As we look back at 2022 and look forward to 2023, it’s important that we take the time to pay tribute to the important figures in country music who have left us over the past year and who have shaped the world of country and roots music. have shaped music that will never fade.
In 2022 some absolute titans of music left us like Loretta Lynn, Naomi Judd and Mickey Gilley. Unspeakable tragedies were taken from us far too soon by artists like Luke Bell and Jake Flint. And it particularly affected members of the media community with the deaths of Ralph Emery and Peter Cooper.
Please note: Every effort has been made to ensure that nearly all are included here and any omissions are purely coincidental. If you happen to see someone who you think belongs here, feel free to report them in the comments section for the benefit of all of us.
Gary Adams – January 7th – age 78
Best known as a founding member of The Jones Boys (George Jones’ touring band) and also as a member of Johnny Paycheck’s touring band The Lovemakers, Gary Adams and his two musician brothers, Don and Arnie, carved a large chunk of country music history in the early 1900s 60’s and 70’s.
Gary Adams’ legacy should be remembered. He was a pioneer of live honky tonk guitar. He was one of a handful of influential musicians who helped numerous country icons create their sound. When it comes to influential and formative country guitarists, we often mention Chet Atkins, Don Rich, James Burton, Grady Martin and others. But perhaps the name Gary Adams should be one of them, as he helped define country music in the live setting and provided a template for the sound that will no doubt reverberate for years to come.
Obituary written by Saving Country Music contributor Kevin Smith. (Continue reading)
Dallas Frazier – January 14 – age 82
Before you can write it, you have to live it. And Dallas Frazier has lived many lifetimes in his lifetime, pouring it all into song and amassing one of the most legendary song catalogs in country music history while also enjoying moments as a singer and a standalone performer. A Nashville Songwriters Hall of Famer, and if there is justice in the world, hopefully a Country Music Hall of Famer in the future, Dallas Frazier wrote the country songs we all know and love.
Perhaps the best way to illustrate Dallas Frazier’s influence is to point out how George Jones recorded an entire album called Dallas Frazier in 1968 Sings the songs of Dallas Frazier. Connie Smith would do the same If that ain’t love and other great Dallas Frazier songs in 1972. These weren’t just studio albums, which happened to include Dallas Frazier songs. Placing his name in the tribute captions tells you how revered he was.
Willie Nelson, Charley Pride, Merle Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Moe Bandy, Elvis and later Rodney Crowell, Randy Travis, George Strait and the Oak Ridge Boys not only praised Dallas as a songwriter, they sang it in the studio by recording his songs . (Continue reading)
Ralph Emery – January 15 – age 88
It was the stars of Nashville and beyond performing the music that made country music famous. But it was Ralph Emery who served it up to the public in a way that made it so easy for all to invite into their homes and into their hearts. He was country music’s pre-eminent host and her lovable uncle. Ralph Emery’s presence spans decades, formats and generations. He was like family. And the loss country music feels at the death of this broadcasting titan is no different than the death of a cherished family member.
Whether you saw that smile on TV or heard it in his voice, built for radio, his enthusiasm for country music was contagious. It didn’t come from New York or Los Angeles like so much of America’s national media. It came straight out of Nashville in the form of WSM radio shows, the television show Pop! goes the country from 1974 to 1980, later Nashville now from 1983 to 1993 and many other programs over the years. No matter where you’ve been, Ralph Emery has put country music front and center, while truck drivers from coast to coast will remember Ralph Emery as the late-night disc jockey to keep them awake and entertained on those long journeys. (Continue reading)
Hargus “Pig” Robbins – January 30 – Age 84
There have certainly been more popular and recognized entertainers performing country music over the years. There are arguably more conspicuous supporting actors who have left their mark on audiences over the century of country music’s existence. But nobody, nobody left more fingerprints on country music for well over 60 years, remaining relevant and seriously sought-after until his death than Country Music Hall of Fame pianist and keyboardist Hargus “Pig” Robbins.
