitol in L.A. (Buck, Merle, Glen, Bobbi Gentry, etc.) & U.S. manager of Beatles’ Apple Records. Author of several music books, including The Beatles, the Bible and Bodega Bay, Rock and a Heart Place, Stumbling On Open Ground, Philco, The White Book: The Beatles, the Bands, the Biz and The Roof: The Beatles Final Concert.
JOHN WATSON ALGEE, 72, died Nov. 19.Leading Nashville video equipment sales & service provider at Armanda Costanza, Inc. and at Trew Audio. Previously assistant cameraman for music videos, films, commercials, etc. Multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, antiques expert.
JAKE FLINT, 37, died Nov. 26.Emerging Texas/Oklahoma “Red Dirt” country artist with LPs I’m Not Okay & Jake Flint in 2016, 2020, plus two live LPs. Regional radio airplay singles “Cowtown,” “Long Road Back Home,” “What’s Your Name” 2017-22.
ALTON WADE KELLEY, 63, died Dec. 2.Nashville hospitality-industry leader. Stints at Opryland, Sheraton Music City, Hermitage Hotel, Middle Tennessee Visitor’s Bureau, Belle Meade Historic Site.
JIM STEWART, 92, died Dec. 2.Rock n Roll Hall of Fame member. Memphis country fiddler in The Canyon Cowboys who founded Stax Records. Label brought fame to Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Staple Singers, Booker T & MGs, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Carla Thomas, etc. Sister label Enterprise Records promoted country discs by O.B. McClinton.
KEN ROBERTS, 89, died Dec. 2.Member of honorary Circle Guard at Country Music Hall of Fame. President emeritus Frist Art Museum. Lifelong pianist who entertained professionally with several Nashville bands, including stint in trio at Julep Room in Noel Hotel. Top banker who served as President Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce.
ROBERT MICHAELS, 72, died Dec. 3.Operated Nashville’s Lord & Michaels Entertainment, CCM music- industry marketing & p.r. firm.
NORM PATTIZ, 79, died Dec. 5.National Radio Hall of Fame inductee. Founder of giant radio syndicator Westwood One and of successful PodcastOne. Many country-music connections.
PETER COOPER, 52, died Dec. 6.Nashville music journalist, songwriter, singer, author, producer. Long-running gigs at Country Music Hall of Fame & The Tennessean. Books: Johnny’s Cash and Charley’s Pride, Whisperin’ Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life in Country Music (with Bill Anderson). Grammy nominated for co-producing I Love: Tom T. Hall’s Songs of Fox Hollow (2012). Three solo CDs, three duet CDs with Eric Brace. Performed on Grand Ole Opry, Bass player for Todd Snider. Songs recorded by John Prine, Bobby Bare, Jim Lauderdale, others. Liner notes for Kristofferson, Emmylou, Milsap, Mac Wiseman, Jack Clement. Articles in Esquire, Oxford American, Mix, American Songwriter. Leadership Music class 2005.
CHARLIE GRACIE, 86, died Dec. 16.Philadelphia rockabilly star, a regular on American Bandstand, who popularized the style in U.K. Biggest hits “Butterfly,” “Fabulous,” both 1957. (Real name: Charlie Graci)
CHARLIE MONK, 84, died Dec. 19.Country Radio Hall of Fame member. Began in Mobile, AL at WTBF, Tuscaloosa WACT, Mobile WUNI, Murfreesboro WMTS. Co-founded CRS & New Faces Show 1969. Hosted New Faces for 40 years. Joined ASCAP staff 1970. CBS Songs 1978. Formed own Monk Family Music Group 1983. Joined Acuff-Rose 1988. Returned to radio via Sirius/XM 2004. Commercial voice-over work. Also songwriter with cuts by Jerry Reed, Eddy Arnold, Pat Boone, Louise Mandrell, Jimmy Dean, Charley Pride, Randy Travis. Former board VP at NARAS, NSAI, GMA & board president AFTRA. Self-described “Mayor of Music Row.” Joe Talbot Award from CMA 2021. Alabama Music Hall of Fame. Leadership Music class 1992.
STEPHEN ALLEN DAVIS, 73, died Dec. 26.Award-winning Nashville songwriter who won more than a dozen BMI awards with “Only a Lonely Heart Knows” (Barbara Mandrell), “Sleepin’ With the Radio On” (Charly McClain), “One of a Kind” (Tammy Wynette), “Beautiful Woman” (Charlie Rich), “Hello Mexico” (Johnny Duncan), “Amy’s Back in Austin” (Little Texas) and “North of the Border” (Johnny Rodriguez). “Stand Beside Me,” recorded by Jo Dee Messina, was a three-week No. 1 hit in 1999.
IAN TYSON, 89, died Dec. 29.Canadian country legend revered as an icon in folk, country and cowboy music. Member of the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. Songwriter of the country standards “Four Strong Winds” and “Someday Soon.”
