As we look back on 2023 and before we look forward to 2024, it’s important we take the time to pay tribute to the important individuals in country and roots music who left us over the last year.
It is a mournful week in country and bluegrass as we’ve lost two mandolin playing legends, two influential titans of the bluegrass discipline, and the two oldest members of the Grand Ole Opry in a span of five days.
It’s the end of an era as one of the last living links to the very formative years of bluegrass has passed on to the sweet by and by. Jesse McReynolds was a bluegrass legend, an influential and innovative mandolin player.
With the recent deaths of some of country music’s oldest living legends and links to its past such as Don Maddox of Maddox Brothers and Rose at the age of 98, and Sue Thompson at 96, it seems like a suitable time to ask, who are some of the oldest legends of country music still living?
With the recent loss of bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley, country superstar Merle Haggard, songwriting great Freddy Powers, and Bakersfield’s Red Simpson, the amount of artists who are still around that can truly say they were there at the very start of the formation of country and bluegrass is getting anemically slim.
It’s about that time of year again to start considering who the Country Music Hall of Fame will include in their list of 2015 inductees. That said, this announcement seems to inch later, and later (and later) each year. Nonetheless, if you want your opinion to amount to anything, you better get it out there early in the year as the people who make the picks for the final ballots and eventually inductees are doing their homework.
With the passing of the 94-year-old “Little” Jimmy Dickens at the beginning of 2015, it’s a reminder for us to cherish the final living links to country music’s most legendary past who can still tell stories of how country music once was. The amount of performers who were important in forming the very foundation of country music are quickly fading away.
Out of the 67 current members of the Opry, only 25 of them fulfilled their 10 appearance obligation, and three of those died during the year. 11 members didn’t make any appearances at all. But what may be more interesting is who is appearing on the Opry to take up the slack. Of the Top 11 performing members at the Grand Ole Opry in 2014, the average age was 79-years-old.