Country Artists We’ve Lost in 2013
Country music lost one of the all-time greats when George Jones died in April of 2013. His death, while not a total shock, was still tragic. Fans, friends and many who called the Possum an influence continued to grieve over one of the greatest voices ever well into summer. Over 20 well-known singers, songwriters and music professionals joined Jones this year, leaving behind important songs and legacies for the younger generations to carry forward.
Country Music Hall of Famer Ray Price died on December 16 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. His career spanned 65 years, but his most successful years were the late ’50s and early ’60s. ‘For the Good Times’ helped him earn two ACM Awards, while a 2007 album with Merle Haggard and Willie Nelson scored him a Grammy. He’s remembered for his smooth baritone and distinctive shuffle, as well as for being a true country gentleman.
Wayne Mills befriended many country stars while trying to get his big break in the Nashville music scene. The native of Arab, Ala. led the Wayne Mills Band, a popular honky-tonk act across the southeast, and made connections with Blake Shelton, Jamey Johnson and more. Sadly, his life ended in a bar when he was shot by Pit and Barrel owner Chris Ferrell on November 23. He leaves behind a wife and 6-year-old son.
Cal Smith is best-known for his 1974 song ‘Country Bumpkin.” “And she said hello, country bumpkin / Fresh as frost out on the pumpkin,” Smith sang during this ACM and CMA award-winning hit. It was one of many from the man born Calvin Shofner in 1931. He started as Ernest Tubb’s rhythm guitarist, but in 1968 began a solo career that included multiple No. 1 hits. Smith was living in Branson, Mo. at the time of his death on Oct. 10, 2013. He left behind wife Darlene, one son, five grandchildren and 15 great-grandchildren.
Tompall Glaser joined Waylon Jennings, Jessie Colter and Willie Nelson as original outlaws on the 1976 ‘Wanted! The Outlaws’ album. Prior to that, he was a successful leader of Tompall and the Glaser Brothers, recording hits like ‘California Girl,’ ‘Rings’ and ‘Ain’t It All Worth Living For.’ The group won the Vocal Group of the Year award at the 1970 CMA Awards. Glaser’s Hillbilly Central studio was his lasting legacy, however. He opened the space to house his rowdy friends. “Former employees recalled Willie Nelson lazing on the front lawn and Waylon haunting the offices at three in the morning,” wrote one author. Glaser’s death on Aug. 13 at the age of 79 came after a long illness.
Willie Nelson‘s guitarist of 35 years died on Aug. 10. Jody Payne was with Nelson from 1973 until his retirement in 2008. In addition to playing live with the legend, he would also be called upon to sing during shows. He was well-known to longtime fans of the famous Texan. Payne was 77 years old when he died after suffering cardiac problems. Following his retirement to Stapleton, Ala., he kept busy teaching guitar at a local music store.
“Cowboy” Jack Clement
There’s hardly a superstar from the last 50 years who didn’t call upon “Cowboy” Jack Clement at some point. The 82-year-old was a legendary producer and songwriter who was responsible for artists like Jerry Lee Lewis and Charley Pride, plus writing songs for singers like Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton and Garth Brooks. Clement died on Aug. 8 after a long battle with cancer. He was to be inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in October 2013.
A man behind hits for Conway Twitty, Reba McEntire and Doug Stone died in early July. Johnny MacRae wrote ‘I’d Just Love to Lay You Down’ for Twitty and Stone’s ‘I’d Be Better Off (In a Pine Box)’ in addition to many other songs during a lengthy career that began after a 15-year stint in the U.S. Navy. In total, he charted over two dozen songs and earned several awards. He spent his later years working on his farm in Tennessee. MacRae died on July 3 at the age of 84.
Slim Whitman found fame in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s with hits like ‘Have I Told You Lately That I Love You’ and ‘Indian Love Call,’ but he may have been best known for his late-night television commercials. They were so famous, Johnny Carson famously poked fun at him during a number of sketches. In 1996, it was Whitman’s ‘Indian Love Call’ that saved the world in Tim Burton’s movie ‘Mars Attacks!’ Otis Dewey “Slim” Whitman died in June 2013 at the age of 90.
