Monday, December 30, 2019

The Day The Music Died: To Those Country Music Lost in 2019

Earl Thomas Conley
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's ever so gracious to provide wonderful tributes to honor those to whom the music we treasure just wouldn't be the same without. Thank you, K.F.

Here are the people related to the world of country music for whom the final curtain fell in 2019.

Billy Adams (March 30, illness, age 79): Rockabilly Hall of Fame singer and gospel songwriter (author of "I Saw the Man," best-known by the Happy Goodman Family).

Frank Arnett (January 7, unknown cause, age 81): steel guitarist for several Bakersfield-based acts such as Wynn Stewart and Rose Maddox, later worked for Marty Stuart.

Jeff Austin (June 24, unspecified medical emergency, age 45): co-founder of and mandolin player for Yonder Mountain String Band.

Hal Blaine (March 11, natural causes, age 90): a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer, his long and illustrious career saw him play on #1 hits as diverse as "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis, "Cherokee Reservation (Lament of the Cherokee Indian)" by Paul Revere & the Raiders, and "You're the Reason God Made Oklahoma" by David Frizzell & Shelly West.

Anne Boatman (June 16, Alzheimer's disease, age 71): "Opry Annie" was the assistant to Bud Wendell at the Grand Ole Opry.

Terry Bock (January 3, unknown cause, age 81): promoter for acts such as David Houston and owner of the traveling Nashville Country Music Museum.

Shirley Boone (January 11, vasculitis, age 84): the wife of pop crooner Pat Boone was also the daughter of Hall of Fame great Red Foley.

Harold Bradley (January 31, natural causes, age 93): Hall of Fame session musician who was part of the original "A Team," businessman, and co-founder (with brother Owen) of the Quonset Hut.

busbee (ne Michael Ryan) (September 29, glioblastoma, age 43): songwriter who worked with a number of modern acts including Lady Antebellum, Rascal Flatts, and Garth Brooks.

Charlie Brocco (February 4, unknown cause, age 64): Grammy-winning album engineer who was rewarded for his work on Kacey Musgraves' Same Trailer, Different Park.

Maxine Brown (January 21, heart and kidney disease, age 87): the oldest of the Country Music Hall of Fame trio the Browns.

William "Beau" Bruce (May 15, unknown cause, age 49): the son of singer/songwriter Ed Bruce was also an executive at MCA Publishing.

Jerry Carrigan (June 22, long illness, age 77): Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section drummer who also worked on a large number of country recordings beginning in the 60s.

Frances Scott Carter (May 5, unknown cause, age 89): costume designer on the TV series Hee Haw.

Justin Carter (March 16, accidental shooting, age 35): Texas-based country singer. He was killed in an accidental shooting during the filming of a video.

Larry Carter (April 30, heart attack, age 62): longtime DJ and host of the much-loved "Bluegrass for Breakfast" program originating on WCXZ in Harrogate, Tennessee, and streamed worldwide on TuneIn.

Keith Case (September 4, unknown cause, age 79): head of the prolific Keith Case & Associates agency, who represented countless acoustic, bluegrass, and Americana artists.

Steve Cash (October 13, unknown cause, age 73): co-founder and harmonica player for the country/rock band Ozard Mountain Daredevils and writer of their biggest hit, "Jackie Blue."

John Cohen (September 16, natural causes, age 87): co-founder of the New Lost City Ramblers as well as a photographer and music professor.

Earl Thomas Conley (April 10, cerebral atrophy, age 77): songwriter and singer with a long string of hits in the 1980s.

Bob Cornett (April 11, natural causes, age 89): founder of Kentucky's "Festival of the Bluegrass" and bluegrass concert promoter in Kentucky and Florida.

Sonny Curtis (October 11, Alzheimer's disease, age 83): not the Cricket Sonny Curtis; rather, the steel guitarist who played for George Jones' Jones Boys for George Jones for decades.

Chuck Dauphin (September 18, complications of diabetes, age 45): respected country music journalist for Billboard and Rolling Stone.

