Alright folks, I suppose instead of writing individual articles about how many Legends and younger artists Country Music has lost in 2016, I included them all in one big article. So right now I am working myself stiff writing this mega awesome tribute to all of these truly iconic people Country Music has lost in 2016.
In fact for God’s sake 2016 isn’t even half over yet and already it has taken many of our powerhouse top names within many areas of Country Music from the Outlaw Era to the Bakersfield Sound Era to songwriters and even an WSM 650 announcer. So folks I cannot always jump on individual articles for everyone BUT I DO keep track of all the deaths and I DO truthfully miss these great contributors to the genres we love.
Freddy Powers who died in June of 2016 was a truly gifted individual that gave Country Music many number one songs for the likes of Merle Haggard who also died in 2016. He also wrote songs for Willie Nelson and produced the classic album “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” in 1981.
He began at a young age to juxtapose Country and Dixieland Jazz together to make a style of music unbeknown to the general public at any time pretty much, I never heard anything like it to be honest. He went on the write one of my favorite songs Teddy And Doyle Wilburn ever recorded called “Nothing At All”. His early band The Powerhouse Four” were a major attraction in Vegas highly adored by mob bosses until the government changed the face of Vegas and he put the banjo down for Country Music.
He assisted in ushering in the Outlaw Era of Country Music in the 1970’s when he and Merle Haggard bought houseboats next to each other on Lake Shasta and wrote all those classic songs while his tenure as one of Merle Haggard’s Strangers was as hallowed as Norman Hamlet and Roy Nichols.
Freddy Powers developed Parkinson’s Disease and had a long battle with the disease but still remained active for many years until his death upon much encouragement from his beloved wife Catherine.
Ironically I was actually with Shooter Jennings when I received a text that Mr. Steve Young had died, I didn’t have the heart to inform Shooter of the news because I knew how much love he had for this man and I just didn’t want to spread this tragic news before the family did.
He was an Altamont Original and he was part of what I call the “Altamont Seven” where they lined up seven iconic songwriters for one of the biggest rounds I ever witnessed on a festival stage hands down. He contributed many songs to music like the epic song “Seven Bridges Road” for the Eagles.
Probably one of the coolest moments I had ever witnessed was at “Outlaws And Icons” where the secretly had Whey Jennings come in from behind him to sing “Lonesome Ornry And Mean” and he stopped and said “Oh Dear That Sounds Exactly Like Waylon, Who Is That”? One of the truly finest performances of that song I ever heard.
He also recorded his own version of the Utah Phillips classic “Rock Salt And Nails” and named his first album after the song. Steve Young was one of the many overlooked Country Music Songwriting Legends that we had left.
Hoyt Scoggins was a truly obscure and rare Country Music Legend in that he was actually present when Hank Williams finished “I Saw The Light” and was very close to Hank And Audrey Williams and often visited their home on Franklin Road. He and Hank Williams both shared a mutual admiration for Roy Acuff and during Hank’s rapid decline in 1952 Hoyt Scoggins was right there with Hank.
Hoyt also spoke at the funeral service for Hank Williams which to this day is still one of the biggest public gatherings in Alabama history. He went on to own many record labels and co-worte songs with Walter Bailes and many others, he was very involved with the Starday label he was inducted into the Alabama Country Music Hall Of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame as well.
Mr. Jimmy was a frequent guest on Ernest Tubb’s Midnite Jamboree and was a prominent radio announcer in the Texas music scene. mmy was born in an Oklahoma town that no longer exists and also from a small town named Poolville Oklahoma. At a very early age he was given a guitar and taught by friends to play Hank Williams songs, and began performing at churches. In 1955 after his hero passed away he was under the impression Country Music was not going to move forward and he enlisted in the service, and in 1958 he was discharged.
Drought and depression were prominently what he returned to when he came home and he did farm work until the Legendary Panther Hall opened in 1961. He was very involved in the historic Country Music venue until his children were born, and he decided to quit the business to raise his children and be a father. For nearly twenty years Jimmy did not perform or record music to be there for his family.
