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Author Topic:  Merle Kilgore Passes
Smiley Roberts

Hendersonville,Tn. 37075
Post Posted 6 Feb 2005 7:25 pm     Reply with quote

I just got a phone call from Pat Coyne,& he informed me that entertainer/songwriter Merle Kilgore has passed away. Cause of death was an apparent heart attack. Among other songs,Merle wrote "Ring Of Fire",& "Wolverton Mountain". I've known Merle for a lot of years,& he was always there to help out. I remember when we had a benefit for George Edwards,he gave me a bagful of stuff (tee shirts,CD's,ballcaps,etc.) to use as "rafflers". I saw Merle's son at Mack Vickery's funeral service,& told him to remember me to his dad. He said,"Oh yes,my dad has mentioned your name several times." 2005 is not starting out great!! Since Merle was not a steel player,I've posted this in "Music" as opposed to "Extended Family".

  ~ ~

It don't mean a thang,
mm if it ain't got that twang.

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Kevin Hatton

Buffalo, N.Y.
Post Posted 6 Feb 2005 7:28 pm     Reply with quote

Merle Kilgore was an historic figure in country music. I could just imagine the stories that he could tell. RIP.

[This message was edited by Kevin Hatton on 07 February 2005 at 04:01 PM.]

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George Kimery

Limestone, TN, USA
Post Posted 6 Feb 2005 8:24 pm     Reply with quote

His son Steve, is my best friend. I received the call about 30 minutes after he had died. He was in Tijuana, Mexico for some Holistic medicine treatments for his cancer. He suffered a massive heart attack. A true legend in the Nashville music scene. Tragic loss.
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Richard Bass

Sabang Beach, Philippines
Post Posted 6 Feb 2005 9:09 pm     Reply with quote

The "other shoe " just keeps falling. My prayers are with his family. Merle shared a house with Faron many years ago and I got to know him pretty well, what a great guy and great songwriter. He had a great ,warped, sense of humor, lots of fun to be around.RIP old friend.
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Smiley Roberts

Hendersonville,Tn. 37075
Post Posted 7 Feb 2005 6:12 am     Reply with quote

Country icon Merle Kilgore dies at age 70

Staff Writer

Had Merle Kilgore only been a bit player in country music history had he never co-written Ring of Fire with June Carter or managed Hank Williams Jr. to great career heights he would still have been one of Nashville's great characters.

A remarkable teller of stories and writer of songs, Mr. Kilgore died last night of congestive heart failure in Mexico, where he had been undergoing cancer treatments. He was 70.

Born Wyatt Merle Kilgore in Chickasha, Okla., Mr. Kilgore grew up in Shreveport, La. He often hung around the Louisiana Hayride radio show, where he introduced himself to numerous performers including Hank Williams.

''When I was 14, I asked a musician, 'I really like this kind of life. How do you get in show business?' '' Kilgore told The Tennessean. ''He blew smoke in my face and said, 'Hang around somebody famous, kid.' That's when Hank Williams came to town. I said, 'Mr. Williams, can I carry your guitar? The elevator's broken, and there are two flights of stairs.' He said, 'Grab it, hoss.' ''

At age 18, Mr. Kilgore wrote his first hit song: Country star Webb Pierce covered his More and More and turned it into a No. 1 hit in 1954. Pierce also saw promise in Mr. Kilgore as an artist and helped him get a contract with Imperial Records. Mr. Kilgore augmented his artistry with work as a disc jockey and a songwriter. He wrote the Johnny Horton hit Johnny Reb, and he scored a top 10 solo hit on Mercury Records with Love Has Made You Beautiful.

After a move to Nashville in 1961, Mr. Kilgore continued to record his own songs while writing songs for others, including Claude King's single Wolverton Mountain. His biggest hit came with Ring of Fire, which he wrote with Carter when she was falling in love with Johnny Cash. He attended the session in which Cash recorded that song, which became one of Cash's signature singles.

''I knew it was an instant hit,'' Kilgore told The Tennessean. ''We'd heard they (Columbia Records) were going to drop Johnny 'cause his sales were so bad for the last couple of albums. But they weren't bad after that. Man, did he hit a home run with that. Saved his career.''

Mr. Kilgore's own career found him careening between country, folk and rockabilly music. He appeared regularly on the Grand Ole Opry in the 1960s and recorded for a time as ''The Boogie King,'' wearing outlandish stage outfits that caused him to chuckle decades after the fact.