Ray Deaton (June 4, unknown cause, age 66): one-time bass player in Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver who went on to co-found IIIrd Tyme Out with other former DL&Q members Russell Moore and Mike Hartgrove.

Edd Easter (January 30, unknown cause, age 84): member of the legendary bluegrass gospel group the Easter Brothers.

Al Embry (September 9, natural causes, age 82): longtime talent manager and promoter who worked with the likes of George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Jerry Lee Lewis, the Statler Brothers, and Merle Haggard.

Raymond Fairchild (October 13, heart attack, age 80): award-winning, influential banjo player who delighted bluegrass audiences for decades.

Toni Foglesong (June 7, unknown cause, age 92): widow of music executive and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Jim Foglesong.

Fred Foster (February 20, natural causes, age 87): Country Music Hall of Fame record executive (founder of Monument Records), producer (Roy Orbison), and songwriter ("Me and Bobbie McGee").

Donnie Fritts (August 27, complications of heart surgery, age 76): the longtime Kris Kristofferson musician was also a songwriter and an early member of the "Swampers," the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. Jerry Carrigan, who also passed away this year, was also an early member of the Swampers.

Phran Galante (September 23, lung cancer, age 64): video producer for acts such as Alabama, K.T. Oslin, and Alan Jackson.

Vivian Gilley (December 13, Alzheimer's disease, age 80): wife of country singer Mickey Gilley and his manager.

Chuck Glaser (June 10, unknown cause, age 83): the last surviving member of the trio Tompall and the Glaser Brothers. His brother Jim died April 6.

Jim Glaser (April 6, heart attack, age 82): member of Tompall and the Glaser Brothers. His brother Chuck died June 10.

Dr. Jerry Goff (July 12, unknown cause, age 84): Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame inductee who was a member of the LaFevres, a well-known trumpet player in southern gospel music, and one of the founders of the Gospel Music Association.

John Goodson (May 21, non-alcoholic cirrhosis of the liver, age 54): banjo player in the bluegrass gospel band the Gospel Plowboys.

Bonnie Guitar (January 13, congestive heart failure, age 95): country music singer and songwriter who had a crossover hit in 1957 with "Dark Moon."

Dallas Harms (October 12, cancer, age 84): Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame singer/songwriter whose best-known composition for US audiences would most likely be Gene Watson's hit "Paper Rosie."

Kylie Rae Harris (September 4, car wreck, age 30): Texas-based country singer who was starting her career after appearing on the TV series Troubadour, TX.

Hoyt Herbert (July 5, unknown cause, age 87): longtime country (Lefty Frizzell) and bluegrass (Charlie Monroe's Kentucky Partners) banjo player, as well as host of WFMX's bluegrass show in North Carolina.

Dot Hindman (October 31, natural causes, age 98): longtime figure in numerous Nashville music publishing companies.

John A. Hobbs (June 12, natural causes, age 91): the founder of Music Valley staples the Fiddler's Inn and (co-founding with Jerry Reed) the Nashville Palace.

Don Hoglen (September 27, unknown cause, age 87): last surviving member of Mac Wiseman's original Country Boys band.

Don Imus (December 26, unknown cause, age 79): legendary radio host (and VH-1 VJ) whose Imus Ranch Record albums had country singers covering interesting songs (such as Jamey Johnson's superb rendition of Meat Loaf's "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad").

Juanita Jackson (January 11, Alzheimer's disease, age 81): wife of country great Stonewall Jackson and his business manager.

Terry Jennings (January 25, unknown cause, age 62): oldest son of Waylon Jennings and author of Waylon: Tales of My Outlaw Dad. He also worked as tour manager and merchandise salesman for his father.

Carol Johnson (Carol Bass) (January 9, unknown cause, age 85): bluegrass bass player and singer with Jim and Jesse.

Dennis Jones (June 14, septic shock, age 62): bluegrass historian, disc jockey, sound man, and festival MC who had no lack of friends in the bluegrass or country music world.

