As Christmas festivities come to a close and New Years comes into focus, it’s once again time to reflect back on all of the country music greats we lost in the last year. From huge celebrity stars, to influential songwriters and side musicians who impacted the music out of the spotlight, country music lost many notable names in 2015.
Bonnie Lou – December 8th
Bonnie Lou was the stage name of Mary Joan Kath born on Oct. 27, 1924 in Towanda, Illinois. Bonnie had two Top 10 country hits on King Records in 1953—“Seven Lonely Days” and “Tennessee Wig Walk”—before transitioning to rockabilly and scoring the 1955 hit “Daddy-O.” But she was best known as a regular and star on The Midwestern Hayride. She began on the program in 1945, hired by WLW’s Bill McCluskey who gave her the stage name Bonnie Lou. In 1948 The Midwestern Hayride began airing on local television in Cincinnati, and later on NBC and ABC as a summer replacement show between 1952 and 1959. Bonnie Lou remained a featured artist on the show until it ended in 1972.
Bonnie Lou learned how to yodel at a very early age from her Swedish grandmother, and also leaned fiddle and guitar. By the age of 13, she was performing on local radio programs in Illionis, including WMBD in Peoria, and then on WJBC in Bloomington. But it was in Cincinatti where she would make her biggest mark. Along with The Midwestern Hayride, she also appeared in the local shows The Paul Dixon Show and The Fifty Fifty Club. In the 80’s she became a disc jockey, and a beloved personality throughout the Ohio region.
Bonnie Lou passed away in Cincinnati on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at age 91. She’s a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.
Don Pfrimmer – December 7th
Hit songwriter Don Pfrimmer died Monday, December 7th at the age of 78 after suffering from leukemia. Pfrimmer was known for countless hits by numerous country music stars, including George Jones’ “You and Me and Time,” Tammy Wynette’s “Let’s Call It a Day Today,” Ronnie Milsap’s “She Keeps the Home Fires Burning” and “My Heart,” and Diamond Rio’s “Meet in the Middle.” His career spanned a total of four decades, starting in the mid 70’s, and only slowing down recently, penning major hits all the way into the mid 2000’s. He officially wrote more than 450 songs throughout his career. His first single was “Any Old Wind That Blows” cut by the Grand Ole Opry duo Lonzo & Oscar in 1974.
Don Pfrimmer was born Sept. 9, 1937, and grew up in the Montana town of Whitefish. He was a school teacher and commercial fisherman in Alaska before deciding to move to Nashville in the summer of 1973 to become a songwriter. Pfrimmer was decorated with 14 awards from ASCAP, and was a nominee for the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015. Don most recently wrote for Cosmic Mule Music in Nashville, and continued to have published songs by artists like Kenny Rogers and Neal McCoy.
Don Chapel – December 6th
George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Ray Price, Webb Pierce, Ernest Tubb, Conway Twitty, Johnny Paycheck, Lynn Anderson, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carlie Louvin, and over 50 members of the Grand Ole Opry all recorded songs written by renown songwriter Don Chapel, who passed away at the age of 84 on Sunday, December 6th.
Born Lloyd Franklin Amburgey, Don’s most recognized hit “When the Grass Grows Over Me” was recorded by George Jones. But just as much as he’s known for his songs, Don Chapel had a big impact on country music behind-the-scenes, especially when it came to George Jones and Tammy Wynette. Chapel was Tammy Wynette’s second husband (out of five), and is given credit for coining her “Tammy Wynette” stage name, along with helping secure her first record deal with Epic, and her long-time working relationship with producer Billy Sherrill.
It was during a dinner argument between Tammy Wynette and Don Chapel at their home that George Jones lost his cool, flipping the dinner table over and later professing his love for Tammy. Wynette and Chapel soon divorced, and Tammy eventually married Jones.
Don Chapel was also an Air Force veteran, and served in the Korean War as a staff sergeant. He came from a very musical family, including his sister Jean Chapel who was a rockabilly performer. He passed away due to complications with pneumonia, and from heart failure.
