Country music has lost some amazing writers and musicians as well as genre-creating inspirations in 2017. Let’s take a look at a few of the country artists who passed away in 2017 so far.
Legendary player and producer Tommy Allsup passed away at 85 years old on Jan. 11. Allsup served as Buddy Holly’s guitar player, famously avoiding the fateful plane crash that killed Holly and others when he lost a coin toss to Ritchie Valens for a seat on the plane. Allsup went on to record with just about every country music legend. He also produced records for Asleep At The Wheel and Bob Wills.
Greg Trooper passed away from pancreatic cancer on Jan. 15, just two days after his 61st birthday. Trooper was among the most respected artists in the Americana and folk worlds. Several music legends covered Trooper’s songs, including Vince Gill, Steve Earle, Billy Bragg and Robert Earl Keene.
One of Merle Haggard’s best friends and his longtime horn player, Don Markham passed away in Calif. at 85 years old on Feb. 24. Markham was instrumental in helping develop the Bakersfield Sound.
Don Warden died on March 11 at 87 years old. He served as Dolly Parton’s longtime manager and one of her closest friends. He also played steel guitar, getting his start with Porter Wagoner, where he met Parton and later formed one of country’s best business and personal relationships.
An American icon, Chuck Berry passed away at age 90 on March 18. Besides being an inaugural member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and a forefather of rock ‘n roll, Berry inspired countless country musicians and was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1982. His songs became hits for everyone from George Jones and Waylon Jennings to Elvis Presley.
Bob Wootton was a guitarist for Johnny Cash for 30 years after a chance encounter in 1968 put his talents in front of the Man in Black himself. The story goes that Cash and his drummer were stuck onstage with no guitarist for a concert in Arkansas. Wootton, a lifelong Johnny Cash fan, volunteered from the audience to fill in and was so impressive that Cash hired him shortly thereafter. He passed away on Apr. 9 at the age of 75.
Corki Casey O’Dell
Vivian J. “Corki” Ray Casey O’Dell was a trailblazing female instrumentalist. In 2014, she was inducted alongside Barbara Mandrell as one of the first female inductees into the Musicians Hall of Fame. She died on May 11 at age 80.
Jimmy LaFave was a founding father of Red Dirt music and became one of Oklahoma’s most celebrated folk artists alongside Woodie Guthry. LaFave moved to Austin, Texas and continued to inspire a wealth of the scene’s Americana, country and folk acts. LaFave battled a very rare form of cancer. He passed away at age 61 on May 21.
A pioneer of southern rock, Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band revolutionized a genre of music that eventually grew into the roots of modern country music. He passed away at age 69 on May 27.
Naomi Martin wrote several classic country No. 1 hits, including “My Eyes Can Only See As Far As You” for Charley Pride and “Let’s Take The Long Way Around The World” for Ronnie Milsap. She won several BMI Awards and had songs recorded by artists like Kenny Rogers, Glen Campbell and Conway Twitty. She passed away on May 31 at age 89.
A member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, Norro Wilson was a publishing and recording executive who also produced hit albums for artists like Keith Whitley, Kenny Chesney and George Jones. He also won a Grammy for Best Country Song in 1974 with “A Very Special Love Song,” which he wrote and Charlie Rich performed. Wilson died at age 79 on June 8.
With 50 million in album sales to his name in a career that lasted nearly 60 years, Glen Campbell was a country music force to be reckoned with. He died on Aug. 8 at the age of 81 due to complications from Alzheimer’s Disease.
One half of the duo Montgomery Gentry, Troy Gentry was killed in a helicopter crash on Sept. 8, just before he was scheduled to perform a concert. Montgomery Gentry had three platinum selling albums and three gold, and were inducted into the Grand Ole Opry in 2009.
Known as the “gentle giant of country music”, Don Williams topped the charts with hits like “Tulsa Time” and “I Believe in You”. The Texas native died on Sept. 8 at the age of 78.
Mel Tillis was 20 years into his career when he finally got a string of top 10 hits. He also wrote several songs that were successes for other singers. Though he always spoke with a stammer, it never affected his beautiful singing voice. He passed away Nov. 19 at the age of 82.