Thursday, December 30, 2021

The Curtain Falls On Many Country Music Voices In 2021

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. 

Tom T Hall
Here are the people from the world of country music who sang their final songs in 2021. 

Tim Akers (August 30, leukemia, age 59): prolific keyboardist who toured with a number of acts including Vince Gill.  He was also the band leader for Prime Time Country on the old Nashville Network.

Richie Albright (February 9, unknown cause, age 81): the longtime drummer for Waylon Jennings.  He also toured with Waylon’s son Shooter.

Betty Amos (September 30, unknown cause, age 87): a member of the Carlisles in the 50s, she could be heard on “Too Old to Cut the Mustard” and “Iz Zat You, Myrtle?”  She also wrote Jean Shepard’s hit “Second Fiddle (to an Old Guitar).”

Razzy Bailey (August 4, unknown cause, age 82): country singer (“After the Great Depression,” “She Left Love All Over Me”) and songwriter (Dickey Lee’s hit “9,999,999 Tears”).

George Beasley (June 2, unknown cause, age 89): Country Radio Broadcaster Hall of Fame member who started with one radio station in 1961 and built it into the Beasley Media Group with 62 stations.

Stan Beaver (January 2, illness, age 71): Rockabilly Hall of Fame inductee with the hit “I Got a Rocket in My Pocket” who later went on to be a sound engineer at Tom T. Hall’s studio.

Pam Belford (April 22, unknown cause, age 70): songwriter who penned George Strait’s hits “If I Know Me” and Holding My Own.” 

Byron Berline (July 10, stroke, age 77): three-time world champion on the fiddle, his talents were primarily used in bluegrass but also expanded to session work for the likes of the Rolling Stones, Elton John, and Bob Dylan.  Berline died five days after his 77th birthday.

Charlie Black (April 23, unknown cause, age 71): Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer who wrote hits for many including Reba (“You Lie”), Anne Murray (“A Little Good News”), and Tommy Overstreet (“Send Me No Roses”).

Dewayne Blackwell (May 23, unknown cause, age 84): Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer who wrote a number of hits but will always be remembered for Garth Brooks’ megahit “Friends in Low Places.”

Connie Bradley (March 24, unknown cause, age 74): the wife of Hall of Famer Jerry Bradley was an executive at ASCAP in Nashville for over 30 years.

Berk Bryant (December 24, 2020, vascular dementia, age 90): country and bluegrass disc jockey and festival MC whose career spanned over 70 years, including 30 years as the host of "Sunday Bluegrass" in Kentucky and MC of the Charlotte Bluegrass Festival in Michigan.

Ed Bruce (January 8, natural causes, age 81): singer and songwriter who had his own string of hits ("You're the Best Break This Old Heart Ever Had") as well as writing hits for others ("See the Big Man Cry" by Charlie Louvin, "The Man That Turned My Mama On" by Tanya Tucker).

Patsy Bruce (May 16, unknown cause, age 82): Ed Bruce's ex-wife also wrote songs, including co-writing (with Ed) the Waylon Jennings classic "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys.”

Sudie Callaway (November 10, unknown cause, age 87): prolific Nashville session vocalist who also played bass on the road and on the Opry with numerous acts, and appeared in movies including Smokey and the Bandit.

Sanford Clark (July 4, COVID-19, age 85): country/rockabilly singer best known for his 1956 hit "The Fool.”

Commander Cody (ne George Frayne IV) (September 26, cancer, age 77): leader of the 70s country/rock band Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen, who had minor hits with covers of “Smoke Smoke Smoke That Cigarette” and “Hot Rod Lincoln.”

Ron Cornelius (August 18, stroke, age 76): a session guitarist who began as a teenager playing with Chubby Checker and went on to do session work for Flatt & Scruggs, Marty Robbins, and Bob Dylan’s Nashville recordings.

Paul Cotton (August 1, unknown cause, age 78): longtime mainstay of the legendary country-rock band Poco.  Poco co-founder Rusty Young also died this year.

