Last Exit: Country Music Deaths of 2008

Eddy Arnold, Jerry Reed, Don Helms, Charlie Walker Take Final Bow

Country music lost some singular and durable talents this past year. Eddy Arnold took his tender country sensibilities into the pop music marketplace and demonstrated there needn’t be a division between the two formats. He was the best ambassador ever.

Besides being a guitar player who could and did dazzle Chet Atkins, Jerry Reed also carried Nashville’s banner to the outside world via his fine comic acting.

Don Helms took with him not just his superb musical skills but also a storehouse of memories and stories about his boss, the great Hank Williams. Each exit chronicled below left a tear in country music’s tapestry.

Eddy Arnold, 89, trailblazing crossover crooner and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, May 8, near Nashville.

Delaney Bramlett, 69, singer, songwriter, record producer and a founding member of Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, Dec. 27, in Los Angeles, of complications from gallbladder surgery.

Barry “Byrd” Burton, 61, guitarist and member of the Amazing Rhythm Aces, March 10, in Nashville, following a battle with leukemia.

Maria Sue Chapman, 5, daughter of gospel singer Steven Curtis Chapman, May 21, in Franklin, Tenn., in an accident at the family’s home.

Danny Davis, 83, leader of the Nashville Brass band, June 12, in Nashville, of a heart attack.

Paul Davis, 60, songwriter, April 22, in Meridian, Miss., of a heart attack.

Danny Dill, 84, co-writer of “Long Black Veil” and “Detroit City,” Oct. 23, in Nashville.

Chris Gaffney, 58, co-founder of the Hacienda Brothers band, April 17, in Newport Beach, Calif., after battling cancer.

Al Gallico, 89, music publisher, May 15, in Los Angeles.

Drew Glackin, 44, bassist for the alt-country band, the Silos, Jan 5, of heart damage from an undiagnosed thyroid condition.

Earle H. Hagen, 88, the writer and whistler of The Andy Griffith Show theme, May 26, in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

Jim Hager, 66, of the Hager Twins of Hee Haw fame, May 1, in Nashville, of a heart attack.

Buddy Harman, 79, fabled “A-team” session drummer, Aug. 21, in Nashville, of congestive heart failure.

Don Helms, 81, steel guitarist for Hank Williams’ Drifting Cowboys band, Aug. 11, in Nashville, of complications from heart surgery and diabetes.

William David “D” Kilpatrick, 88, former record executive, Grand Ole Opry manager and founding member of the Country Music Association, May 21, near Nashville.

Reg Lindsay, 73, popular Australian country music performer, Aug. 5, in Newcastle, New South Wales.

Merlin Littlefield, 65, former ASCAP executive, Sept. 9, in Nashville, of complications from cancer.

Bobby Lord, 74, former Grand Ole Opry star and country music TV personality, Feb. 16, in Stuart, Fla.

Ken Nelson, 96, record executive, legendary producer and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Jan. 6, in Somis, Calif.

Odetta [Holmes], 77, folk singer and political activist, Dec. 2, in New York City, of heart disease.

Bruce “Utah” Phillips, 73, folk singer, May 23, Nevada City, Calif.

Dottie Rambo, 74, gospel singer, May 11, near Mt. Vernon, Mo., from injuries sustained in a tour bus accident.

Jerry Reed, 71, singer, songwriter, guitarist and actor, Aug. 31, in Nashville, of emphysema.

Nick Reynolds, 75, founding member of the Kingston Trio, Oct. 1, in Chula Vista, Calif., of complications from surgery.

John Stewart, 68, singer, songwriter and one-time member of the Kingston Trio, Jan. 19, in San Diego, of a stroke.

Artie Traum, 65, folk singer and guitarist, July 20, in Woodstock, N.Y., of liver cancer.

Charlie Walker, 81, member of the Grand Ole Opry since 1967, Sept. 12, in Hendersonville, Tenn., after being diagnosed with colon cancer.

Jerry Wallace, 79, country singer, May 5, in Corona, Calif., of congestive heart failure.

Jerry Wexler, 91, record executive and producer who signed Willie Nelson to Atlantic Records, Aug. 15, in Sarasota, Fla.