In Nashville, he befriended stars including Johnny Cash and Johnny Horton, and in 1964 he joined the Hank Williams Jr. road show as an opening act. His friendship and professional relationship with Williams Jr. would continue throughout Mr. Kilgore's life. In 1969, Mr. Kilgore became the general manager of Williams Jr.'s publishing companies, and in 1986 he became executive vice president and head of management of Hank Williams Jr. Enterprises.

In an interview, Mr. Kilgore said that he was at a crossroads, trying to decide whether to continue as a recording artist or to manage Williams Jr. According to Mr. Kilgore, the turning point came when Williams Jr. wrote down a figure on a piece of paper, slid it across a table to Mr. Kilgore and said, ''This is what you'll be making each year managing me.'' Mr. Kilgore immediately renounced his own recording career and began a long and loyal second career as Williams Jr.'s adviser, confidante and deal-maker.

As manager to Williams Jr., Mr. Kilgore blended smarts and humor. When rap-rocker Kid Rock's manager called to express Rock's interest in meeting and possibly working with Williams Jr., Mr. Kilgore stalled the manager while thumbing quickly through a Billboard magazine until he found a page that listed Rock's Cowboy at the top of the pop charts.

''Oh, Hank loves Kid Rock,'' exclaimed Mr. Kilgore, who had never heard of Kid Rock at the time of the conversation. ''He loves the song Cowboy. Hank would love to work with Kid Rock.''

Eventually, Rock and Williams Jr. began working together, and Rock's hit-making friend Matt ''Uncle Kracker'' Shafer even wrote a song called Thunderhead Hawkins that referenced Mr. Kilgore's affinity for wearing gaudy gold rings. After The Tennessean wrote about Kracker's song, Mr. Kilgore said, ''My wife called me when I was fishing and said, 'The newspaper says Kracker is attracted to your bling bling.' She said, 'Merle, what is bling bling?' I had to ask around. Turns out it's hip-hop for jewelry.''

Those rings came in handy for one of Mr. Kilgore's favorite running gags. When others be they waitresses, flight attendants or multiplatinum artists would ask, ''How are you doing?'' Mr. Kilgore would open his hands up to display the rings and reply, ''Are you kidding me?'' It was his way of saying, ''I'm doing just fine.''

Mr. Kilgore's good humor was such that people around him sometimes forgot they were talking to a legendary figure and Songwriters Hall of Fame member, much less a shrewd manager who was voted the Country Music Association's first manager of the year in 1990.

Mr. Kilgore negotiated the deal for Williams Jr.'s performance at the opening of each edition of Monday Night Football, and he helped Williams Jr. to a place as one of country music's top-drawing entertainers.

Mr. Kilgore was also a member of the CMA Board of Directors, and he once served as vice president of the CMA. Mr. Kilgore worked with numerous other industry organizations and was even a member of the Screen Actors Guild. He acted in films with Robert Mitchum, Dean Martin and Steve McQueen and had parts in movies including Coal Miner's Daughter and Nashville.

In addition to Ring of Fire, Wolverton Mountain, Johnny Reb and More and More (which was also recorded as a duet by Van Morrison and Bob Dylan), Mr. Kilgore wrote notable songs including John Anderson's Let Somebody Else Drive, Eddy Arnold's The Easy Way and The Folk Singer and Ricky Nelson's Old Enough To Love.

A part of the country music industry for a half-century, Mr. Kilgore remained a popular figure throughout his life. Last year, he fought through heart surgery, two back surgeries and lung cancer, and he was heartened by the reaction among the Nashville community to his plight.

''Man, I had to get a room at Saint Thomas just for the flowers,'' he said. ''And it makes a difference when people care enough about you to come and see you. If you're a real (jerk), nobody comes by. That must be real depressing.''

Hendersonville Memory Gardens will be handling funeral arrangements, which are incomplete.

Mr. Kilgore is survived by his wife, Judy; sons, Steve and Duane Kilgore; daughters, Pam Compton, Kim Pomeroy and Shane McBee; eight grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

  ~ ~

It don't mean a thang,
mm if it ain't got that twang.

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Alvin Blaine

Picture Rocks, Arizona, USA
Post Posted 7 Feb 2005 1:10 pm     Reply with quote

I saw Merle a few times when he was "Jr." opening act.
He said that he was the longest opening act in the business. Almost ten years opening for Johnny Cash then thirty for Bocephus.

[This message was edited by Alvin Blaine on 07 February 2005 at 01:12 PM.]

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