Saturday, December 31, 2016

Country's Final Bows of 2016

Category:  Tribute 

Here are the performers who sang their final song in 2016.

Bonnie Brown (July 16, lung cancer, age 77):  one-third of the Country Music Hall of Fame sibling trio the Browns, she lost her battle with lung cancer 13 months after her brother Jim Ed's death from the same disease.

Rick Christian (May 3, unknown cause, age 61):  songwriter best known for writing Kenny Rogers' hit "I Don't Need You."

Guy Clark (May 17, long illness, age 74):  far beyond a "songwriter's songwriter," he was more of a novelist's novelist.  One of the most brilliant, heart-touching, detailed storytelling songwriters of this -- or any other -- generation.

Jack Davis (July 27, natural causes, age 91): the co-founder of Mad magazine lent his brilliant artistic skills to a number of country music album covers, including those by Ben Colder, Johnny Cash, and nine Homer & Jethro albums.

Andrew Dorff (December 19, unknown causes, age 40): songwriter with a number of modern hits including Kenny Chesney's "Save It for a Rainy Day."

Holly Dunn (November 15, ovarian cancer, age 59):  singer/songwriter with a string of hits in the 90s including "You Really Had Me Going" and her signature song, "Daddy's Hands."

Richard Fagan (August 5, liver cancer, age 69): country songwriter who wrote hits for Mel McDaniel ("Real Good Feel Good Song"), George Strait ("Overnight Male"), and John Michael Montgomery ("Sold [The Grundy County Auction Incident]").  His "Overnight Male" co-writer, Kim Williams, also died this year.

Joey Feek (March 4, cervical cancer, age 40):  half of the husband-and-wife duo Joey + Rory who had a TV series on RFD TV and saw their album, Hymns, debut at #1 on the Billboard country charts despite being "too country" and never having a "hit."

Brien Fisher (March 11, unknown cause, age 82):  Nashville music producer whose best-known work included hits with the Kendalls such as "Heaven's Just a Sin Away" and Vern Gosdin's "Today My World Slipped Away."

Joey Floyd (February 15, cancer, age 54):  longtime guitarist in Toby Keith's band.

Glenn Frey (January 18, pneumonia/acute ulcerative colitis, age 67):  co-founder of the legendary Eagles, the band that personified country-rock in the 70's, and lead singer on their biggest country hit, "Lyin' Eyes."

Gogi Grant (March 10, natural causes, age 91):  pop singer who recorded what is probably the best-known version of the classic song "The Wayward Wind."

Mark Gray (December 2, unknown cause, age 64): one-time member of the country-rock band Exile and songwriter of Alabama's hits "The Closer You Get" and "Take Me Down."

Ray Griff (March 9, post-operative pneumonia, age 75):  Canadian-born country singer with a string of hits in the 70's including "If I Let Her Come In," "Patches," and "You Ring My Bell."

Merle Haggard (April 6, pneumonia, age 79):  the legendary "poet of the common man" who sang of prison, blue collar life, and heartache died on his 79th birthday.

Bill Ham (June 22, natural causes, age 79):  Texas-based manager of rock legends ZZ Top as well as the man who discovered and managed country superstar Clint Black.

Hoot Hester (August 30, cancer, age 66):  fiddler for the Opry staff band for years who backed acts as diverse as the Manhattan Transfer and Ray Charles.  He helped co-found the Time Jumpers.  And, on a personal note, he was my aunt's cousin.

Dan Hicks (February 6, liver cancer, age 74):  eclectic and quirky singer/songwriter, best known for the song "I Scare Myself," who incorporated elements of country, western swing, and jazz into his performances.

Pete Huttlinger (January 15, stroke, age 54):  noted flat picker guitarist who made several solo albums as well as toured with LeAnn Rimes and John Denver.

Bud Isaacs (September 4, natural causes, age 88): the Steel Guitar Hall of Famer who played on the first #1 song to feature a pedal steel ("Slowly" by Webb Pierce in 1953), he was a steel guitar master and innovator.

Sonny James (February 22, natural causes, age 86):  Country Music Hall of Famer who went from playing fiddle as a session musician to international superstardom with hits such as "Young Love," "True Love's a Blessing," and "Born to Be With You."

Kacey Jones (September 1, colon cancer, age 66):  humorist, singer, musician, leader of the country humor act Ethel and the Shameless Hussies, and a writer of songs such as Mickey Gilley's hit "I'm the One Mama Warned You About."

James King (May 19, liver disease, age 58):  bluegrass singer who went from an unofficial member of Ralph Stanley's Clinch Mountain Boys to leader of the James King Band and member of the supergroup Longview, known for his heartfelt story songs such as "Thirty Years of Farming" and "Bed By the Window."

John D. Loudermilk (September 21, bone cancer, age 82): Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer who wrote countless songs from lighthearted novelty songs ("Road Hog") to love songs (Bob Luman's "The Great Snowman") to protest songs ("Indian Reservation [Lament of the Cherokee Reservation Indian]").

