Country music has lost another key player. Former Buck Owens and the Buckaroos pedal steel player Jerry Brightman passed away on March 9 at the age of 61.

Born Gerald Warner Brightman in Akron, Ohio in 1953, Brightman was best known for his stint with Owens' legendary band from 1972-1975. According to a profile at, he began playing pedal steel at the age of six, and by age 12 he was playing at Ponderosa Park, a 12,000 seat outdoor facility located in Salem, Ohio. At 14 he joined the staff band at the Wheeling Jamboree in Wheeling, W. Va, performing on a regular live broadcast that covered 23 states and reached 250,000 people.

That led to a phone call from Owens, who asked Brightman to play on some recording sessions. A week later, Brightman officially joined the Buckaroos. He went on to tour the world with the group, recording 16 albums with Owens and appearing as a cast member on Hee Haw.

After the death of guitarist Don Rich in 1974, Brightman continued playing pedal steel and expanded his role in the band to cover guitar parts as well. He resigned the Buckaroos after three-and-a-half years in 1975, but returned for a run of Hee Haw episodes in 1976 before retiring once again from the band.

Brightman went on to work in the business side of music, helping to launch Jamboree in the Hills festival in 1975 and serving as general manager of the Saturday Night Jamboree radio program on WWVA from 1977-1982. In 2004 he began producing a line of professional steel guitars, and in his later years he continued to play some session dates.

According to his obituary, Brightman passed away suddenly at his home Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio on Monday. Visitation will take place March 16 from 6-7PM, with a memorial service following at 7PM at St. Luke's Lutheran Church.

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