McDonald Craig (September 26, natural causes, age 90): 1978 Jimmie Rodgers Days talent contest winner who entertained audiences with his yodeling and traditional country music.

J.D. Crowe (December 24, illness, age 84): banjo player who began with Jimmy Martin and continued through his own influential band New South, a band whose members included Ricky Skaggs, Jerry Douglas, Tony Rice, and Keith Whitley.

Dr. Wayne Daniel (February 16, unknown cause, age 92): a math professor with a deep love of country music, as evident by his award-winning book Pickin’ on Peachtree.  Also a frequent contributor to numerous country publications such as JEMF Quarterly and Journal of Country Music.

Linda Gayle Denny (September 2, long illness, age 77): the daughter of Hall of Fame member Jim Denny owned the booking agency Country Music Spectacular.

Nancy Dunne (August 5, unknown cause, age 90): longtime office manager for Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass.

Tommy Edwards (May 22, pancreatic cancer, age 75): bluegrass performer and teacher who had his own band, the Bluegrass Experience, in the early 70s. 

Bill Emerson (August 21, pneumonia, age 83): co-founder and original banjo player for the legendary Bluegrass Hall of Fame group the Country Gentlemen.

Don Everly (August 21, heart attack, age 84): half of the legendary Everly Brothers, who made country harmony a hit in pop and early rock music.

Margaret Everly (December 6, natural causes, age 102): the mother of Phil and Don Everly was a performer with husband Ike.  She was also responsible for taking the brothers to Nashville to launch their legendary career.

Ben Ewing (June 27, long illness, age 67): the general manager of the independent label Plowboy Records, whose roster included Bobby Bare and Chuck Mead.

Tony Farr (January 6, COVID-19, age 84): steel guitarist who worked on the Big D Jamboree in Dallas and later as the steel player for the likes of Jerry Wallace, Jeannie C. Riley, and Tommy Overstreet.

Neil Flanz (December 2, complications from abdominal surgery, age 83): steel guitarist whose biggest claim to fame, after all his session work, was as a member of Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris’ backing band the Fallen Angels.

Randy “Baja” Fletcher (August 27, injuries from a fall, age 73): lighting and tour manager who won the first “Touring Lifetime Achievement” award by the CMA in 2017.  He fell from the stage during a Keith Urban concert in Ohio.

Aaron “Frosty” Foster (February 10, suspected allergic reaction, age 28): guitarist in the bluegrass bands the Amanda Cook Band and Boone & Foster.

Robert W. Fulks Jr. (June 27, unknown cause, age 78): regional musician and the father of alt-country singer/songwriter Robbie Fulks.

Dennis Glaser (January 21, unknown cause, age 92): cousin of Tompall and the Glaser Brothers who worked for them during their career.

June Glaser (October 11, unknown cause, age 82): the widow of Tompall Glaser also worked as a bookkeeper for the National Life and Accident Insurance Company during their ownership of the Opry and WSM.

Renee Grant-Williams (November 12, Parkinson’s disease, age 78): renown vocal coach who worked with artists such as Faith Hill, Garth Brooks, and Linda Ronstadt.

Earl "J.T." Gray (March 20, long illness, age 75): a bluegrass musician who worked with Jimmy Martin and had his own band, but earned his way into the Bluegrass Hall of Fame beginning in 1975 with his purchase of the legendary Nashville bluegrass venue the Station Inn.

Nanci Griffith (August 13, cancer, age 69): Grammy-award winning singer and songwriter noted for her deep story songs such as “Love at the Five and Dime.”

Tom T. Hall (August 20, unknown cause, age 85): the multiple hall-of-fame "Storyteller" who wove intricate details into his songs about everyday life, making the most "boring" story fascinating.

Roger Hawkins (May 20, COPD, age 75): Musicians Hall of Fame drummer for “the Swampers,” the legendary house band at the Muscle Shoals recording studio in Alabama.  He played on thousands of sessions for country, pop, blues, and rock acts.

