Notable 2011 deaths in country music

Johnnie Wright

Storied as one of the kindest, most down-to-earth men in country as well as a very good husband, Johnnie Wright passed away at the age of 97 on September 27 in Madison, Tennessee. A country music pioneer in his own right, both solo and as member of the duo Johnnie and Jack (Jack Anglin, his brother-in-law, died in a car crash en route to Patsy Cline's funeral in 1963), Wright is also well known for helping to encourage the career of his wife, Kitty Wells, to whom he had been married for nearly seventy-four years.

Joel "Taz" DiGregorio

Long-time keyboardist and vocalist with the Charlie Daniels Band, "Taz" DiGregorio was killed in a car accident on October 12th near Nashville, while en route to Georgia for a concert. He was 67. Still keenly feeling his loss, the band had yet not replaced his spot onstage for their winter appearances in the area.

Dobie Gray

Perhaps best known as a soul and R&B singer, with hits like "The 'In' Crowd" and "Drift Away," Dobie Gray also made a splash on the country charts, placing two singles in the mid-1980s and making several appearances at Charlie Daniels' Volunteer Jam concerts. He passed away at the age of 71 on December 6th in Nashville, Tennessee, after a long battle with cancer.

Dan "Bee" Spears

Described as kind and laid-back, Dan "Bee" Spears played bass for the likes of Waylon Jennings and Guy Clark, but is best known as an integral member of Willie Nelson's Family Band, with whom he played for over forty years and up until his death on December 8th. Spears, 62, died of exposure after a fall at his home near Nashville, Tennessee.

Billie Jo Spears

Voted most promising female vocalist by the Academy of Country Music in 1976, the Texas native, whose song "Blanket on the Ground" hit Number One on the country charts the year before, died at her Vidor, Texas home on December 14th, at the age of 74.

Tears in our beers for thee, may you all rest in peace.

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