After his children were grown, he began his musical career again. He formed a band in the late 1980s and called it the “Pure Country Band”. He recorded the first album in 1990. A tribute to Hank Williams, Sr., it was called “Jimmy Eaves Sings the Hits of Hank Williams”. He was also performing in the Fort Worth Stockyards at a club called “The Longhorn Saloon” for about six years. Other CDs followed; one in 1997 entitled “Jimmy Eaves Sings Pure Country” and another in 1999 entitled “Bringing Back Memories”.
In May of 2001, Jimmy and Frankie Miller released a country gospel CD called “Frankie Miller and Jimmy Eaves Singing Gospel Music the Country Way”. Jimmy says it was a pleasure to work with such a talented person as Frankie Miller, “The Black Land Farmer” and they also tour together on most shows. They have performed with many country acts such as Johnny Bush, Darrell McCall, Willie Nelson, Claude Gray, Floyd Tillman, Tilmon Frank and others over the past few years. Jimmy and Frankie were guests on “The Midnight Jamboree” at the Troubadour Theater in Nashville, Tennessee with Darrell and Mona McCall also at the original “Ernest Tubb Record Shop” on Broadway in Nashville, Tennessee with host George Hamilton IV.
Sonny James was one of the few Country Music Legends I have never met and I was never around him, but that fact alone had no bearing on my love and admiration of his music. Honestly, a point I often raise with those that often bash and scorn “pop country” (and honestly I have had my own tirades) is that in the 1950’s and all through the years some of these men and women that sang Country also sang pop country of their time…Sonny James was one of them. His sound and style often crossed over to the pop realm of his time, but I also cover the argument that the pop country of the 50’s certainly was not the packaged horrible overproduced butt wiggling that exists today.
In fact Sonny James was one of the ones that was credited with ushering in the “Nashville Sound” of the late 1960’s, and era that I have been heavily studying. This was the era that was answered by another branch of Country Music, the Outlaw Movement and in fact both branches of Country competed for sales.
onny James was born James Hugh Loden on May 1st 1929 in Alabama, and he began performing at an early age. His entertaining took a short lapse when in 1949 he was sent to Korea as part of the National Guard however he was sent home a short time later.
Back in Nashville his roommate the Legendary Chet Atkins who pretty much pioneered the Nashville Sound altogether strongly suggested to Legendary producer of Capitol Records Ken Nelson to sign James Loden. Ken Nelson suggested that in order to not be confused with some other stars of the time to change his name to Sonny James, and that’s how the name was made.
Through the short time he began recording he was noticed as a quiet and humble man and possessing a wide array of mannerisms that earned him the nickname “The Southern Gentleman” by his peers. He began to record for Capitol Records in 1950 with his first single being “Short Cut” which wasn’t well embraced, however his fiddle skills were and he began playing fiddle for Jim and Jesse McReynolds so fondly that after his tenure with them they couldn’t find another fiddle player to rival his style.
His next single for Capitol was “That’s Me Without You” and that one was embraced by radio and others however chart wise he never scored many hits until 1957 when his ballad “Young Love” hit both the Country and Pop charts high up. With it’s polished sound and production it pretty much was one of the backbones for the Nashville Sound.
Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s he was a regular on the Ozark Jubilee and had a star on the walk of fame. He was invited to join the Grand Ole Opry in 1962 and in 1965 he rivaled Buck Owens as the biggest star on the Capitol roster, although in the early 1970’s upon the death of Don Rich, Buck Owens was pretty much halted.
In 1971 he made a cassette tape for the Apollo 14 space crew to listen to and in return he was presented with an American flag they brought to the moon. He also produced many albums for people in the 1970’s and in 1972 he was brought over to Columbia Records by none other than Clive Davis and although he only remained on that label until 1979 he recorded the greatest album of his career for them called “In Person In Prison”. That album was actually recorded in the Tennessee State Prison with some of the prisoners playing on it.
He retired form the music business in 1983 until he was brought back to the spotlight upon his induction into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 2006.