Robbins was there in 1958 when a young, cropped George Jones entered the studio to record his first major single, White Lightning. He played these iconic piano parts in Patsy Cline’s most memorable compositions, which became the cornerstone of what country piano should sound like. When Sturgill Simpson assembled musicians to record his debut solo album High top mountain as of 2013, Hargus “Pig” Robbins was at the top of his wish list.
Hargus “Pig” Robbins was also a solo artist who released eight studio albums between 1963 and 1979. He was named Musician of the Year by the CMA in 1976 and 2000. In 2012, Robbins was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. (Continue reading)
Blake Mevis – February 9 – Age 73
Blake Mevis was the producer of George Strait’s debut album strait landalong with Strait’s second album Straight from the heart, which included the song “Fool Hearted Memory” by Blake Mevis, co-written with Byron Hill. “Fool Hearted Memory” became George Strait’s first #1 hit, and the rest was history. Mevis is also credited for introducing Strait to longtime songwriting partner and Hall of Famer Dean Dillon.
As a songwriter, Blake Mevis has recorded songs by Don Williams, Charlie Rich and Jim Ed Brown to name a few. Brown’s editing of Blake Mevis’ “If The World Ran Out Of Love Tonight” propelled Mevis to prominence as a songwriter when it hit the top 10. Blake Mevis also wrote Charley Pride’s final #1 song, “Night Games,” and co-wrote Joe Nichols’ signature song that helped launch his career, the #1 “Brokenheartsville,” released in 2002. (Continue reading)
Dallas Good (The Sadies) – February 17 – age 48
Formed in Toronto in 1994 and releasing their debut album in 1998, The Sadies’ music had a way of captivating you from a technical complexity without compromising the soul that is essential to the medium. They expressed emotion with innovation in a way that was both intellectually stimulating and creatively inspiring. That’s why so many fellow musicians were drawn to this band as collaborators. With drummer Mike Belitsky and bassist Sean Dean, they supported the tour or otherwise collaborated with Neil Young, Kurt Vile, Neko Case, Justin Townes Earle, Jon Doe, The Tragically Hip, Jon Langford and many others.
The cosmic connection Dallas had with Brother Travis was nothing short of paranormal. They were more of an extension of the same person than autonomous beings, exemplified by their haunting harmonies, and as they played each other’s guitars with one hand on their own instrument and one on the other. This union of talents forged by blood is one of the many things that make the news of Dallas Good’s death so tragic. (Continue reading)
Scotty Wray (Miranda Lambert’s band) – February 18
Since the beginning of Miranda Lambert’s career when she was just 17 years old, guitarist, songwriter and solo performer Scotty Wray has been at her side on stage and contributing songs in the studio. Scotty Wray is also the older brother of country performer Collin Raye.
When Miranda Lambert started, she didn’t have a full band. It was just her and Scotty Wray with acoustic guitars hitting every place in Texas that wanted them from Dallas, Houston and Austin, with Miranda singing her songs and Scotty accompanying her. As things began to explode and band members joined, Scotty Wray stayed on as bandleader, still with his guitar, acting as a constant and anchor in Miranda Lambert’s sometimes tumultuous universe. (Continue reading)
Warner Mack – March 1st – age 86
When you write a song at age 13 that will become a country standard and a hit three decades from now, you know you were born to make country music. Born Warner McPherson on April 5, 1935, in Nashville, Tennessee, Warner Mack was a natural at whether it was writing or performing in country, eventually becoming one of the country’s most successful contributors of the 1960s . But a car accident left him out for many years, leaving his legacy often overlooked.
In 1957, Warner Mack launched his recording career by making the song “Is It Wrong (For Loving You)”, which he had kept from his youth, a number 9 country hit for Decca Records. Loretta Lynn, Bobby Bare, Wanda Jackson and others also recorded “Is It Wrong”, while other Warner-penned songs were recorded by the likes of Bill Anderson, Kitty Wells and Jean Shepard. Heading into the ’70s, Warner Mack cemented an old career when a car accident severely changed his life path. (Continue reading)
Jimbeau Hinson – March 4 – Age 70
One of country music’s most accomplished songwriters of the ’80s, he wrote songs for some of country music’s hottest acts, including