Long time George Strait drummer and member of the Ace in the Hole Band Mike Kennedy died in an automobile accident on Interstate 40 Friday afternoon (8-31) in Lebanon, Tennessee just west of Nashville. He was 59-years-old. Many in the country music community are morning the loss of one of the most beloved backline players in the business. Fans from across the country and world have been leaving their condolences, sharing their stories, and remembering the legacy of an indispensable member of one of the most legendary backing bands in country music history.
On Sunday morning (9-2), “King” George Strait himself addressed the loss of the man who played drums behind him for 28 years.
“Hard to put into words how much Mike’s passing has affected us all. Our hearts are broken,” George Strait said. “It’s going to be very strange not being able to look over and see him there in his spot on stage and very emotional as well I’m sure for all of us and also his fans. The band will never be the same. A part of us is gone forever. We all loved Mike and will miss him terribly. He was just as solid a friend to us all as he was a drummer, and that was damn solid. Our hearts and prayers are with his family. The Lord has him now. Rest In Peace my friend.”
Like George Strait, Mike Kennedy grew up near San Antonio. He started playing drums and bass in his father’s country band, and after playing with numerous local artists, Kennedy started playing drums for national country star Barbara Fairchild. He then played with Ricky Skaggs for five years before being hired by George Strait, who Kennedy played with all the way up until his death.
Mike Kennedy was one of the newer members of the Ace in the Hole Band, which originally formed in the mid 70’s in San Marcos, TX where George Strait attended college. When original drummer Tommy Foote left the Ace in the Hole Band in 1983 to become George Strait’s official road manager, Mike Kennedy replaced him right as George Strait’s Hall of Fame career was taking off.
George Strait’s production manager Paul Rogers also addressed Kennedy’s passing, saying, “The heart beat of our band is gone. Not sure how we will get back on stage without him. But we must. Much love and respect my dear friend Mike Kennedy.”
Kennedy’s 1999 GMC Sierra hit a tractor trailer near the 238 mile marker on I-40 in Lebanon, TN, and eventually collided with a Chevrolet Silverado according to the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Kennedy was the only fatality in the accident. Neither of the other two individuals involved in the accident were seriously injured. Kennedy lived in Baxter, which is a rural town in Putnam County east of Nashville.
Information on funeral arrangements is pending.