Steel Guitarist John Hughey Dead at 73

John Hughey, who made his musical reputation as a steel guitar player for Conway Twitty and Vince Gill, died Sunday evening (Nov. 18) in Nashville. The native of Elaine, Ark., was 73. According to details posted on his Web site, Hughey got his first guitar — a Gene Autry model from Sears — when he was 9. In the seventh grade, he became friends with classmate Harold Jenkins, who would later adopt the name, Conway Twitty. Inspired by the sounds of Little Roy Wiggins, Eddy Arnold’s steel player, Hughey persuaded his father to buy him a lap steel. While still in high school, he and Jenkins formed the Phillips County Ramblers and briefly starred in their own radio show on a small local station. In 1953, Hughey joined Slim Rhodes & the Mother’s Best Mountaineers out of Memphis. For the next several years, Hughey alternated between playing in Rhodes’ band and performing in nightclubs. In 1968, Jenkins, by then appearing as Conway Twitty and aspiring to switch from fledgling rock star to country crooner, drafted Hughey into his band. Hughey toured and recorded with Twitty for the next 20 years. After that, he worked with Loretta Lynn for nearly two years before joining Gill’s band, where he remained for 12 seasons. He was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1996. In recent years, he was a member of the Time Jumpers, an ad hoc band of studio and touring musicians that plays each Monday night at Nashville’s Station Inn bluegrass club. An active session musician, Hughey’s work was also featured in movies, television series and specials, commercials and music videos. Details of his funeral have not been announced.