Tommy Overstreet – November 2nd
Known as “T.O.” by many fans, he was born on September 10th, 1937 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, but grew up primarily in Houston and Abilene in Texas. His cousin was Gene Austin, a popular singer of the 20’s and 30’s. At the age of 17, Tommy began performing on a television show hosted by Slim Willet in Abilene, and later started a group called The Shadows. Eventually Overstreet moved to Austin to study broadcasting, and would perform under the name “Tommy Dean From Abilene.” He also toured with Gene Austin for a period.
Tommy was in the army briefly before moving to Los Angeles to become a songwriter and contributing material to Pat Boone. But it was when Overstreet was hired as the manager of Dot records in 1967 that his career began to take off.
After three years at the label, Tommy decided he wanted to become a recording artist himself, and began releasing singles. A natural crooner, his music became popular in the early 70’s, regularly finding its way into the charts, but never reaching #1. “Ann (Don’t Go Runnin’” got close in 1972 when it came in at #2 on the charts. The song did reach #1 in Canada. By 1979 Tommy’s commercial era began to fade, but he continued to record music all the way into the mid 80’s.
Ramona Jones – November 17th
Born Ramona Riggins in Van Buren, Indiana, she learned how to play fiddle from her father, and was a self-taught multi-instrumentalist from a young age. By the time she reached high school, she was performing in music competitions. She met Louis Marshall “Grandpa” Jones after he returned from fighting in World War II while the two were working at the WLW radio station in Cincinnati. They decided to become a duo and moved to Nashville in 1947 to perform on the Grand Ole Opry, and later traveled all over the country and world to entertain people, including overseas to perform for service members from Italy to Korea.
Especially versed in the mountain-style of singing and fiddling, Ramona Jones may have been best known from her affiliation with her Grand Ole Opry member and Country Music Hall of Fame husband, but was quite the accomplished solo artist herself, releasing multiple albums including her 1974 debut Back Porch Fiddlin’ Vol. 1, and also wrote original songs such as “Old Troup Dog.” With Grandpa Jones, the duo contributed many notable compositions and duets to the country music canon, including “Dark as a Dungeon” and “Don’t Sell Daddy Any More Whiskey.”
Ramona Jones’ most recognizable contributions might have been as a regular on the long-running syndicated variety show Hee-Haw. Appearing as a performer beside Grandpa Jones, or sometimes in comedy sketches as Jones’ straight man (or woman), she became one of country music’s most beloved grandmas over the quarter century run of the show beginning in 1969. One of their most popular routines is when they would take tuned cowbells and play the melodies to well-known songs.
Chuck Pyle – November 6th
Well-known in songwriting circles, Chuck Pyle wrote “Cadillac Cowboy” for Chris LeDoux, which appeared on LeDoux’s 1988 album Chris Ledoux & The Saddle Boogie Band. Pyle also wrote Jerry Jeff Walker’s “Jaded Lover” from 1975’s Ridin’ High. During his career, Chuck Pyle also wrote songs recorded by fellow Colorado resident John Denver, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Suzy Bogguss, Owen Temple, and Gary P. Nunn among others.
Chuck Pyle was born on January 28th, 1945, and was raised in Newton, Iowa where he sang in the school choir and performed his first show at the Iowa Farm Bureau when he was 13-years-old. He moved to the Boulder, Colorado area in 1965, and while watching a performance by Michael Martin Murphey in 1970, decided he wanted to become a songwriter.
Soon Pyle’s music well-known in the Rocky Mountain state, and many of his songs were inspired by his surroundings in Colorado’s mountains. After writing the theme song to the PBS show Spirit of Colorado, he was selected to sing at the opening sessions of the Colorado Legislature. He also regularly played New Thought churches around the country after first playing the Unity Church of Boulder in 1986. The “zen” in his nickname came for the spiritual approach Chuck brought to his music.
David Rodriguez – October 26th
David Roland Rodriguez was a Hispanic American born and raised in Houston where he contracted polio at two-years-old. Because of David’s mobility issues, his parents bought him a guitar and he learned to play music at an early age. David’s aunt, Eva Garza, was a Decca Records recording artist and Mexican actress in the late 40’s and 50’s. By the age of 14, David was playing guitar and piano in rock and folk bands.