Kerry Hay (October 13, unknown cause, age 89): owner of Hay Holler Records, a Virginia-based label with releases by acts such as the Goins Brothers, the Gibson Brothers, Big Country Bluegrass, and the Sand Mountain Boys.

John Hickman (May 11, long illness, age 78): banjo player who worked for a number of decades with Byron Berline.  Berline also passed away this year.

Ronnie Hobbs (June 15, unknown cause, age 67): one of the co-founders of the Nashville Palace and the Music Valley entertainment district.

Lamarse “Cotton” Ivy (May 25, long illness, age 91): Tennessee state legislator who moonlighted as a country comedian.  He made numerous appearances on Hee Haw.  

Stonewall Jackson (December 4, vascular dementia, age 89): legendary country performer who began with a dream in the mid-50s and rose to superstardom with hits like “Don’t Be Angry,” “BJ the DJ,” and the crossover hit “Waterloo.”

Wilbur “Anthony” Joyner (July 13, long illness, age 54): bass player and teacher who worked on tour with the likes of Lee Greenwood and Faith Hill.

Martin Kahan (July 18, cancer, age 74): video producer who won numerous CMA awards for videos for acts such as Ricky Skaggs, John Michael Montgomery, and Alan Jackson.

Ginny Kalmbach (December 30, 2020, unknown cause, age 85): the owner of the legendary Ginny's Little Longhorn Saloon in Austin, Texas.  They were both immortalized in the Dale Watson song "Honkiest Tonkiest Beer Joint.”

Craig Karp (August 15, unknown cause, age 76): songwriter with a list of hits including Tanya Tucker’s #1 hit “If It Don’t Come Easy” and Marie Osmond’s “There’s No Stopping Your Heart.”

Gene Kennedy (April 1, COVID-19, age 87): R.O.P.E. founder and president of Door Knob Records, Nashville’s longest surviving all-country music indie label.

Ken Kragen (December 14, natural causes, age 85): manager for a variety of acts including country’s Kenny Rogers, pop’s Lionel Richie, and folk’s Harry Chapin.  He organized the USA for Africa “We Are the World” single, which featured appearances by Willie Nelson and Rogers.

Phil Leadbetter (October 14, COVID-19, age 59): bluegrass Dobro player who won the IBMA award for best dobro player, and countless fans and friends in his 40-year career.

Lisa Lee (August 21, brain cancer, age 52): senior vice president of the Academy of Country Music.

Tom LeGarde (July 30, natural causes, age 90): the surviving half of Australia’s identical country duo the LeGarde Twins.

Hugh X. Lewis (December 30, 2020, unknown cause, age 90): singer/songwriter who had a few minor charted hits and wrote the classic Stonewall Jackson hit "B.J. the D.J.”

Jim Lightman (October 3, unknown cause, age 57): Grammy-nominated recording engineer who worked with acts such as Hank III and Confederate Railroad.

Don Maddox (September 12, Alzheimer’s disease, age 95): the last surviving member of the 40s/50s groundbreaking “most colorful hillbilly band” the Maddox Brothers and Rose.

Kenny Malone (August 26, COVID-19, age 83): one of the most prolific drummers in Nashville history.  He began in the U.S. Navy band and from there, worked with the likes of Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton, Waylon Jennings, and countless others in country, pop, and rock.

Rose Lee Maphis (October 26, natural causes, age 98): widow of Joe Maphis, and his singing and songwriting (“Dim Lights, Thick Smoke [And Loud, Loud Music]”) partner throughout his career.  She spent her later years as a host and tour guide at the Country Music Hall of Fame. 

Randy Lee Martin (May 12, COVID-19, age 72): album art designer whose work included albums by Merle Haggard, Shenandoah, and the Charlie Daniels Band.

Larry McMurtry (March 25, heart failure, age 84): award-winning author (Terms of Endearment, Lonesome Dove) and screenwriter (Brokeback Mountain) who was the father of Americana artist James McMurtry. 

