Renowned Guitarist Roy Nichols Dies at 68

Legendary guitarist Roy Nichols, who played for more than 20 years with Merle Haggard's backing band, The Strangers, died Tuesday (July 3) at Mercy Hospital in Bakersfield, Calif., of a heart attack. He was 68. Helping define the Bakersfield Sound with his Fender Telecaster, Nichols recorded hundreds of songs with Haggard and also played with Johnny Cash, Lefty Frizzell, the Maddox Brothers & Rose and Wynn Stewart, among others. "He was a guiding influence on my sound," Haggard told The Tennessean. "When I was 14, wanting to learn to play the guitar, Roy was playing with Lefty Frizzell. Lefty was my singing idol and Roy was my guitar idol." In 1987, Nichols quit the road and retired from Haggard's band. The following year he was inducted into the Western Swing Society Hall of Fame in Sacramento. In 1996, Nichols suffered a stroke that put him in a wheelchair and cost him the use of his left hand. "Losing Roy Nichols is like losing my left arm," Haggard said. "We were a duet, and he was to me like Don Rich was to Buck Owens." Haggard was to perform at Nichols' funeral service Thursday (July 5) at 3 p.m. (PT) at Greenlawn Memorial Chapel in Bakersfield. 07/05/01

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