Don Light, a talent booker and manager who was instrumental in the success of Jimmy Buffett, the Oak Ridge Boys, Steve Wariner, Keith Whitley, Marty Stuart, Dailey & Vincent and other gospel, country and bluegrass acts, died Tuesday (June 17) after a long illness. His age and place of death have not been confirmed.
Like many other prominent figures in Nashville's cross-pollinated music industry, Light held a variety of jobs before settling into his final professional role, that of talent manager.
At the outset of his career, he played drums in the Grand Ole Opry band and then moved on to act as general manager of Billboard magazine's Nashville bureau.
He left Billboard in 1965 to found Don Light Talent. It was the first agency devoted exclusively to booking Southern gospel music acts, among them the Oak Ridge Boys, the Happy Goodman Family, the Chuck Wagon Gang, Jimmie Davis, the Florida Boys and the Lewis Family.
He spotted Buffett's talents when the young singer-songwriter was still trying to make a name for himself in Nashville. Buffett later credited Light with understanding and encouraging his music well before it made its way into the larger world.
Light's work with gospel acts led him to co-found the Gospel Music Association, the trade organization that dispenses the Dove awards. He also served on the GMA board of directors, as well as those of the Country Music Association and the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (now called the Recording Academy).
He managed the award-winning bluegrass duo, Dailey & Vincent, virtually from their inception through their breakthrough as touring and recording artists.
Lester Flatt, Delbert McClinton, Mark Collie, the Rex Nelon Singers, the Singing Rambos and the Cathedral Quartet were also Light's clients at various stages of their careers.