Curtis had been battling congestive heart failure and pneumonia during the last week,” Heart of Texas Records president Tracy Pitcox said. “Before becoming ill, he was actively performing, booking dates and getting ready to return to the recording studio.”
At the age of 16, Potter was given his own radio television show on KRBC in Abilene and was part of the Bill Fox and Slim Willet shows.
In 1959, Potter joined the Hank Thompson organization. Thompson was impressed with the young vocalist and invited him to front the Brazos Valley Band and play bass guitar for him. In the thirteen years that Potter was with Hank, he traveled all over the United States, Europe, the Far East and even a much sought after Carnegie Hall appearance.
Potter’s first major hit was “You Comb Her Hair Every Morning” recorded on Dot Records and released May of 1969. That song would gather enough attention to become the catalyst of a forty five year recording career.
In 1973, Capitol Records released Potter’s shuffle “Walkin’ Talkin’ Breathin’ Case of Sorrow“. It was followed by a Texas Dance Hall album with Darrell McCall and Ray Sanders. In 1978, Dave Franer signed Curtis to Hillside Records releasing two very successful projects.
In 1984, Potter helped to form Step One Records in Nashville. Step One would become the largest independent label in the world releasing projects on Gene Watson, Ray Price, Kitty Wells, Hank Thompson and Clinton Gregory.
Potter and Willie Nelson had a number one video on Step One Records in 1995. “Turn Me Loose And Let Me Swing” was taken from the album “Six Hours At The Pedernales” and teamed Potter and Nelson recording twelve songs in a six hour session at Nelson‘s studio.
In 2005, Potter signed with Heart of Texas Records. Potter released “Them Old Honky Tonks” “Chicago Dancing Girls” “Down In Texas Today” and “The Potter’s Touch.” He also recorded two projects with Tony Booth and Darrell McCall under the name “The Survivors.”
His last album “Songs Of The Cherokee Cowboy” was a tribute to his hero Ray Price. Nelson joined Potter once again in the studio to record the title track for the album. Potter’s last professional appearance was on December 31, with McCall at the Heart of Texas Events Center in Brady, Texas.
First off in my cover photo YES THAT IS Stump Tail Dolly, at the time they were not formed. They played ONE HELL of a show in 2013 at Muddy Roots Festival, you know what Mr. Owen is welcomed him in Heaven I’m sure. Bob Wayne and the Outlaw Carnies and Jason Galaz and Gene Thome and so many more brought him to us.
I spoke with him on the phone so many times and I asked him once Who discovered you? KNOWING Fuzzy Owens did Haha
but he said well, My Momma and the doctor discovered me coming out…
He was 14 years old when he wrote the song “Endless Black Ribbon” and replaced Buck Owens at clubs when he became of age, when Fuzzy Owens discovered him and in fact he and Owens began writing songs together in the 1960’s. Their biggest charting hit was ‘Gonna Have Love”..I’m thinking it was 1962 or 3. He had a huge role in forming the west coast Bakersfield Sound of one of my favorite era’s of Country Music ever.
Ken Nelson wanted some trucking songs and Merle Haggard was not interested so Simpson was contacted and he agreed. His first album “Roll Truck Roll” debuted in the top 50 and that song was one of his biggest songs. His next hit was “Sam’s Place” and the ever popular “I’m A Truck”.
In 1972 he debuted on the Opry and in 1976 he recorded “Truck Driver’s Heaven” for Capitol Records, if you can find the first pressing of that album it is a “Holy Grail” to collectors and VERY RARE. In 1980 Merle Haggard recorded his song “Lucky Old Colorado” and also in 1979 Charlie Walker recorded “Close All The Honky Tonks”, and that was re-recorded many times.
In 1995 Junior Brown brought him forth to record two hits “Semi Crazy” and “Nitro Express” and Red Simpson also wrote “Highway Patrol” which was a big hit for Junior Brown. Since then he was a regular in his local scene of Bakersfield performing at Trout’s weekly and he and many more were FINALLY recognized at the Country Music Hall Of Fame with a Bakersfield Sound exhibit, and was given a guest appearance there.