Martin Katahn (October 17, extended illness, age 91): bestselling diet author (The Rotation Diet) and professor who also did numerous session work at Studio B during the "Nashville Sound" era of country music.

John Kilzner (March 12, suicide [hanging], age 62): country and rock songwriter whose best-known song was "Green, Yellow, Red," covered by Rosanne Cash on King's Record Shop.

Bob Kingsley (October 17, bladder cancer, age 80): 1998 Country Radio Hall of Fame inductee who was the longtime host of the radio program America's Country Countdown.

Carl Knight (September 13, unknown cause, age 89): country songwriter with songs recorded by the likes of Loretta Lynn, Charley Pride, Mel Tillis, and Del Reeves. He was also in WW and the Dixie Dance Kings.

Sleepy LaBeef (December 26, unknown cause, age 84): Rockabilly Hall of Fame singer who began a career in the 1950s and continued his success, primarily in Europe, until the day he died.

Joe Mansfield (October 31, cancer, age 77): executive at Capitol Records when Garth Brooks' career was taking off. He continued to work for Brooks after leaving Capitol.

Glenn Martin (May 12, natural causes, age 86): Grammy-nominated country songwriter responsible for hits such as "Is Anybody Going to San Antone" and "If We're Not Back in Love By Monday."

Martha McCrory (February 16, natural causes, age 98): classically-trained cellist who played on numerous country music sessions with the likes of Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, and Elvis.

Ed McGowan (October 8, cause and age unknown): husband and manager of Rattlesnake Annie.

Anne Miller (January 2, illness, age unknown): wife of country music singer/songwriter Frankie Miller.

Todd Milsap (February 23, unknown cause, age 49): son of Country Music Hall of Fame legend Ronnie Milsap.

Dan Mitchell (May 22, cause and age unknown): songwriter best-known for writing "If You're Gonna Play in Texas (You've Gotta Have a Fiddle in the Band)" by Alabama.

Ralph Murphy (May 28, pneumonia, age 75): Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member noted for writing such songs as Crystal Gayle's hits "Talking in Your Sleep" and "Half the Way."

Jerry Naylor (December 5, unknown cause, age 80): member and lead vocalist of the Crickets for two years after Buddy Holly's death.

Alan Perdue (February 20, cirrhosis of the liver, age 49): bluegrass mandolin great who was a member of the band Mountain Heart.

Troy "Renfro" Proffitt (July 25, illness, age 69): guitarist in the 70s incarnation of Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys.

Gina Putman (August 5, unknown cause, age 45): daughter of songwriting legend Curly Putman was an employee at Sony-Tree Publishing.

Leon Rausch (May 14, illness, age 91): "the voice of the Texas Playboys" for a number of years beginning in the late 50s, and leader of the Texas Playboys band after Bob Wills' death.

Billy Ray Reynolds (November 29, unknown cause, age 79): country songwriter who had songs recorded by acts as diverse as Tom Jones and Alison Krauss. He was also the guitarist for the supergroup the Highwaymen.

Steve Ripley (January 3, cancer, age 69): the founder and only regular member of the country-rock group the Tractors, best known for "Baby Likes to Rock It."

Raeanne Rubenstein (December 2, cardiac arrest, age 74): noted celebrity photography who took photos of numerous country music legends.

Vickie Salas (January 16, cancer, age 66): longtime companion of country legend Bill Anderson and the subject of his song "Until the Light Comes on Again."

Ray Sawyer (December 31, 2018, brief illness, age 81): one of the lead singers of Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, who had eight charted country songs in addition to their long career as a rock group.

Jack Scott (December 11, congestive heart failure, age 83): Canadian-born Rockabilly Hall of Fame singer who found success in country and rockabilly in the US.

Jeanette Scott (January 7, unknown cause, age 62): secretary of the organization R.O.P.E. (Reunion of Professional Entertainers).

