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Groundbreaking Guitarist Velma Smith Dies

Velma Smith
Royce DeGrie, Getty Images

Pioneering guitar player Velma Smith has died. The 87-year-old Musicians Hall of Famer is best known for being one of the first women to work as a session player in Nashville. Hank Snow, Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Eddy Arnold were among the legends the Kentucky native recorded with.

It was Chet Atkins that discovered Smith, however. According to the Musicians Hall of Fame website, the singer saw her and her older sister at the Grand Ole Opry and quickly hired her for another project. Her sister left music to raise a family, but Smith would go on back Roy Acuff, Jim Reeves, Porter Wagoner and more. Most of her credits at AllMusic are for her guitar playing, but she did write at least one song for a hitmaker — ‘Shoes’ for Patsy Cline.

Smith’s death comes six month after she was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in Nashville. The Hall credits her as the first female rhythm studio guitarist in Music City. For 60 years, she was married to Hal Smith, a fiddle player who would go on to become a prominent producer and publisher alongside Ray Price. Hal Smith was 84 when he died in September 2008.

Velma Williams Smith was 87 when she passed away on July 31, 2014. Her services will be held at 11AM on Aug. 2 at Forest Lawn Memorial Gardens in Goodlettsville, Tenn. According to her obituary, she died at Alive Hospice Skyline in Madison.

Next: See All Country Stars Who've Died in 2014

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