In 2013 like I said Mr. Jason brought him to our hallowed field and we set him on a chair on the O’l Wood Stage and yelled out songs to him and he played for well over an hour and a half that night. He stayed and took pictures with every inquiry until the line wound down. In fact he played “Roll Truck Roll” TWICE for us just because we asked.
Mr. Ray was one of the finest and most overlooked Canadian Country Music Legends we ever had, and his albums are highly sought after by collectors although they are now all re-issued. He began songwriting in the 1960’s and had early cuts by Johnny Horton and Gentleman Jim Reeves, and although his own albums had very little commercial success on the charts he is very much revered.
Ray Griff had an impressive 700 songs recorded in his career including the major hits “Canadian Pacific” for George Hamilton IV and “Who’s Gonna Play This Old Piano” for Jerry Lee Lewis. He went on to write major hits for Porter Wagoner and Dolly Parton, Bob Luman, Wilma Burgess, Gene Watson and Johnny Duncan. In the 1970’s until this March Ray Griff remained a local Legend in the Canadian Music scene as March 9th he died of surgery complications.
Joey Feek touched all of our hearts this year with all of their posts from her long and drawn out battle with cancer that she fought at home with her husband Rory and all their daughters. Her bedside posts were viewed by literally millions worldwide and Country Music pretty much stopped when she died of cervical cancer in March of 2016.
Her and husband Rory Feek competed on the talent show “Can You Duet” and finished third however they were already making a name for themselves in town by establishing connections with Kix Brooks and many others. She released a 2005 solo album called “Strong Enough To Cry” however it was shelved and never released, however as a duo the released eight studio albums together.
In 2014 she was diagnosed with the cancer and she did some treatments however the cancer spread and went to other parts of her. Upon this news she decided to halt all treatments and return to Indiana to spend her remaining time in the house she grew up in. Her sister who was a registered nurse agreed to assist the hospice care unit to maintain her and at the end of February she fell into a deep sleep and never awakened.
Dr. Ralph Stanley
First off he is known as ‘Dr.” because he received two doctorate degrees from two different colleges for music in 1976 and 2014. He was one of the highest and most respected Bluegrass Legends of all time and was credited with bringing the genre forth with the likes of Bill Monroe and a select few.
He was heralded by the Opry as it’s oldest member and was the first to be inducted in the third millennium and was greatly loved as a featured regular in the last few years of Muddy Roots Music Festivals. His ever popular recitation titled “O Death” was brought back to the mainstream by the film “O Brother Where Art Thou” and was revered as an underground anthem.
In April of 2000 The name “Clinch Mountain Boys” and the instrumental “Clinch Mountain Backstep” were placed in the Smithsonian Institute and the Library Of Congress and are American treasures. He originally began in 1946 when he and brother Carter Stanley both recorded together. He began developing a signature claw hammer style of banjo taught by his mother, and in his teens he progressed he and his brother formed the Clinch Mountain Boys that had a ever revolving lineup.
When his brother Carter died in 1967 Ralph kept the Clinch Mountain Boys name until his death this week. Ralph Stanley took over a year hiatus and due to heavy response of letters and media attention he decided to return to Bluegrass and continue solo, that decision turned out to prove essential to history and the proliferation of Bluegrass.
Amazingly he began the careers of Ricky Skaggs and Keith Whitley who were a Bluegrass duo of their own however at the time they were both underage and in order to tour their parents had to sign over custodial rights to Ralph Stanley in order to tour.
Merle was and always will be one of the greatest Country Music Legends that ever lived, and was one of the few prominent forefathers of the Bakersfield Era of country Music. The Bakersfield Sound was a unique mixture of telecaster twang with steel guitar, and the lyrics were real, gritty and simple.
In his youth Merle was headed toward a criminal lifestyle and in fact before performing Country Music he was actually incarcerated several times and sent to Bakersfield jail after robbery and after a prison escape he was sent to San Quentin and was paroled in 1960. He was later pardoned by Governor Ronald Reagan 1972. He went on to release 47 studio albums along with 38 number one hits 8 live albums and 82 top singles before remarkably dying on his 79th birthday.