Les Sears (January 15, heart attack, age 70): longtime regional bluegrass guitarist, disc jockey, and festival MC. He was stricken while performing onstage at the Yee Haw Music Festival in Florida.

Sanger D. "Whitey" Shafer (January 12, cancer, age 84): Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame songwriter responsible for such classics as "That's the Way Love Goes," "The Baptism of Jesse Taylor," "All My Exes Live in Texas," and "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind."

Al Shusterman (April 24, unknown cause, age 75): longtime country DJ and host of the Sacramento, California program Backwoods Bluegrass.

Dewayne "Son" Smith (March 16, unknown cause, age 72): "Son" in the Geezenslaw Brothers. Fellow Geezenslaw Sammy Allred passed away in 2018.

Faye Smith (September 13, unknown cause, age 83): longtime executive at BMI in Nashville.

Russell Smith (July 12, cancer, age 70): the lead singer and main songwriter for the country-rock group the Amazing Rhythm Aces, he also wrote songs covered by the likes of George Jones, George Strait, and T. Graham Brown. He was also a member of the bluegrass parody group Run C&W.

John Starling (May 2, heart failure, age 79): original lead singer and guitarist for the Bluegrass Hall of Fame band the Seldom Scene.

Guy Stevenson (January 4, illness, age 89): onetime member of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys and three-time SPBGMA award winner for bass player of the year.

Bertie Sullivan (February 21, unknown cause, age 78): three-time SPBGMA "promoter or the year" award winner for her work in bluegrass concerts and festivals.

Joe Sun (October 25, natural causes, age 76): a songwriter who had marginal success recording his own songs; however, one of them ("Old Flames [Can't Hold a Candle to You]") became a #1 hit for Dolly Parton.

Phil Thomas (January 5, unknown cause, age 74): country songwriter whose contributions included "Colorado Kool-Aid" and "Me and the IRS" by Johnny Paycheck and "Drinkin' My Way Back Home" by Gene Watson.

Luke Thompson (June 12, natural causes, age 91): Louisiana-based instrumental builder who also worked in country and bluegrass on the Louisiana Hayride.

Daniel "Flop" Tidwell (January 6, unknown cause, age 69): one-time owner of Nashville's legendary Exit/In club.

Doris Tillis (August 29, natural causes, age 79): widow of Mel Tillis and mother of Pam Tillis.

David Turner (September 18, bus wreck, age 64): road sound man for Josh Turner (no relation) for 14 years, he had also worked for the likes of Patty Loveless and Eddie Rabbitt.

Maggie Lewis Warwick (March 29, pneumonia, age 79): songwriter whose best-known works include "Mountain of Love" (covered by Johnny Rivers, Bobby G. Rice, and Charley Pride) and "The Girl Most Likely" a hit for Jeannie C. Riley).

Rusty Wilcoxen (July 17, illness, age 68): TNN producer who worked on country shows Nashville Now, American Music Shop, and Grand Ole Opry Live.

Larry T. Wilson (December 5, illness, age 61): songwriter who had his songs recorded by the likes of Sammy Kershaw and Marty Raybon.

Mac Wiseman (February 24, kidney failure, age 93): "the voice with a heart" who thrilled bluegrass and country fans for seven decades, and an inductee in both the Country and Bluegrass halls of fame. He was also an active music businessman, helping found the Country Music Association and the International Bluegrass Music Association.

Emmons "Skip" Woolwine (November 7, heart illness, age 61): founding member of the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame and, when hired, the youngest announcer in WSM history (hired at age 17).

Reggie Young (January 14, heart failure, age 82): longtime session guitarist who worked as an original member of Bill Black's Combo and with acts as diverse as Elvis Presley and Jimmy Buffett.

Vern Young (June 14, natural causes, age 95): bluegrass musician who had a Mac Wiseman-like voice and a long career. He was also a country music DJ in Missouri and the former husband of Anne Young, who later married (and died with) Ira Louvin.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. A friend connected to Charlie Brocco told me he had shot himself. I have not verified this, but the source is good.