Songwriter Lorene Mann died in May of 2013. In addition to a solo career and being a popular duet partner to Justin Tubb, Mann co-founded the Nashville Songwriters Association International. She came up with their slogan: “It all begins with a song.” Her solo singles include ‘Have You Ever Wanted To’ and ‘Hide My Sin,’ a song about abortion. With Tubb, she cut ‘Hurry Mr. Peters’ and ‘We’ve Gone Too Far Again.’ She also wrote songs for Kitty Wells, Jerry Wallace and Norma Jean.
During a career that spanned 25 years, Tim Hensley sang, performed and recorded with country music legends like Patty Loveless, Ricky Skaggs and Kenny Chesney. The Cincinnati, Ohio-born mulit-instrumentalist began his career as a member of Skaggs’ band, but one year later began a 10-year run with Loveless that would produce much of her most important music. In 1999, he took a job on Chesney’s tour and stuck with him for over 10 years. Hensley died after his liver failed on April 30.
Braxton Schuffert was not only a member of Hank Williams‘ Drifting Cowboys band, he helped discover the future country legend. The Williams house was a stop on his delivery route in 1938, and that’s when Schuffert heard the then-15-year-old Hiram Williams sing. From there, the two began working and playing together, and before long, Williams was a star with Schuffert by his side. He died at the age of 97 on April 26 after an extended illness.
George Jones was remembered as one of the greatest country singers of all time during his funeral on May 2. The legendary singer died six days earlier after entering the hospital on April 18 with a fever and irregular blood pressure. The official cause of his death was hypoxic respiratory failure.
News of the Possum’s passing stopped Music City in its tracks on April 26. Tributes from an all-star cast of singers came pouring in. Dozens of current and future Country Music Hall of Famers poured into the private and public service to remember his life. His wife Nancy would call her husband a brave man who died peacefully knowing he was going to Heaven.
Fame didn’t find the Canadian First Lady of Song until 1986, when Rita MacNeil was 41 years old. The famously introverted Nova Scotia native would battle stage fright to become a sensation across the country over the next 25 years before dying from post-surgical complications on April 16, 2013. MacNeil sold millions of albums and was known for hit songs like ‘I’ll Accept the Rose’ and ‘Working Man.’ The 68-year-old left behind two children.
During a career that spanned seven decades, Gordon Stoker and the Jordanaires backed legends like Patsy Cline and Conway Twitty and performed critical roles recording all-time great hits like ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ by George Jones and ‘Lucille’ by Kenny Rogers. Stoker died on March 27 in his home in Brentwood, Tenn. He was 88 years old. While not an original member of the Jordanaires, he was there during the time the group helped to create the Nashville Sound. Tammy Wynette and Elvis Presley are other superstars they worked closely with during a long career.
Grand Ole Opry legend Jack Greene died on March 14, 2013 after a battle with Alzheimer’s. The “Jolly Green Giant” was known for his stature, as well as for being the first-ever CMA Male Vocalist of the Year. His hit ‘There Goes My Everything’ also took home Single and Album of the Year honors in 1967. Later, he’d record chart-toppers like ‘You Are My Treasure’ and ‘Until My Dreams Come True,’ as well as his signature tune ‘Statue of a Fool.’ Greene appeared at the Opry through December 2011, when he closed his career with ‘There Goes My Life.’
An original member of the Louisiana Hayride died on March 7, 2013, when Claude King passed away at his home in Shreveport, La. In addition to his work at the Hayride, King recorded a number of Top 10 hits during the ’60s and ’70s — most notably, ‘Wolverton Mountain’ from 1962. After his country music success waned, he went on to act in movies like ‘Swamp Girl’ in the early ’80s.