Rodriquez eventually became a law and economics graduate, and a favorite of listening rooms in Austin in the 80’s and 90’s during a decade of living in the Live Music Capital, being voted Best Texas Songwriter in 1992, 1993 and 1994 in polls conducted by Third Coast Music. Then in 1994, David decided to move to The Netherlands where he resided for the rest of his life, but his musical influence lingered in both the canon of songs he left behind, and in the lineage of his musical family, and he continued to write and record music. David’s sister Leticia Rodriguez is also an artist, and his daughter Carrie Rodriguez is a well-known fiddle player and songwriter based in Austin.
David Rodriguez released a total of nine records between 1992 and 2007, mostly through European labels where his music also found an appreciative audience. Though not a household name, Rodriguez inspired many of his fellow songwriters in way that can still be heard in the music today.
Bill “Brad” Keith – October 23rd
William Bradford Keith was born on December 20th, 1939 in Boston, spent his youth in Massachusetts, attending Amherst college, and graduating two years before he would join Bill Monroe out on the road. In less than a year with the band, he would become the most influential banjo player since Earl Scruggs.
Taking Scruggs’ three-finger picking style and augmenting it to where all the finger strikes hit on the melody, Bill Keith was able to play some of the sweetest, most compelling banjo runs ever heard up to that point. Without getting too technical, Keith innovated a way to play fiddle tunes (the foundation of bluegrass) on a banjo. Where Scruggs would strike each string on a run up and down a scale, including notes that worked, but were not part of the melody, Keith only stuck to the melodic tones, and the result was honey to the ears. It later became known as the “Keith” style of banjo picking.
And that wasn’t the only innovation that Keith had a hand in, and helped change the style and tone of the banjo in bluegrass and beyond. Bill designed a style of tuning pegs that allowed the player to change the open tuning of a string while playing, making a note either drop down, or raise up to give it extra “twang” during a run. Once again, it was an improvement off of a similar tuning set up first pioneered by Earl Scruggs, and Keith’s was better. But there was no competition between the two men. Scruggs partnered with Keith and the tuners became known as the “Scruggs-Keith Pegs.” Today they’re known just as “Keith” pegs manufactured by Keith’s Beacon Banjo Company, which is still in operation under the management of Keith’s son Martin.
Billy Joe Royal – October 6th
Billy Joe Royal began his music career in the pop and rock worlds with some massive singles that have since become standards of the American songbook. It started when the singer began playing the Bamboo Ranch in Savannah, GA where he met Roy Orbison, who encouraged him to pursue singing as a career. But it was the sentiment of the poor kid trying to court a woman of high society in 1965’s “Down in the Boondocks” written by Joe South that put Billy Joe on the popular music map. He stayed there with songs such as “Hush,” which went on to be recorded by Deep Purple, and “I knew You When.” Royal became known as one of the premier singers in the blue-eyed soul scene, but his career began to fade in the 70’s as the popular styles began to change.
Then in the 80’s, Billy Joe Royal made a comeback in the country realm, though his sound didn’t seem to change. It was still songs that hearkened back to the golden age of rock and pop, with a cover of “Tell It Like It Is” being his greatest success, peaking at #2 on the country charts. Royal when out of the way at the time to say he didn’t particularly consider himself country, but he was embraced by the genre nonetheless.
His song “Burned Like a Rocket” was on its way to becoming a big hit in country when the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster struck in January of 1986, and radio programmers pulled the single. But Billy Joe persevered, and put together a successful country career throughout the late 80’s.
Billy Sherrill – August 4th
Sherill’s background in pop is where his most lasting influence on country would stem from. After watching an audition by Tammy Wynette, Billy signed the country singer to Epic, and so began a legendary partnership. Sherill co-wrote Wynette’s signature hit “Stand By Your Man.”
But that is just where Billy Sherrill’s country career began. He started working with country icon George Jones in 1971 (who was once married to Wynette), and produced albums for George Jones all the way up to 1990. Sherrill was responsible for producing the George Jones hit “He Stopped Loving Her Today” the song many consider the greatest country music song of all time among many other hits. Sherrill was critical in convincing Jones to cut the song, and to stay true to the song’s melody.