In 1962 he began recording and performing Country Music full time and began recording with Talley Records. His first national top ten record was “All My Friends Are Gonna Be Strangers” written by Liz Anderson mother of Lynn Anderson and as a result his band became known as the strangers.
In 1966 he recorded “I’m A Lonesome Fugitive” also written by Liz Anderson and his 1966 album “Branded Man” is a Country Music classic album in many ways. It began a long list of albums “Sing Me Back Home” and more that featured the steel guitar talents of another icon Norman Hamlet, and the guitar talents of Roy Nichols.
His producer Ken Nelson also produced another member of the Bakersfield Sound Buck Owens. Merle Haggard and Buck Owens also had another thing in common..wife Bonnie Owens and because of this his appearances on the syndicated television show Hee Haw were select few.
The turning of the 1970’s brought out Haggard’s pride of being from Oklahoma as he brought forth “Okie From Muskogee” and “Fightin’ Side Of Me” and he declared the song a documentation of the uneducated that lived in America at the time. He has always represented the American working man and the blue collar man.
He received a Kennedy Awards honor in 2010 a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 an has an induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame.
Guy Clark was another American Country Music Legend who released more than 20 albums and had songs recorded by the likes of Jerry Jeff Walker, Jimmy Buffett, Lyle Lovett Ricky Skaggs, Steve Wariner,Rodney Crowell and more.
Most importantly he wrote one of the most revered Outlaw songs of all time “Desperados Waiting For A Train” made popular by the Highwaymen and the New York Times declared him a King Of The Texas Troubadors. EmmyLou Harris sang backups on his recording of the iconic song on his album Old No. 1 released in 1975 and he is often referred to as the fifth highwayman.
He was an accomplished luthier and often played his own guitars, and also mentored songwriters like Steve Earle and Rodney Crowell and helped arrange them as writers in Nashville. His home is featured in the film “Heartworn Highways” because it was an open house for songwriters and musicians.
Bobby Bare released the song “New Cut road” in 1982 and was on the top 20 Country charts, Ricky Skaggs also hit number 1 with the song “Heartbroke”. Vince Gill also took his cover of Guy’s song “Oklahoma Borderline” to the top ten in 1985.
Ironic as it may sound here we have another songwriting Country Music Legend that died one day after his 79th birthday much like Merle Haggard did. He also produced the iconic album The Highwaymen that included Guy Clark’s song “Desperados Waiting For A Train”. See how it all fits together sometimes within studying this and WHY I choose to do things they way I do now?
He wrote the ever popular B.J.Thomas “Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song” among many others, and began his career with Stax Records before founding the American Sound Studio in Memphis Tennessee. He produced a classic Elvis Presely album that contained the Mac Davis hit “In The Ghetto” and “Kentucky Rain”.
He co-wrote Lukenbach Texas for Waylon Jennings and produced some of my favorite Ronnie Milsap albums along with Willie Nelson and Barbara Mandrell. And sang the song on the demo for “Always On My Mind” that Willie Nelson recorded.
Mr. Joey was longtime member and fiddle player of pop country icon Toby Keith’s Easy Money Band, and also long time player in Keith Urban’s band. He made Country Music history by playing Willie Nelson’s son in the movie “Honeysuckle Rose”.
Longtime WSM Radio producer and music director Kevin Anderson died Monday, May 16 in Nashville. He was 56 and died of cardiac arrest. Now once again you will see exactly why I operate like this folks because he played for another one in this article Sonny James.
Anderson moved to Nashville from Stoughton, Wisconsin, to attend Belmont University, but left to join country artist Jana Jae’s touring band. He then began backing Sonny James on guitar and background vocals.
Anderson left the road to begin working at Nashville’s WSM Radio, first as a producer for Bill Cody’s morning show, then as WSM-FM’s music director. He also worked part-time as an announcer for the Grand Ole Opry during his career.
Well folks there you have it and I’m about out of time here on this particular article I have a ton of other projects going on here on the website and festivals, news and all kinds of other irons in the fire. So thanks for staying with me and reading this big old article.