Bob Beckham scored two country hits early in his music career, but soon found his niche on the other side of the radio. The 86-year-old is remembered as a friend and mentor to songwriters like Kris Kristofferson and Dolly Parton. A former U.S. Army paratrooper, Beckham died on Veterans Day (Nov. 11) at a hospital in Hermitage, Tenn.

Larry Gatlin, Tony Joe White, Billy Swan and recent Country Music Hall of Fame inductee Bobby Bare are among the stars who were touched by Beckham. He first came to a position of influence as the president of Combine Music Publishing in 1964. Within 10 years, the company would become a major player on Music Row, with hits like 'Me and Bobby McGee' and 'Sunday Morning Coming Down' (Kristofferson), 'Burning Love' (Elvis Presley) and Glen Campbell's 'Dreams of the Everyday Housewife' (written by Chris Gantry). The Tennessean recalls a time when songwriters would surround Beckham's desk to try to impress him with their latest work.

As an artist, Beckham was signed to Decca Records and reached the charts twice with 'Just as Much as Ever' in 1959 and the Top 5 hit 'Crazy Arms' in 1960. He was born in Stratford, Okla. in 1927 and thrust into the entertainment industry by age eight. He briefly tried acting in California before joining the Army at the age of 17.

In 1990, Beckham took ahold of the Nashville branch of HoriPro Entertainment, and remained active until retirement in 2006. Songwriters Dean Dillon (George Strait) and Phil O'Donnell (Montgomery Gentry, Craig Morgan) are part of the HoriPro Nashville team today. In 2008, Beckham was given the first Mentor Award by the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.