Supergroup Member and Session Player Michael Rhodes Has Died
Everybody wanted him, on their albums and on their tours. But only the lucky could get him because he was so high in demand. His name was Michael Rhodes, and he was the bass player for countless artists, sessions, and tours over a nearly 50-year span, playing on some 60 Gold and Platinum albums, and racking up six ACM Awards. Though country was his epicenter, the whole world of music benefited from his presence.
If you don’t recognize the name from the liner notes of a who’s who of country artists from the ’80s well into the 2000’s, you might remember Michael Rhodes as a member of the country music supergroup The Notorious Cherry Bombs with Rodney Crowell and Vince Gill. Rhodes was also part of Crowell’s other backing band The Cicadas with Eddie Bayers and others, and played on The Highwaymen recordings.
Among other supergroups local to Nashville, Rhodes played in “The Fortunate Sons” with Gary Nicholson and others, “The Players” with Paul Franklin, Brent Mason, and Eddie Bayers, “The Vinyl Kings” with Harry Stinson of Marty Stuart’s Fabulous Superlatives, “TAR” with Guthrie Trapp and Pete Abbott, and “The World Famous Headliners” with Shawn Camp, Pat McLaughlin, and others.
As cliché as it may sound, Michael Rhodes was truly the musician’s musician, and that is why there has been such an outpouring of emotion at the news of his death on Saturday, March 4th. “We have lost another incredible musician. Michael Rhodes bass player extraordinaire and wonderfully funny and gentle man,” Peter Frampton said at the news.
Born in Monroe, Louisiana on September 16th, 1953, Michael Rhodes taught himself how to play guitar at the age of 13. In the early ’70s he first pointed his nose toward Austin and the burgeoning scene there before moving on to Memphis, and then on to Nashville in 1977. While playing in a local band called The Nerve, Rhodes got a lucky break by being hired into the house band of Tree Publishing to play on demo recordings. This was his big move into the world of studio work.
Michael Rhodes is one of those sessions players whose credits span multiple pages, with songs from Randy Travis, Vince Gill, George Strait, Hank Williams Jr., Marty Stuart, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker, Reba McEntire, Neal McCoy, Doug Stone, and later the [Dixie] Chicks, Faith Hill, Toby Keith, and Kenny Chesney all making it onto his resume.
But as can be seen by the Peter Frampton endorsement, the Michael Rhodes appeal spanned well into rock. It was Steve Winwood booking Rhodes for his Roll With It tour where he made it onto the radar of many in music. Michael Rhodes also worked regularly with guitar virtuoso Joe Bonamassa as one of the few bass players who could keep up. Mark Knopfler was another skilled musician who recognized Michael’s talent, and poached him away from country.
An inductee to the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2019, Michael Rhodes was considered part of Nashville’s top flight of session musicians for decades, and his name has been mentioned in Country Music Hall of Fame consideration in the musician’s category.
The death of Michael Rhodes comes as a shock to the country and rock world. He was 69 years old, and had been suffering from pancreatic Cancer.
March 4, 2023 @ 3:24 pm
Bummer! David Lindley just died at 78 yesterday as well! I know he’s not really a country musician but was a master at American roots music of all genres.
March 4, 2023 @ 4:03 pm
As WAS David Lindley…Bummer.
March 4, 2023 @ 5:54 pm
I loved him. He has been my good friend from over 40 years. He was an unbelievably talented natural musician with a kind heart and a wonderful sense of humor. I will really miss his friendly bright smile.
March 5, 2023 @ 1:59 pm
March 4, 2023 @ 6:08 pm
Rest in peace Michael
March 4, 2023 @ 6:57 pm
Solid player and a gentle soul..You will be missed..R.I.P Michael
March 4, 2023 @ 7:44 pm
TIL Pat McLaughlin used Rhodes and his fellow Fortunate Sons, Kenny Greenberg and Chad Cromwell, as his backing band on his ’11 tour.