ANITA POINTER, 74, died Dec. 31.The Pointer Sisters are mainly remembered for a string of huge pop, soul, and disco hits such as “Jump (For My Love),” “I’m So Excited,” “Fire,” “Neutron Dance” and “Automatic.” The group also made its mark in country music with “Fairytale”–which won the 1974 Grammy Award for Best Country Group Vocal and also received a Grammy nomination for Best Country Song. Anita Pointer also sang a country smash as the duet partner of Earl Thomas Conley.
Adair, Beegie — 1/23Algee, John Watson — 11/19Allison, J.I. — 8/22Andrews, Slim — 1/15Arkin, Steve — 8/24Arnold, Jerry Paul — 7/31Atkins, Bobby Lee — 3/27Bailey, Randy — 8/16Basore, Marsha Gray — 1/21Bell, Luke — 8/29Bentley, Jerry — 8/28Binkley, Bayron — 4/25Black, Baxter — 6/10Blankenship, Marilyn — 7/22Bresh, Thom — 5/23Brigham, Ken — 6/18Burch, Bruce — 3/12Burwell, Bob — 8/13Burton, Billie — 10/1Bynum, Hal — 6/2Carson, Jeff — 3/26Chater, Kerry — 2/4Choate, Terry – 9/14Cirillo, John — 9/12Cook, Jeff — 11/7Cooley, Al — 6/9Cooper, Peter — 12/6Cordell, Tommy — 10/30Crutchfield, Jerry — 1/11Davis, Stephen Allen — 12/26Dawson, Mary G. — 7/22Dekle, Mike — 2/24Dowden, Jane — 3/24Dukureh, Shonka — 7/21Dunbar, Heather — 2/7Edenton, Ray — 9/22Edwards, Eddie — 6/19Einstein, Dan — 1/15Eller, Arthur Ward — 9/20Emery, Patrick — 10/5Emery, Ralph — 1/15Everette, Niko — 7/9Farmer, Dewey — 7/12Farrell, Ben — 8/10Faulkner, Nolan — 5/25Flint, Jake — 11/26Ford, Chris — 5/29Frazier, Dallas — 1/14Geiger, Fred — 1/12Gibson, Roxie Cawood — 5/8Gilchrist, Joe — 5/25Gilley, Mickey — 5/7Gonzales, Doc — 4/15Green, John Buck — 3/17Haggerty, Patrick — 10/31Harrison, Brucene — 6/9Hardy, Ed — 7/31Hart, Clay — 7/28Hawkins, Ronnie — 5/29Hicks, Robert — 2/25Hinson, Jimbeau — 3/4Howard, Mark — 7/24Humble, Bill — 9/6Johnston, Jerry Ray — 1/9Jordan, Leslie — 10/24Judd, Naomi — 4/30Kelley, Alton Wade — 12/2Kerr, Anita — 10/12King, Walter Riley — 7/19Kwami, Paul — 9/10Law, Richard — 7/26Lewis, Jerry Lee – 10/28Lynn, Loretta — 10/4McCall, C.W. — 4/1McCaslin, Mary — 10/2McCrary, Deborah — 6/1Mack, Warner — 3/1Martin, Brad — 3/11Martin, Mac — 2/28Massey, Judy — 9/25Meadows, Glenn — 7/7Mevis, Blake — 2/9Michael, Robert — 12/3Miller, Jody — 10/6Monk, Charlie — 12/19Neal, Nolan — 7/18Neal, Tommy — 1/11Nelson, Bobbie — 3/10Newton-John, Olivia — 8/8Osborne, Dave — 6/8Owen, Martha – 6/2Owens, Jim — 3/4Pattiz, Norm — 12/5Pointer, Anita – 12/31Price, James — 5/23Pruett, Jack Jr. — 2/1Quillen, Charles — 8/19Rains, Chick — 1/21Reams, James — 6/17Reiniger, Pete — 5/13Rentfro, Gary Lee — 3/2Robbins, Hargus “Pig” — 1/30Roberts, Ken — 12/2Rosenbaum, Art — 9/4Russo, Eloise Wyatt — 10/7Seals, Jim — 6/6Shepherd, Lois Curtis — 10/18Sizemore, Herschel — 9/9Smith, Billy — 2/11Spurlock, Buddy — 9/21Stacy, Tim — 1/15Staff, Bobbi — 11/2Steele, Saundra — 5/30Stewart, Jim — 12/5Stone, Ed — 2/11Tate, Carolyn — 3/3Thomas, Mary Jane – 3/22Travis, Steve — 6/16Trevino, Eliud — 1/24Trimble, Big John — 7/24Tyson, Ian – 12/29Vaughn, Carlee Ann – 8/23VornDick, Bil — 7/5Walker, Bill — 5/16Weaver, Jay — 1/2Wendell, Janice — 1/13Whitburn, Joel — 6/14White, Roland — 4/1Whitehurst, Jerry — 10/30Wilkerson, Tom — 4/7Will, David O. — 3/4Winn, George — 1/23Woodard, Frank — 1/29Wray, Scotty — 2/18Wright, Gregory Brian — 4/5Yanok, George — 4/29Yellowbird, Shane — 5/2Zinn, Leonard — 2/3
Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.
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