Though Sherrill was considered one of the driving forces behind the softening of country music in the 70’s, he also worked very specifically with numerous of country music’s defining Outlaw artists, including producing virtually all of David Allan Coe’s recordings, and many of Johnny Paycheck’s biggest records. Sherrill also worked with Johnny Cash later in his career, including on Cash’s recently-released “lost” album, Out Among The Stars.
Lynn Anderson – July 30th
Anderson performed on over 40 albums over her career which resulted in over 50 Top 40 hits. Beyond the chart hits and awards, she also helped break down barriers for female country artists. “(I Never Promised You a) Rose Garden” was a huge crossover success, and in 1974 Lynn was the first country female to sell out Madison Square Garden.
The daughter of two songwriters, Lynn showed interest in country music at an early age, and released her debut album Ride, Ride, Ride in 1966 at the age of 19. Songs such as “If I Kiss You (Will You Go Away),” “Promises, Promises,” “You’re My Man” and “How Can I Unlove You” became huge country hits, and Lynn Anderson became of of the best-known female country singers of her generation.
Though the hits began to slow down for Lynn Anderson later in life, she never did, continuing to perform and make appearances as a country music legend. Though she was never inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, her name always seemed to be in the mix when the finalists were being considered.
Buddy Emmons – July 28th
Emmons’ work with “Little” Jimmy Dickens is where he first began to be recognized at large for his steel guitar prowess. Joining Jimmy’s band at the age of 18, Buddy became a star in his own right, and penned two instrumentals while in Jimmy’s band “Raising the Dickens” and “Buddie’s Boogie” that have since become standards of the instrument. The complex working of the steel guitar’s pitch bending pedals and levers made steel guitar players like Buddy Emmons the wizards of country music, wooing crowds with lonesome notes that cried and moaned along with the stories of the song.
Buddy Emmons not only contributed to the sound to the steel guitar, but the design and manufacture of the instrument. In 1956, Emmons joined with Shot Jackson to develop the now legendary “Sho-Bud” pedal steel guitar, and the two men set up a company to sell the instruments to the world. Emmons was also instrumental in developing the “split-pedal” setup of the steel guitar during his time at Sho-Bud. Buddy eventually left the company in 1963 to start the Emmons Guitar Company, but the name “Sho-Bud” can still be seen on many country music stages around the country today, while Emmons steel guitars are considered by many as the industry standard of the instrument.
Buddy Emmons was not just a king of the steel guitar, but one of the most influential and important instrumentalists in the history of country music.
Owen Mays -July 22nd
Owen was born and raised in south central Wisconsin in the small town of Cambria where he began playing guitar at the age of 16. In 2009, Owen released the EP Red Wine and White Lines. Owen played a show that same year with J.B. Beverley and the Wayward Drifters at a campground in Cambria where he worked, and later joined Beverley on the road for numerous dates. Afterwards Owen became a well known singer and songwriter throughout the underground scene, touring regularly, including in Europe, and playing numerous festivals.
In October of 2010, Mays flew down to Richmond, Virginia to record his first album with J.B. Beverley backed by Beverley’s band along with fellow songwriter and guitar player James Hunnicutt. Dubbed Owen Mays and the 80 Proof Boys, they released Nobody Loves You When You’re Down in 2012. Mays also released another album called Hateful Blues in 2014.
Mays’ latest band was called Owen Mays & The Last Calls and were working on an album to hopefully be released in 2015. Owen was also a big fan of professional wrestling, and even tried his hand in the business at one point.
Daron Norwood – July 21st
Born in Lubbock, TX on September 30, 1965, Daron Norwood was signed to Giant Records in 1993 and released two records with the label, a self-titled release (1994), and Ready, Willing, and Able (1995). He registered a total of five charting Billboard Hot Country songs, with his biggest being “Cowboys Don’t Cry” at #24. Norwood was considered a top country music prospect at the time.
Daron played the Grand Ole Opry, and at moments in his career worked with big names such as Travis Tritt, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Alabama, Kenny Chesney, Mark Chesnut, Faith Hill, and Tim McGraw, and toured all across the United States. He also co-wrote and sang a song called “Little Lost Boy” for Keith Whitley: A Tribute Album released by BNA Records in 1994, and made a remake of Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues” called “Working Elf Blues” for a Christmas album in 1995.
