Friday, January 1, 2016

The Curtain Falls On Many Country Music Voices in 2015

K.F. Raizor, author of the website Raizor's Edge and the book We Can't Sing and We Ain't Funny: The World of Homer and Jethro is our guest writer today on That Nashville Sound. She lists some of the musicians and singers we lost along the way in country music this year. She's ever so gracious to provide a wonderful tribute each year to honor those to whom the music we treasure just wouldn't be the same without. Thank you, K.F.

Little Jimmy Dickens
Here are the people in country music who sang their final song in 2015.

Roy Acuff Jr. (November 5, unknown causes, age 72):  the son of "King of Country Music" Roy Acuff was also a country singer in the 1960's.

Lynn Anderson (July 30, heart attack, age 67):  daughter of songwriter/singer Liz Anderson who went on to a Grammy-winning career with hits that included the 1970 smash "Rose Garden."

Bonnie Lou (real name: Mary Joan Kath) (December 8, natural causes, age 91):  a staple on the Cincinnati-based Midwestern Hayride radio show and television program, she had several recordings on King as a country singer before migrating to rockabilly in the mid-50's.

Jerry Brightman (March 9, heart attack, age 63):  steel guitar player for Buck Owens and the Buckaroos during the Hee Haw days.

Jim Ed Brown (June 11, cancer, age 81):  one of the 2015 Hall of Fame inductees, Brown's career began with his sisters with hits such as "The Three Bells" and "Lookin' Back to See" and continued through a hit-filled solo career.

Al Bunetta (March 22, cancer, age 72):  the manager for folk-country acts John Prine and Steve Goodman, and the co-founder of Prine's label, Oh Boy Records.

Wayne Carson (July 20, various illnesses, age 72):  Songwriters Hall of Fame member who penned pop classics such as "The Letter" and "Soul Deep" but will always be remembered for giving the world "Always On My Mind."

Bud Carter (March 12, illness, age 83):  Steel Guitar Hall of Fame member who made countless contributions to the production of pedal steel guitars.

Boomer Castleman (September 1, cancer, age 70):  inventor of the palm pedal effect for guitars was also a singer ("Judy Mae"), songwriter, and guitarist for the likes of Michael Martin Murphy, George Jones, and Tammy Wynette.

Charlie Dick (November 8, natural causes, age 81):  the widower of Patsy Cline was a tireless champion of keeping her legacy alive.

Little Jimmy Dickens (January 2, heart failure/stroke, age 94):  a Hall of Famer with a long history of hits, he was the oldest member and longest tenured member of the Opry at the time of his death.

Dorothy "Dottie" Dillard (May 6, natural causes, age 91):  a member of the Anita Kerr Singers, who backed countless singers on recordings in the "Nashville Sound" era of country music.  She is one of three members of the Anita Kerr Singers to die this year (with Dolores Dinning and Millie Kirkham).

Donna Douglas (January 2, pancreatic cancer, age 81):  "Ellie May" from The Beverly Hillbillies, a show that featured Flatt & Scruggs and Roy Clark in guest roles.

Dolores Dinning Edgin (June 17, natural causes, age 86):  Nashville session vocalist in the Anita Kerr Singers and member of Hee Haw's "Nashville Edition" vocal group.   She was one of three members of the Anita Kerr Singers to pass away this year, along with Millie Kirkham and Dottie Dillard.

Bobby Emmons (February 23, illness, age 72):  piano player (played on Elvis songs and Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man") and songwriter who wrote hits such as "The Wurlitzer Prize (I Don't Want to Get Over You)" and "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)."

Buddy Emmons (July 29, unknown, age 78):  a steel guitar player's steel guitar player, Emmons worked in country music for over five decades and helped develop the production of the pedal steel guitar through his co-founding the Sho-Bud company.

Monroe Fields (February 21, lung cancer, age 86):  bluegrass and country multi-instrumentalist who played bass with Bill Monroe and Jim & Jesse, and mandolin and tenor vocals with Charlie Louvin in the 90's.

Tom "Snuff" Garrett (December 17, unknown cause, age 76):  an all-purpose record producer who sat behind the controls on sessions by the likes of Gary Lewis & the Playboys and Cher to Tanya Tucker, Ronnie Milsap, and Eddie Rabbitt.

