Country Music Deaths of 2017

Among the Departed are Hall of Fame Members and Hit Songwriters

Some of the most cherished voices in country music went silent in 2017, chief among them were those of Glen Campbell, Mel Tillis, Don Williams, Michael Johnson and Troy Gentry of Montgomery Gentry.

Gone, too, were such rock ’n’ roll titans as Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Tom Petty and Gregg Allman, all of whom affected the texture and course of country music.

Then there were the departures of such legendary sidemen as Leon Rhodes, of Texas Troubadours fame, Kayton Roberts, a long-time stalwart in Hank Snow’s Rainbow Ranch Boys, and Butch Trucks, founding member of the Allman Brothers.

Mourned as well are the songwriters who gave us such memorables as “The Grand Tour,” “The Most Beautiful Girl,” “There’s Your Trouble” and the geographic tongue-twister, “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

Finally, we must note the 58 (ultimately 59) killed at the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas.

Here are the latest entrants into Hillbilly Heaven and its far-flung suburbs:

Gregg Allman, 69, founding member of the Allman Brothers band, May 27, Richmond Hill, Georgia.

Chuck Berry, 90, many of whose rock tunes found their way into country music, March 18, at his home near Wentzville, Missouri.

Sonny Burgess, 88, rockabilly pioneer and early Sun Records artist, Aug. 18, Little Rock, Arkansas.

Glen Campbell, 81, singer and guitarist who greatly widened the audience for country music in the 1960s and early ’70s via his Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, Aug. 8, in Nashville. He was a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Fats Domino, 89, a forerunner in rock ’n’ roll via such piano-pounding classics as “Blueberry Hill” and “Ain’t That a Shame,” Oct. 24, in Harvey, Louisiana. In 1980, he charted his only country single, “Whiskey Heaven,” from the soundtrack of the Clint Eastwood movie, Any Which Way You Can.

Troy Gentry, 50, the hatless and more sedate member of the hard-hitting Montgomery Gentry duo, Sept. 8, in a helicopter crash in Medford, New Jersey.

Michael Johnson, 72, singer and guitarist whose hits included “Give Me Wings” and “The Moon Is Still Over Her Shoulder,” July 25, in Minneapolis.

Pete Kuykendall, 79, banjo champion and editor and publisher of Bluegrass Unlimited magazine, Aug. 24, in Warrenton, Virginia.

Sam Lovullo, 88, producer and casting director of the long-running Hee Haw TV series (1969-1992), Jan. 3, in Encino, California.

Geoff Mack, 94, composer of the tongue-twisting and widely recorded “I’ve Been Everywhere,” July 20, in his native Australia.

Jo Walker Meador, 93, who as its executive director built the Country Music Association from a tiny, ragged startup into one of the nation’s most visible and successful trade organizations, Aug. 16, in Nashville. She is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

D.L. Menard, 85, singer and songwriter widely known as the “Cajun Hank Williams” and most celebrated for his 1962 recording of “La Porte en Arriere,” July 27, in Scott, Louisiana.

Tom Petty, 66, rock legend whose many country music connections included backing Johnny Cash on the 1996 Grammy-winning album, Unchained, Oct. 1, in Santa Monica, California.

Leon Rhodes, 85, who came to fame in the 1960s as lead guitarist for Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours and who later played in the Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw staff bands, Dec. 9, in Donelson, Tennessee.

Kayton Roberts, 83, steel guitarist in Hank Snow’s Rainbow Ranch Boys band from 1968 to 1999, July 13, in Nashville.

Mark Selby, 56, songwriter and husband of fellow composer Tia Sillers, whose hits included the Dixie Chicks’ “There’s Your Trouble” and Kenny Wayne Shepherd’s “Blue on Black,” Sept. 18, in Nashville.

Mel Tillis, 85, songwriter, singer, actor, comedian and member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nov. 19, in Ocala, Florida.

Butch Trucks, 69, drummer and founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, Jan. 24, in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Victims of the Route 91 Harvest Festival massacre are listed by name in a CMT online memorial.

Billy Joe Walker, 64, guitarist, producer and songwriter, July 25, in Kerrville, Texas.

Don Warden, 87, former steel guitar player in Porter Wagoner’s band and subsequently Dolly Parton’s manager, March 11, at an undisclosed location.

Don Williams, 78, singer and songwriter who regularly topped the country charts during the 1970s and ’80s with his gentle, reflective ballads, Sept, 8, in Mobile, Alabama. He is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Norro Wilson, 79, producer, songwriter and former recording artist, whose hit compositions included George Jones’ “The Grand Tour” and Charlie Rich’s “The Most Beautiful Girl,” June 8, in Nashville.

Bob Wooton, 75, Johnny Cash’s lead guitar player from 1968 until Cash’s retirement in 1997, April 9, in Gallatin, Tennessee.

Jessi “Zazu” Wariner, 28, co-founder of the band Those Darlins and niece of country star Steve Wariner, Sept. 12, in Nashville.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.