Daron Norwood was an example of a country artist whose talent was towering, but his personal demons made it difficult to stay on track. He leaves a musical legacy with fans larger than any chart numbers can portray.
Tom Skinner – July 12th, 2015
You may not be comfortable with how exactly to define the quasi country, quasi-rock music that comes out of the Texas / Oklahoma region known as Red Dirt, but what you can be confident in is that it would never have come to life like it did without a man named Tom Skinner.
Along with Jimmy LaFave and the late Bob Childers, Tom Skinnner was one of the founding fathers of the music nicknamed for the clay-laced earth deposited throughout the region that gives the Red River dividing Texas and Oklahoma a burnt red hue. More of an attitude than a sound, the term “Red Dirt” encompasses the rock music of Cody Canada and the hard country of Jason Boland all the same. The only constant is they all got their start in Stillwater, Oklahoma, under the tutelage of Tom Skinner and others.
Bass player, songwriter, and father of Red Dirt music Tom Skinner passed away July 12th after a long bout with health issues. He was 61-years-old. He will leave a hole in the Texas / Red Dirt music scene the size of Oklahoma. (read more)
Jim Ed Brown – June 11th, 2015
Country Music Hall of Famer and Grand Ole Opry member Jim Ed Brown passed away June 11th at the Williamson Medical Center in Franklin, TN after a long battle with lung Cancer. Though Jim Ed’s Cancer originally diagnosed in September of 2014 had gone into remission earlier this year, the country star recently announced it had returned.
James Edward Brown was born April 1, 1934, in Sparkman, Arkansas. He was a member of the family band The Browns with his two sisters Maxine and Bonnie. It was just announced in March that The Browns would be the newest inductees into the Country Music Hall of Fame along with Grady Martin and the Oak Ridge Boys.
In 1965, Jim Ed Brown signed a solo contract with RCA and began to record and release music outside of The Browns band, including numerous successful hits. This slowly caused the band to dissolve, eventually disbanding officially in 1967. However over the years, The Browns have reunited on many occasions and continue to perform together today. he had become a mainstay of the Grand Ole Opry over the last few years, and also was the DJ of a radio show. In 2015, he released a new album called In Style Again his first record in 40 years. (read more)
Randy Howard – June 9th, 2015
Randy Howard released two major label records, All American Redneck for Warner Bros. in 1983, and the self-titled Randy Howard for Atlantic in 1988. He released seven records overall, including two titles for for Utopian Records, including his debut Now and Then in 1976. It included the protest song, “God Don’t Live in Nashville” and Howard was considered to be a pioneer of the Outlaw country movement. “All American Redneck” became his signature song and an underground hit.
As a performer, Howard shared the stage with Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Charlie Daniels, Hank Williams Jr., and many others. Later in life he might have been best known for penning songs for Hank Williams III, including the 3rd generation country star’s “I Don’t Know” off of his debut album Risin’ Outlaw, and “My Drinking Problem” from Hank3’s opus Straight to Hell. Howard also toured with Hank3 as an opener early in Hank3’s career.
Randy Howard was killed by a bounty hunter serving a bench warrant. The case is still under investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. (read more)
Jon Hensley – June 1st, 2015
Jon Hensley is given credit for helping to revitalize the career of Wanda Jackson when the Queen of Rockabilly began to perform and record again after a lull in her career. Wanda Jackson recorded an album with Jack White called The Party Ain’t Over in 2011, and worked with Justin Townes Earle on 2012’s Unfinished Business, putting her back into national prominance. “Jon’s very valuable to me and the resurgence of my career,” Wanda Jackson is quoted as saying. “We’re kindred spirits.”
Hensley also managed Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers and The Dirt Daubers two acts involving performer JD Wilkes, and also managed Gary Bennett of BR549, and Goose Creek Symphony. John previously worked under the management, publicity, and distribution company Thirty Tigers.
Recently Hensley was best known as the manager and right hand man of Waylon Jenning’s son Shooter Jennings. (read more)
Johnny Gimble – May 9th, 2015
By the late 60’s Gimble was a sought after session player, and played on Merle Haggard’s Bob Wills tribute record, and recordings from Chet Atkins. Gimble also played mandolin in both live and studio sessions. He was also known for being one of the very few five-string fiddle players adding an extra lower string to hit lower notes.