Johnny Gimble (May 9, complications of stroke, age 88):  one of country music's most important fiddlers ever, from his stint as a Texas Playboy to session work to his work in the Hee Haw "Million Dollar Band."

Dixie Hall (January 16, brain cancer, age 80):  the wife of Tom T. Hall was his partner in songwriting as well as life, penning over 500 songs for bluegrass and country acts.

Ted Harris (November 22, unknown cause, age 78):  Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer who wrote, among others, the classic "Crystal Chandeliers" and Dottie West's hit "Paper Mansions."

Don Harron (January 17, cancer, age 90):  Canadian actor and writer who spent a quarter of a century making people laugh on Hee Haw as KORN announcer Charlie Farquharson.

John Jennings (October 16, kidney cancer, age 61):  singer and guitarist who produced albums for artists such as Mary-Chapin Carpenter and Iris DeMent.

Wade Jessen (March 5, heart attack, age 53):  Billboard magazine country music editor and host of "Rear View: The History of Country Music" on the Willie's Roadhouse Sirius/XM channel. 

Bob Johnston (August 14, heart failure, age 83):  Columbia Records producer who worked on several albums including Dylan's Nashville Skyline Johnny Cash's classic At Folsom Prison and At San Quentin albums.

Ramona Jones (November 17, heart attack, age 91):  the widow of Grandpa Jones was a singer and instrumentalist herself.

Wayne Kemp (March 9, various illnesses, age 73):  Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member who wrote hits recorded by George Jones ("The Love Bug"), Conway Twitty ("Next In Line"), and George Strait ("The Fireman"), among many others.

Millie Kirkham (December 13, complications of a stroke, age 91):  a Nashville session vocalist who put her mark on history by singing the classic part of Elvis's "Blue Christmas."  She worked with the Jordanaires and the Anita Kerr Singers, singing background on songs such as "Gone" and "Heaven Says Hello."  She was the third member of the Anita Kerr Singers to die in 2015 (along with Dolores Dinning and Dottie Dillard).

Red Lane (July 1, cancer, age 76):  Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member with a long list of hits for acts from Waylon Jennings ("Walk On Out of My Mind") to Willie Nelson ("Black Jack County Chain") to John Conlee ("Miss Emily's Picture").  He co-wrote "Darlin' You Know I Wouldn't Lie" with Wayne Kemp, who also died this year.

Lance Leroy (December 17, unknown causes, age 84):  Bluegrass Hall of Fame music promotor who worked tirelessly for all of his clients, from the superstars (he booked Lester Flatt and the Nashville Grass) to the upstarts.

Neil LeVang (January 26, natural causes, age 83):  multi-instrumentalist who was the primary country musician on The Lawrence Welk Show as well as a session musician for the likes of Elvis, Glen Campbell, and the Judds.

Mosie Lister (February 12, natural causes, age 93):  member of the legendary southern gospel group the Statesmen Quartet and author of a number of gospel songs including "Where No One Stands Alone."

Bill Littleton (January 17, pneumonia, age 75):  songwriter, musician, and journalist who covered country music for Performance magazine.

Benjamin "Tex" Logan (April 24, renal failure, age 85):  renown fiddler who played with Bill Monroe and wrote Monroe's holiday classic "Christmas Time's a-Comin'."

Julia Mainer (January 21, natural causes, age 95):  Wade Mainer's wife of 73 years performed bluegrass and gospel with him for decades.

Sandy Mason (April 1, pancreatic cancer, age 71):  songwriter of such hits as "Two Pina Coladas" by Garth Brooks and Crystal Gayle's "When I Dream."

A.J. Masters (January 19, prostate cancer, age 64):  country songwriter best-known for co-writing "Change My Mind," recorded by both the Oak Ridge Boys and John Berry.

Alan Mayor (February 23, dementia/complications of stroke, age 65):  one of Nashville's best-known photographer of country music stars.

Daron Norwood (July 22, unknown cause, age 49):  90's singer best known for the song "Cowboys Don't Cry."

Tommy Overstreet (November 2, heart disease/lung disease, age 78):  country singer in the early 70's with hits such as "Gwen (Congratulations)," "I Don't Know You (Anymore)," and "Heaven Is My Woman's Love."