Charlie "Sonny" Louvin Jr. (January 27, unknown causes, age 61):  the son of Hall of Fame member Charlie Louvin frequently played guitar with his father on the road and on the Grand Ole Opry.

Lana Meisner (March 6, accidental shooting, age 63):  wife of original Eagles bassist/vocalist Randy Meisner.

Ned Miller (March 18, natural causes, age 90):  singer and songwriter whose best-known composition was "From a Jack to a King," a hit for himself and Ricky Van Shelton and covered by acts from Jim Reeves to Elvis Presley.

Chips Moman (June 13, long illness, age 79):  Grammy-winning songwriter (for BJ Thomas' hit "[Hey, Won't You Play] Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song") who also contributed songs as diverse as "The Dark End of the Street" (an R&B hit covered by Archie Campbell) and "Luckenbach, Texas (Back to the Basics of Love)."  Morman died the day after his 79th birthday.

Don Parmley (July 30, long illness, age 82): banjo player and founder of the bluegrass band the Bluegrass Cardinals.

Joyce Paul (February 15, unknown cause, age 78):  60's country singer who had songs such as "Phone Call to Mama" and "I'm the Girl on the Billboard."

Gary S. Paxton (July 16, unknown cause, age 77): singer, songwriter, and producer who went from a member of the Hollywood Argyles ("Alley Oop") to country hits songwriter ("Woman (Sensuous Woman)" for Don Gibson) to Grammy-winning gospel songwriter and performer.

Curtis Potter (January 23, pneumonia, age 75):  a member of Hank Thompson's Brazos Valley Boys, he enjoyed his own career as well as performing with Tony Booth and Darrell McCall as The Survivors.

Curly Putman (October 30, long illness, age 85):  Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member who wrote or co-wrote countless hits, including "Green, Green Grass of Home," "He Stopped Loving Her Today," "D-I-V-O-R-C-E," and "War Is Hell (On the Homefront Too)."

Jim Ridley (April 8, cardiac arrest, age 50):  longtime editor and journalist at the Nashville Scene music paper.

Floyd Robinson (May 28, long illness, age 79):  songwriter and singer who had one charted hit, the controversial 1959 country crossover song "Makin' Love."

Mildred Haynes Rymer (November 10, stroke, age 86): sister of Henry "Homer" Haynes of Homer & Jethro.

Jean Shepard (September 25, Parkinson's disease, age 82): Country Music Hall of Fame singer who began as the duet partner on "A Dear John Letter" and went on to legendary status with a career that spanned seven decades.

Red Simpson (January 8, heart attack, age 81):  one of the unsung heroes of the Bakersfield sound, he had one of the great "truck driving" songs with "Roll, Truck, Roll," wrote hits for Buck Owens ("Sam's Place"), and played on Merle Haggard's legendary "Okie From Muskogee."

Icey Sloan-Hawkins (December 17, stabbed to death, age 18): granddaughter of Jean Shepard and Hawkshaw Hawkins.  She was killed by her ex-boyfriend, who was then shot by Shepard's widower Benny Birchfield (who also suffered stab wounds).

Carol Smith (December 24, natural causes, age 94):  songwriter who collaborated on a number of Sonny James hits including "True Love's a Blessing," "A Little Bit South of Saskatoon," and "Don't Keep Me Hanging On."

Dr. Ralph Stanley (June 23, skin cancer, age 89):  one of the most important and significant figures in bluegrass history, Ralph overcame the 1966 death of his brother and music partner Carter to become the standard by which bluegrass performers are measured.

Kay Starr (November 3, Alzheimer's disease, age 94): singer with a long string of pop and jazz hits, she also had two top ten country hits in 1950 singing with Tennessee Ernie Ford.

Gordie Tapp (December 18, pneumonia, age 94): the head writer and one of the mainstays of the long running TV series Hee Haw.

Bob Tubert (April 10, natural causes, age 90):  Ozark Jubilee scriptwriter, music publisher who helped found the Nashville Songwriters Association International (NSAI) and helped establish Belmont University's Music Business program.

Janet Watson (February 8, unknown cause, age 70):  a Broadway choreographer who worked on the play Big River, which earned Roger Miller a Tony.

Kim Williams (February 11, unknown cause, age 68):  2012 Nashville Songwriters' Hall of Fame inductee who gave us, among others, Joe Diffie's "If the Devil Danced in Empty Pockets," George Strait's "Overnight Male," and Randy Travis' classic "Three Wooden Crosses."

Mentor Williams (November 16, unknown cause, age 70): country music singer/songwriter who teamed up with Troy Seals for a number of country hits ("A Few Ole Country Boys") but will be best remembered for his oft-covered song, "Drift Away" (which was a country hit for Narvel Felts in 1973).  He was also the longtime partner of Lynn Anderson.

Rick Wright (February 7, car wreck, age 57):  guitarist for Connie Smith's band for nearly two decades.

Steve Young (March 17, complications from a brain injury, age 73):  "outlaw" singer/songwriter best known for writing the classics "Lonesome, Orn'ry and Mean" and "Seven Bridges Road."

Farewell, and thank you for the music.

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