Johnny Gimble’s most high-profile position may have been as a member of the Million Dollar Band an All-Star group of session musicians that most notably appeared on the television variety show Hee-Haw. He also toured with Willie Nelson as his fiddle player from 1979 to 1981 after moving from Nashville back to Texas, and in 1983 assembled a Texas Swing group that featured Ray Price on vocals that had a hit with the song “One Fiddle, Two Fiddle” after the song was featured in the Clint Eastwood move Honkytonk Man.
Beloved as a fiddle virtuoso in Texas and beyond, Johnny Gimble will the deeply missed in the country music community. He was 88 years old. (read more)
Drummer Bob Burns – April 4th, 2015
Burns slipped off the road on a tight turn and hit a mailbox and a tree just before midnight. He died on the scene. Georgia State Patrol authorities say Burns was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident.
Bob Burns helped form Lynyrd Skynyrd with Gary Rossington and Larry Junstrom in Jacksonville, Florida in 1964 when he was just 14-years-old. He would appear on many early recordings, as well as the band’s two first major releases, (Pronounced ‘LÄ•h-‘nÃ©rd ‘Skin-‘nÃ©rd) and Second Helping, making Burns the drummer on some of the most iconic songs in Southern rock history, including “Free Bird,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” and “Simple Man.” Burns officially left the group in 1974 citing the rigors of road life, and he often took time off from the band during his tenure as drummer. Burns was replaced by Artemis Pyle who became a well-recognized member of the iconic Southern rock outfit. (read more)
Bobby Emmons – February 23rd, 2015
Known for writing such iconic songs as the #1 hits by Waylon Jennings “Luckenbach, Texas” and “Wurlitzer Prize (I Don’t Want To Get Over You),” Tanya Tucker’s hit “Love Me Like You Used Too,” “So Much Like My Dad” by George Strait, and many more, he was also a well-respected musician in some of American music’s most important studio and touring bands.
Born Bobby Gene Emmons on February 19, 1943 in Corinth, Mississippi to Elmer and Minnie Emmons, Bobby was a self-taught player who became a professional songwriter and musician in 1959. As a member of Bill Black’s Combo, he toured all around the country playing keys until he joined The Memphis Boys the iconic studio band for the American Sound Studio in Memphis, TN. Considered one of the top two hit factory studios of the time, The Memphis Boys played on more hit records in a six month period than any other group of studio musicians in history according to Billboard, including scoring hits in four different genres: country, jazz, R&B, and pop. They had 122 hits in all, including many with Elvis.
Emmons also lent his talents to other studios, including Fernwood, Hi Studios, Sun Studios, Phillips International, Sounds of Memphis, Stax, Ardent and Elvis Presley’s “The Jungle Room.” Bobby played on the Willie Nelson albums Always on My Mind, City of New Orleans, Take It to the Limit, WWII (with Waylon Jennings), Pancho and Lefty (with Merle Haggard), the first two records for the supergroup The Highwaymen, and played Hammond B3 in The Highwaymen backing band. Bobby Emmons had just turned 72-years-old. (read more)
Joe B. Maudlin – February 7th, 2015
Joe Benson Mauldin, Jr. was born on July 8th, 1940 in Lubbock, TX, and joined Buddy Holly early on along with drummer Jerry Allison, and later guitarist Niki Sullivan. The Crickets were taking a hiatus from Buddy Holly on that fateful February 3rd in 1959 when Buddy Holly’s plane crashed, forever memorialized as “The Day The Music Died.” At the time a young upstart musician named Waylon Jennings was filling in for Maudlin. The Crickets were in a minor spat with Holly at the time, but were hoping to patch things up when the bespectacled star returned home. Joe B. was one of the pall bearers at Buddy Holly’s funeral.
