Thursday, March 08, 2012

Farewell to the Mayor of Music Row

Category:  News/Obituary

It is with great sadness that I report the death of pioneering country music journalist Charlie Lamb.  Lamb died Wednesday (3/7) from complications of pneumonia.

Charlie Lamb hailed from Knoxville, where his mother and father were performers.  Lamb was bitten by the bug early in his life and learned well from his parents.  Lamb perfected the art of "double talk" and worked in carnivals until World War II started.

After the war Lamb returned to Knoxville and became involved in the city's star-heavy country music scene, working as both a DJ at WROL and a music reporter for the Knoxville Journal.  He also served as a booking agent for several Knoxville-based performers such as Carl Smith and Flatt & Scruggs.

Nashville took notice of Lamb's talent and connections.  He landed a job as the country music reporter for Cash Box magazine.  As Lamb frequently told the International Country Music Conference audience, he would commute the 200-plus miles between Knoxville and Nashville, stopping along the road to shave in a creek.  Eventually he left Knoxville for good when Mercury Records offered him a position.

Lamb was a tireless worker for the advancement of country music.  He was one of the founding fathers of the Country Music Association and the first president of the Nashville chapter of NARAS.  He started the magazine Country Music Reporter (later just Music Reporter) to give the music a larger spotlight than it would find in the scant three or four pages Billboard devoted to it.  His efforts earned him the nickname "the Mayor of Music Row."

Even late in his life Lamb continued to promote country music.  He helped start the Jimmie Rodgers Memorial Festival in Meridian, and he attended ICMC every May to help recognize journalism excellence in country music with the Charlie Lamb Award.

His stories at ICMC were as legendary as the man himself.  He would regale the audience with tales of his days sharing a house with Elvis Presley in Hollywood or watching people such as Brenda Lee and Webb Pierce begin their Hall of Fame careers.  

ICMC will go on, of course, but from now on there will be a huge hole left in the conference by this 5'6" dynamo of country music journalism and history known as Charlie Lamb.

Charlie Lamb was 90.

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