March 4, 2023 @ 8:09 pm
One fine musician and man. You will be greatly missed. God has another great one in his angelic band
March 5, 2023 @ 6:46 am
Nice obituary of a musician who was not known to me. Yet somehow you never managed to write an obit for Bob Moore? Had to read about it here:
March 5, 2023 @ 8:54 am
First, Bob Moore was mentioned in the In Memoriam remembrance for 2021, so he was not ignored here.
Second, I work on average of 72 hours per week, and on some weeks, that tops 80. If I don’t cover someone’s passing, or someone’s album, it shouldn’t be taken as an insult. It’s often due to an impossibility of time. I work 7 days a week, 10 to 12 hours a day, and it’s been that way since 2013. I haven’t taken a day off in a decade. And still, I can’t cover everything. I do write more obituaries than anyone else in country music.
March 5, 2023 @ 5:26 pm
And, do a great job of it.
March 6, 2023 @ 8:02 am
Bob Moore deserves a lot more than a mention.
And a lot more if you search just a little.
March 6, 2023 @ 9:20 am
You posting a bunch of links to other obituaries only proves my point. Why am I obligated to be redundant? You an everyone else were notified of the Bob Moore death, and there is a public record of it. The obituaries that I always make sure to write are the ones that may not get written if I don’t do it. I was the first outlet to post an obituary for Michael Rhodes, and it was unclear if anyone was going to write one. Bob Moore had a publicity agency announcing his death. If the New York Times and Billboard are covering it, it’s out there.
Again, I wish I could have written an obituary for Bob Moore. But it is physically impossible to write an obituary for everyone, just like it is physically impossible to write an album review for every album released in country. And it’s the fact that I write more album reviews and obituaries that any other outlet in country that it makes some people think that I have someone purposely excluded someone when I don’t, and it’s taken as an insult as opposed to appreciating the free and incredibly vast resource that Saving Country Music is to the public. It’s insulting to expect me to cover every single thing that happens in country music as a one-man operation. Bringing up a death from two years ago really underscores the unrealistic expectations put on myself and every other journalist, and motivates me more to shut down the site entirely than to cover more obituaries, because no matter how many I cover, there will still be some busybody pointing out the one I missed, and questioning my credibility because of it.
The New York Times, Billboard, Music Row, Nashville Scene, Taste of Country, these are all big organizations with multiple employees. I’m just one person. I do the best I can.
March 6, 2023 @ 10:12 am
Yes that is what you said last time. What a joker.
March 6, 2023 @ 12:16 pm
Where’s your obituary for Bob Moore? Why didn’t you write one and contribute it to Saving Country Music?
March 6, 2023 @ 10:17 am
Glad to see you wrote an obituary for Gary Rossington as it might have been missed otherwise.
March 6, 2023 @ 5:11 pm
Thank you Trigger for all you do.
March 6, 2023 @ 5:12 pm
March 5, 2023 @ 7:44 am
It quite sure I seen him playing with Gary Moore too correct me if Im wrong : RIP Michael TY for best bass music ever
March 5, 2023 @ 1:59 pm
Winwood, Bonamassa & Knopfler put this in perspective.
March 5, 2023 @ 2:49 pm
Its about time the United States finally deliver a cure for cancer and make it a National Priority. So many pass from the disease and so sad to lose Michael to it in particular.
March 5, 2023 @ 7:04 pm
Bass players are notoriously looked over by many. But there is a reason why many bass players are actually the band leaders. Their contribution is immense. Many are truly music directors guiding the band, even the lead guitarist who is out front. Make no mistake, bass players are one of the most crucial elements of the overall band sound.
R.I.P. Michael Rhodes
March 6, 2023 @ 5:59 am
RIP Michael, one of the real ‘Players’ !
March 6, 2023 @ 6:48 pm
This man truely added color to a nocturnal world whose light will shine forever with his musical ability. RIP Michael
March 21, 2023 @ 10:00 am
Thanks for this clear, informative, well written bio and obit. I just became aware of Michael Rhodes from videos of him with Guthrie Trapp. Then I noticed him on stage at a Clapton “Crossroads” event. He was what another musician or a group needs, but rarely gets, from a bass man which is empathy, communication. He was right there with whomever he was working with, both musically and emotionally. A true inspiration for playing music and living life.