Stompin’ Tom Conners
Stompin’ Tom Connors was a legend in Canada, but was known around the world for his unique foot-stompin’ style, uncompromising dedication to his homeland and for ‘The Hockey Song.’ The 77-year-old died on March 6, leaving friends, fans and fellow country stars in mourning. Connors — a Canadian Country Music Hall of Famer — knew his time was ending, so he penned a heartfelt message just days before his death in which he thanked fans for their support and encouraged future generations to keep spreading the beauty of his homeland.
Carl “Chuck” Goff
A key member of Toby Keith‘s band died on Feb. 28 after a two-car collision in Oklahoma. Carl “Chuck” Goff, Jr. was Keith’s bassist, band leader and close friend. He’d been part of the band for 25 years and helped the hitmaker write songs like ‘Upstairs Downtown’ and ‘You Ain’t Much Fun.’ Goff was just 54 years old.
Mindy McCready was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on Sunday, February 17. Her suicide occurred one month after the death of her boyfriend, David Wilson. McCready is best known for hit songs like ‘Ten Thousand Angels’ and ‘Guys Do It.’ The last decade of her life was marred by arrests, attempted suicides and struggles to keep custody of her eldest son, Zander. She was found in the same place as Wilson, on the porch of the home they shared in Heber Springs, Ark.
The last living member of the Andrews Sisters passed away in January 2013, when Patty Andrews died of natural causes. The trio’s fame dates back to 1938, when ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Scho’ became a hit. The group sold over 75 million albums during their lengthy career and helped define the jump blues genre with ‘Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy’ in 1941. During World War II, Patty, Maxene and LaVerne were publicly supportive of the war effort and helped create the famous Hollywood Canteen. Patty Andrews removed herself from the group in 1951 and distanced herself from her sisters both personally and professionally. Maxene died in 1995 and LeVerne died in 1967.
Billy Joe Foster
When the biggest names in bluegrass needed a fiddler player or bassist, they often called on Billy Joe Foster. His name isn’t as well-known as Bill Monroe or Ricky Skaggs, but he played a vital role in their careers. Foster died in late January at age 51 after battling multiple sclerosis. The Duncan, Okla. native was active up until the end, having played as recently as October 2012 at the Chisholm Trail Opry.
Tony Douglas is best known for his hit song ‘His and Hers,’ which was a Top 30 song in 1963. Over the next several decades he’d reach national fame only a handful of other times, but he made a significant impact on the Texas country music scene. Before Douglas died on Jan. 22, 2013, he enjoyed a long career in the south, including a stint at the Louisiana Hayride. He famously turned down a contract from the Grand Ole Opry because he didn’t want to leave Texas for Tennessee. Douglas died at the age of 83 after a battle with lymphoma.
Elvis Presley‘s right hand man for the last 10 years of his career was John Wilkinson. The rhythm guitarist played over 1,200 shows with the King, leading up to Presley’s death in 1977. Wilkinson described the singer and his fellow TCB bandmates as family. “Besides my own father, he was probably the most kind and compassionate and considerate and generous man I’ve ever met in my life,” he said. People had kind words for him, too, after he died on Jan. 11 following a cancer battle.
Country songwriter Sammy Johns had one big hit of his own during a 40-year career. His song ‘Chevy Van’ was called the song of the ’70s by Rolling Stone magazine. But it is songs like ‘America’ and ‘Common Man’ which country fans will always remember him for. He wrote the songs for Waylon Jennings and John Conlee respectively, and they made them hits. The North Carolina native died on Jan. 4 at the age of 66.
The new year began with the passing of Patti Page, the singer of one of the most iconic country songs of all time. The ‘Tennessee Waltz’ star died on Jan. 1 after a career that stretched over six decades. Page was a Grammy winner and ACM Pioneer Award winner, in addition to being one of the best-selling artists of her time. In Feb. 2013 she was scheduled to be honored with the Recording Academy’s Lifetime Achievement Award.