Curtis McPeake (February 20, natural causes, age 93): banjo player who was a member of Danny Davis and the Nashville Brass, as well as a widely-loved bluegrass musician.

Joyce Milsap (September 6, leukemia, age 81): wife of Hall of Famer Ronnie Milsap since 1965 and his “unofficial” manager.  Their son, Todd, passed away in 2019.

Bob Mitchell (January 26, COVID-19, age 83): host of the syndicated Best of Bluegrass program and a journalist for Bluegrass Now. 

Bob Moore (September 22, long illness, age 88): Musicians Hall of Fame bass player and "A Team" member who played with just about everyone, and even had his own pop hit with "Mexico" in 1961.

Jason Moore (November 21, heart attack, age 47): bass player in the IBMA award-winning band Sideline.

Stan Moress (September 6, Parkinson’s disease, age 83): manager for generations of country acts, from Roger Miller and Tammy Wynette to Clint Black and Mindy McCreedy.

Misty Morgan (January 1, cancer, age 75): half of the husband-and-wife duo Jack Blanchard & Misty Morgan, who had the #1 hit "Tennessee Bird Walk" in 1970.

Norma Morris (August 20, Alzheimer’s disease, age 82): publicist who worked with a variety of acts, from folk’s Jesse Winchester to bluegrass’s Jim & Jesse to country’s Vince Gill.

Michael Nesmith (December 10, heart failure, age 78): the former Monkee was also a songwriter (Linda Ronstadt/Stone Poneys’ breakout hit “Different Drum”), producer, video innovator, and had his own success in country music  with “Joanne” and “Some of Shelly’s Blues.”

Spencer Nitchie (August 6, short illness, age 57): publisher of the Banjo Newsletter.  

Jamie O'Hara (January 7, cancer, age 70): award-winning songwriter ("Grandpa [Tell Me 'Bout the Good Old Days]") and half of the duo the O'Kanes.

Roland “Sonny” Osborne (October 24, complications of a stroke, age 83): banjo-playing half of the Bluegrass Hall of Fame duo the Osborne Brothers.

Peter Ostroushko (February 24, heart/respiratory ailments, age 67): fiddler who was featured on A Prairie Home Companion and served as a backing musician for the likes of Chet Atkins, Robin & Linda Williams, and Norman Blake.

Bill Owens (April 7, unknown cause, age 85): Dolly Parton's uncle who helped her career get off the ground.  He also co-wrote the Bill Phillips hit "Put It Off Until Tomorrow" with Parton.

Joe Palmaccio (October 16, injuries in a motorcycle accident, age 56): Grammy-winning mastering engineer whose works included his award-winning work on The Complete Hank Williams box set.

Randy Parton (January 21, cancer, age 67):  the younger brother of Dolly Parton was a singer and songwriter as well.  He was one of two members of Parton’s family to pass in 2021, the other being Dolly’s uncle Bill Owens.

Dennis Payne (April 8, complications of spinal surgery, age 71): musician who played with the likes of Little Jimmy Dickens and songwriter whose credits include“Highway Patrol,” a hit for Red Simpson (1966) and Junior Brown (1989).  His uncle was songwriting legend Leon Payne.

Jim Peva (May 5, unknown cause, age 92): longtime photographer, videographer, and historian for Bill Monroe’s Bean Blossom bluegrass festival in Indiana.

Charles “Buster” Phillips (May 26, unknown cause, age 74): session drummer whose work included albums by Ronnie Mislay, Tanya Tucker, Eddie Rabbitt, and Levon Helm.

Ron “Snake” Reynolds (October 5, unknown cause, age 76): legendary studio engineer who worked with people as diverse as Elton John, Elvis Costello, and Merle Haggard.

John Riggs (September 17, unknown cause, age 80): songwriter (Mel Street’s “Forbidden Angel”) and WSM employee who helped Ralph Emery during his long tenure on the WSM overnight show.

