on his website earlier today on the passing of longtime Opry star Billy Grammer:
The music industry and the Grand Ole Opry lost another legend as Billy
Grammer passed away earlier today. Billy was a great Opry member who has
been more or less retired in recent years. He was also one of the
nicest men there was. The following biography on Billy is from "The
Encyclopedia of Country Music", and was written by Walt Trott:
"Gotta Travel On" put singer Billy Wayne Grammer on the musical map.
Adapted from a 150-year-old British folk tune, that October 1958
release landed him on a trio of charts: country (#5), pop (#4) and
r&b (#14). In addition, the million-selling record was the first hit
for Monument Records and its founder, record producer Fred Foster. A
1961 release, "Bonaparte's Retreat" b/w "The Kissing Tree," is estimated
to have sold 500,000 units.
The eldest of thirteen children, Grammer began playing guitar at
five and from an early age played locally with fiddler father Arch
Grammer. Billy Grammer made his radio debut on WJPF-Herrin, Illinois, in
1940. After military service in World War II he worked for Connie B.
Gay at WARL-Arlington, Virginia. There Grammer performed on Jimmy Dean's
CBS-TV show (1957-58). Grammer joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1959,
remaining there until he lost his eyesight.
He designed the Grammer Flat Top Guitar, donating his first model to
the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1969. The agile guitarist's
sophisticated licks garnered numerous studio sessions with artists such
as Eddy Arnold, Louis Armstrong, and Patti Page, and inspired other
guitarists, such as Roy Clark. In 1965 Grammer had his own syndicated TV
Deeply religious, Grammer delivered the invocation for the Grand Ole Opry House opening on March 16, 1974.
That completes the biography. But I will add a correction. Despite
his eyesite problems, Billy did not give up his Opry membership. He
would appear at the Opry every once in a while, although after 2006, he
did not appear again until he celebrated his 50 year as on Opry member
in 2009, and he was always with his wife, Ruth, who usually stood by
next to him on stage. (They were married in 1944). Even during his last
Opry appearances, on Friday February 27 & Saturday February 28,
2009, when Billy was honored for his 50 years as an Opry member, Billy's
voice was great as was his guitar playing. What I remember most about
that Friday night, was that Billy did his great hit, "Gotta Travel On",
and he extended it into about a 10 minute number. He was very gracious
and really enjoyed himself that night.