Willie Nelson’s Bassist Dan “Bee” Spears Dead At 62

Saving Country Music is very sad to report that Bee Spears, the perennial bassist for Willie Nelson, who played in Willie Nelson’s “Family Band” for 40 years, died on Thursday, 12/8/2011 after falling outside of his home in Nashville and being exposed to the elements overnight.

On Willie Nelson’s website, a single candle has been set up saying “In Loving Memory of Dan ‘Bee’ Spears, long time friend and bassist,” along with this statement:

We are deeply saddened by the death of Family member Dan “Bee” Spears, long time friend and bassist for Willie Nelson and Family. We are still in shock and gathering details as the day continues. He apparently died of accidental exposure at his property near Nashville, Tenn.

Bee Spears was one of the original members of Willie Nelson’s band, who moved with Willie from Nashville when Willie’s house burned down, and encamped at the Pedernales Golf Course in Austin while Willie restarted his career as a country music Outlaw. Bee was Willie’s “Third in Command” for years behind drummer Paul English, managing the road and stage crews.

Bee was a great person to be around, and had a great sense of humor. Many give credit for Garth Brooks for being the first man in country music to strap on a harness and go flying across stage, but in truth, it was Bee Spears. In Willie Nelson’s autobiography w/ Bud Shrake, Willie recalled the funny incident.

`I started singing “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground.” The crowd started laughing. “Angel Flying Too Close to the Ground” is one of the best songs I ever wrote, but there is nothing funny about it.

I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. I wondered if my jeans were unzipped or maybe I hat my hat on backwards. Then I noticed the guys in the band were laughing, too. This was my guitar chorus, and I didn’t think it was all that great to have my whole band laughing behind my back.

So I turned around to check it out, and just then Bee Spears came flying right over my head wearing ballet tights and one of those puffy skirts. Bee was flying back and forth across the stage, playing his guitar, and the room was rocking with laughter. What had happened was they had been performing the musical ‘Peter Pan’ on that stage and had left the wires in place that made Peter Pan fly.

…It was the funniest thing I ever saw onstage, not counting certain heavy metal rockers who are funny but don’t seem to know it.

I have to thank artist Austin Lucas for introducing me to Bee Spears backstage at this summers Willie Nelson 4th of July Picnic / Country Throwdown Tour. My favorite Bee Spears performance was on the very first, original pilot episode of Austin City Limits in 1974. Bee was so animated and energetic throughout the set, but the best part is when he sang Merle Haggard’s Okie from Muskogee, right after Ray Wylie Hubbard’s “Up Against The Wall Redneck Mother.” Watch Bee take the spotlight at 15:50 :

Watch Pilot Episode: Willie Nelson on PBS. See more from AUSTIN CITY LIMITS.