Beyond The Crickets, Joe B. had a notable career as a musician and sound engineer. Mauldin worked at the Gold Star Studio in Los Angeles in the 1960’s that was used by Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys and Phil Spector among others. He also played on many country records. Joe B. Mauldin is also a member of the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville, and is memorialized on the West Texas Walk of Fame in his hometown of Lubbock. In 2012, a committee made sure that Maudlin and the other original Crickets were formally inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame after being overlooked when Buddy Holly was first inducted in 1986. (read more)
“Little” Jimmy Dickens – January 2nd, 2015
James Cecil Dickens was born in Bolt, West Virginia, and began his musical career performing on WJLS radio while attending college. In 1948, Roy Acuff heard Dickens on the radio, and introduced him to Columbia Records and The Grand Ole Opry, and soon “Little” Jimmy was a mainstay on the radio show and releasing studio records. The “Little” came from his small stature, but Hank Williams later nicknamed him “Tater” after one of his most recognizable early hits “Take an Old Cold Tater (And Wait).” Hank originally penned his song “Hey Good Lookin’” for Jimmy, but later recorded it himself, saying it was “too good” for his Opry friend.
Dickens formed his band the Country Boys in 1950, and was best known for his novelty songs, or songs that incorporated comedy such as “A-Sleeping at the Foot of the Bed,” “I’m Little But I’m Loud,” and “May The Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose.” He became the first country act to circumvent the globe while on tour in 1964, and in 1965 scored his first #1 hit with “May The Bird of Paradise”¦” Jimmy was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1983.
Later in life “Little” Jimmy became a fixture of The Grand Ole Opry, many times as the comic relief character of the sainted stage, and despite his loss of commercial prominence, was well-recognized and beloved even by younger audiences who knew “Little” Jimmy from appearances on awards shows, videos for Brad Paisley, and other notable cameos.
Other Notable Deaths:
” Ted Harris – November 22nd – Songwriter of Dottie West’s “Paper Mansions,” Ferlin Husky’s “Once,” and other songs.
” Charlie Dick – November 8th – Patsy Cline’s Widower, and tireless Patsy Cline champion.
” John Jennings – October 17th – Producer and guitarist best known for his work with Mary Chapin Carpenter
” Martin Parker – September 18th – Drummer for Vince Gill, Ricky Skaggs, and many more.
” Hall Willis – September 4th – Canadian Country Star and Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer.
” Boomer Castleman – September 1st – Songwriter for Michael Martin Murphey and others.
” Audrey Auld – August 9th – Australian born singer, songwriter, and performer.
” Wayne Carson – July 20th – Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer
” Red Lane – July 1st – Songwriter of “Til’ I Get It Right,” “Darling You Know I Wouldn’t Lie,” & more.
” Jack Eubanks – July 1st – Session guitarist who played on records from Alabama, Kenny Rogers, Charley Pride, & more.
” Rumer Rain Rogers – June 9th – Newborn daughter of Texas country artist Randy Rogers.
” Toni Dae – June 3rd – Songwriter for Alan Jackson, Conway Twitty, George Jones, Tammy Wynette, and others.
” Jean Ritchie – June 1st – Folk Queen who wrote songs for Emmylou Harris, Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Doc Watson, and more.
” Bob Stegall – May 27th – steel guitar player, and father of Keith Stegall.
” Dottie Dillard – May 6th -Singer and member of The Anita Kerr Quartet.
” Herb McCullough – May 5th – Songwriter.
” Dan Wilson, Jr. – April 21st – Publisher and songwriter for Ricky Skaggs, The Oak Ridge Boys, Jerry Reed, and others.
” Tut Taylor – April 8th – Bluegrass virtuoso who played dobro, mandolin, banjo, and guitar.
” Sandy Mason – April 1st – Songwriter.
” Don Robertson – March 16th – Nashville Songwriter Hall of Famer who penned classics for Hank Snow, Elvis, Eddy Arnold, and Charley Pride.
” Billy Block – March 11th – Americana founding father, up-and-coming music enthusiast who launched numerous artists through his radio and stage presentations.
” Kent Finlay – Songwriter, and owner of the Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, TX.
” Wayne Kemp – Songwriter for “Love Bug,” “Feelin’ Single, Seein’ Double,” Conway Twitty’s #1 “Next in Line,” and many more.
” James “Spider” Wilson – February 26th – Guitar player who spent from 1953 to 2006 in the Grand Ole Opry band.
” Dixie Hall – January 15th – Well-known bluegrass songwriter and wife of Tom T. Hall.
” AJ Masters – January 12th – Songwriter.