Notable 2012 deaths in country music
|Kitty Wells passed in July|
Born in the "10 Cent Town" of Atlanta, Texas, Susanna Clark was an art teacher and painter who began writing music as part of a groundbreaking community of singer-songwriters in Nashville in the early 1970s, which included her husband Guy Clark (whom she'd convinced to quit his job in Houston, and move to Music City to focus on songwriting), Mickey Newbury, Billy Joe Shaver, Townes Van Zandt, Rodney Crowell and others. Though music was an essential theme in her life, Clark never quit painting; her artwork was featured on the cover of albums including Willie Nelson's Stardust, Emmylou Harris' Quarter Moon in a Ten Cent Town, Guy Clark's Old No. 1, and Nancy Griffith's Dust Bowl Symphony. The songs she wrote were recorded by her husband, Emmylou Harris, Rosanne Cash, Jerry Jeff Walker, Kathy Mattea and others; for Mattea's 1989 chart-topper "Come from the Heart," she wrote: "You've got to sing like you don't need the money, love like you'll never get hurt. You've got to dance like nobody's watching, it's gotta come from the heart if you want it to work." Clark died in Nashville after a long fight with cancer on June 27, at the age of 73.
Multi-instrumentalist Charlie Collins played music up until his final days. As a guitar player in the Smoky Mountain Boys, from 1966 to 1992 he played with Opry legend Roy Acuff. Over the years, he played fiddle, mandolin and Dobro with the likes of Brother Oswald and the Square Dance Band, Mark O'Connor, Sam Bush and Jim & Jesse. "Music and the Opry, that was his life," his friend and musical collaborator Mike Webb said. "I'm so grateful that he was able to work, right up until the end." After nearly five decades playing the Opry stage, he performed on it the night before he suffered the stroke that would take his life on January 12, at the age of 78.
Born in Salem, Missouri in 1937, Doug Dillard picked up the guitar by the age of five, but it was Earl Scruggs who inspired him to jump to banjo. When he was 16, he wrote a letter to Scruggs, and when he received a positive reply, he decided banjo would be his instrument of choice, too. In fact, he went so far as to pester his parents into driving him to Scruggs' home, over five hundred miles away, where he boldly rang the bell, introduced himself, and asked the legend to install Scruggs' signature tuners on his banjo. Scruggs' kindness no doubt played a part in Dillard's success on the instrument; it was Dillard's banjo playing that helped him cut through an expansive cross-section of country, rock, country-rock, and even television history. Over his career, he worked with Linda Ronstadt, Johnny Cash, Glen Campbell, Arlo Guthrie, Hoyt Axton, the Byrds, the Beach Boys, the Monkees, and with his brother comprised the famed Dillards. It was as part of that bluegrass duo that he became well-known for his reoccurring appearances on "The Andy Griffith Show." Dillard died in Nashville on May 16 at the age of 75, after a lengthy illness.
Born in Mississippi, bass player Chris Ethridge moved to California at the age of 17, and after playing briefly with Joel Scott Hill (later of Canned Heat), he joined forces with Gram Parsons and the International Submarine Band, a group Parsons had formed while briefly attending Harvard University. Though the group planned to disband, record producer Suzi Jane Hokom convinced her then-boyfriend, Lee Hazlewood, to sign the act to his seminal record company. After Parsons' short-lived rendezvous with the Byrds, he and Ethridge founded The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1968, and would later tour together during Parsons' short-lived solo career. After Parsons' 1973 death from an overdose, Ethridge would again perform with the Burritos as well as the Docker Hill Boys, Judy Collins, Johnny Winter, Ry Cooder, Leon Russell, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, The Byrds, and Kudzu Kings. Most notably, Ethridge toured with Willie Nelson for eight years and played on his 1978 single, "Whiskey River." He died in April after a hospitalization in his hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, at the age of 65.