Lou Robin (May 18, unknown cause, age 90): longtime manager of the legendary Johnny Cash.

Bill Runkle (January 7, COVID 19, 82nd birthday): beloved bluegrass radio host in Pennsylvania and former banjo player with Del McCoury’s Dixie Pals.

Gary Scruggs (December 1, unknown cause, age 72): Grammy-winning progressive bluegrass bass player and the oldest son of Earl Scruggs.

Ken Seaman (September 23, aneurysm, age 79): banjo player and co-founder of the Bluegrass Patriots and founder of the Midwinter Bluegrass Festival in Colorado.

Wayne Spears (August 21, drowned, age 70): the longtime foreman at Loretta Lynn's Hurricane Mills ranch.  He was one of over 20 victims of a flood that hit Waverly, Tennessee. 

Brian Tankersley (February 5, illness, age 64): engineer and producer who worked in gospel (Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith) and country (Sawyer Brown, Vern Gosdin).

B.J. Thomas (May 29, lung cancer, age 78): singer and songwriter whose hits included "New Looks From an Old Lover," "Whatever Happened to Old Fashioned Love," and his crossover hit "(Hey Won't You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song."

Sue Thompson (September 26, natural causes, age 96): country and pop crossover artist whose career was highlighted by a string of John D. Loudermilk-penned tunes such as "Norman" and "James (Hold the Ladder Steady)."

Kim Tribble (August 25, Lewy Body dementia, age 69): songwriter for David Lee Murphy who also wrote hits such as “Guys Do It All the Time” by Mindy McCreedy and “Addicted to a Dollar” by Doug Stone.

Glenn Douglas Tubb (May 22, unknown cause, age 85): the nephew of Ernest Tubb and man who continued the “Midnight Jamboree” tradition was also a songwriter, best-known for Henson Cargill’s hit “Skip a Rope.”

Don Tucker (January 12, dementia, age 76): longtime manager for his sister, Tanya Tucker.

Ronnie Tutt (October 16, natural causes, age 83): drummer for Elvis’ TCB band from 1969 until Elvis’ death.

Chris Wall (July 30, cancer, age unknown): Texas-based singer, songwriter, and poet.

Terri Lynn Watson Wear (February 2, unknown cause, age 58): the daughter of country great Gene Watson.

Jim Weatherly (February 3, natural causes, age 77): Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member whose songwriting success ("The Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me") extended far beyond country music, thanks to Gladys Knight & the Pips' cover of "Midnight Train to Georgia."  

George Wein (September 13, natural causes, age 95): the founder of the Newport Folk Festival, which allowed bluegrass and country acts to get exposure to a wider audience in the 60s and 70s.

Tommy West (May 2, Parkinson’s disease, age 78): the producer of acts such as Jim Croce, Gail Davies, and Ed Bruce.

James White (January 23, congestive heart failure, age 81): owner of Austin's legendary Broken Spoke venue.

Larry Willoughby (January 14, COVID-14, age 70): former member of Guy Clark’s band who graduated to songwriting (“Operator Operator” for Eddie Raven) and the vice president of A&R at Capitol Records.  His cousin is singer/songwriter Rodney Crowell.

Melyear “Woody” Woodell (December 2, cancer, age 91): steel guitarist who worked on the Opry and toured with countless stars.

Rusty Young (April 14, heart attack, age 75): Steel Guitar Hall of Fame member who co-founded the country-rock band Poco and served as its only original member for 53 years.  Longtime Poco member Paul Cotton also died this year.

Jim Zerface (October 23, Alzheimer’s disease, age 81): songwriter with a list of credits that include “You’d Make an Angel Want to Cheat” by the Kendalls and “(You Lift Me) Up to Heaven” by Reba McEntire.

Phil Zimmerman (April 16, cancer, age 77): photographer who is credited with photographing the first bluegrass festival.  His book Bluegrass Time shared his photos of the iconic names in bluegrass.

Farewell, and thank you for the music.

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