Don Pfrimmer (December 7, leukemia, age 78):  country songwriter whose list of hits include Mickey Gilley's "The Power of Positive Drinking," "Meet in the Middle" by Diamond Rio, and Lonestar's hit "My Front Porch Looking In."

Ruth Poe (April 26, natural causes, age 88):  one of the Poe Sisters, members of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1940's, she was one of the last links to the 1940's-era Opry.

Chuck Pyle (November 6, unknown cause, age 70):  singer/songwriter whose songs were recorded by the likes of Jerry Jeff Walker ("Jaded Lover") and Chris LeDoux ("Cadillac Cowboy").

Tandy Rice (August 4, respiratory failure, age 76):  past CMA board of directors president and country music promotor at Top Billing International for acts such as Dolly Parton, Tom T. Hall, and Porter Wagoner.

Jean Ritchie (June 1, natural causes, age 92):  Appalachian folk music singer, songwriter, and historian, her song "Blue Diamond Mines" was covered by the Johnson Mountain Boys.

Don Robertson (March 16, natural causes, age 92):  Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member responsible for writing hits such as "I Really Don't Want to Know," "Please Help Me, I'm Falling," and "I Don't Hurt Anymore."

Billy Joe Royal (October 6, unknown causes, age 73):  60's pop/rock singer ("Down in the Boondocks," "Hush") who successfully transitioned to country singer in the 80's and 90's.

Kenny Seratt (August 25, unknown causes, age 80):  country songwriter and singer with several minor hits, the biggest of which was "Until the Bitter End" in 1980.

Billy Sherrill (August 4, short illness, age 78):  Country Music Hall of Fame songwriter ("Almost Persuaded," "A Very Special Love Song") and producer (George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Elvis Costello) and the man behind the controls when one of country's greatest hits, "He Stopped Loving Her Today," was recorded.

Tom Skinner (July 12, heart disease, age 61):  the former bassist for Garth Brooks' band became a red dirt singer/songwriter later in his career.

Bob Stegall (May 27, Lewy Body disease, age 85):  Louisiana-based country singer and musician who played steel guitar for Johnny Horton.  His son, Keith, is also a country singer.

Patsy Stoneman (July 23, natural causes, age 90):  one of the members of the Stoneman Family and daughter of Hall of Famer Ernest V. "Pop" Stoneman.

John Stuart (April 9, unknown cause, age 83):  the father of country/bluegrass singer Marty Stuart.

Tut Taylor (April 9, natural causes, age 91):  legendary bluegrass Dobro player who played with everyone from John Hartford to backing Roy Acuff on the King of Country Music's final Opry performance.

Sid Tepper (April 24, natural causes, age 96):  songwriter who teamed up with Roy Bennett to write several Elvis songs ("G.I. Blues," "Song of the Shrimp") as well as hits like "Red Roses for a Blue Lady."

Allen Toussaint (November 9, heart attack, age 77):  legendary singer/songwriter whose long string of credits include Glen Campbell's 1977 #1 hit "Southern Nights."

Elbert West (May 18, illness, age 47):  songwriter who wrote Tracy Lawrence's hits "Sticks and Stones" and "Can't Break It to My Heart."

Hal Willis (September 4, unknown cause, age 82):  Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member who had an international hit with "The Lumberjack" and also wrote songs such as "Just Ain't" for Flatt & Scruggs and "Don't Tell Me" for Jim Reeves.

James "Spider" Wilson (February 26, cancer, age 79):  Opry staff band guitarist for over 50 years, a member of Little Jimmy Dickens' Country Boys, and prolific session guitarist who worked with the likes of Faron Young, Mel Tillis, Bill Anderson, and Skeeter Davis.

Hugh Wright (September 25, natural causes, age 63):  drummer and co-founder of the band Boy Howdy.

Finally, Craig Strickland, the lead singer for an up-and-coming country-rock band called Backroad Anthem, is missing and feared dead after he and a friend left for a hunting trip on December 27 in the midst of a severe winter storm.  His friend's body was found on December 28, along with a capsized boat.  As of this writing he remains missing.

Farewell, and thank you for the music.

1 comment:

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