Wednesday, February 22, 2012

"...If There's Such A Thing As A 12 String Harp, I'm Sure He's Already Mastered It..."

CNN won't be offering this as breaking news.

But they should.

Billy Strange passed today.

Unless you're a pop music aficianado and/or over the age of fifty, you very likely don't know who he was.

And even if you are a pop music aficianado and/or over the age of fifty, you likely don't know who he was.

The old expression "here's someone who needs no introduction" is especially poignant and fitting at the moment because Billy managed, as he did with so many other things, to be the exception to the rule.

His resume' is so, literally, staggering that he really does need no introduction.

And yet, his modesty and sincerity negated any chance that he would ever become a household name.

This article doesn't begin to do him justice, but it's a good place to start.

Hearing the news today was one of those "sad and shocked but not surprised" life moments. Billy had been in poor health for a while and was 81 years old, so, obviously, our grief is offset somewhat by the knowledge that he is at peace and pain free.

Still, in a world that has evolved into doling out celebrity and accolade like flyers in a parking lot, the passing of a genuine class act like Billy Strange is a loss that defies measure.

Whitney Houston's death last week triggered an avalanche of tribute and homage unparalleled since Michael Jackson's death three years ago. And while its apples and oranges to compare celebrity passings, the irony isn't lost on me that in 1958 when Michael Jackson was born, Billy was already an established and respected studio guitarist, playing on sessions with Ricky Nelson and Tennessee Ernie Ford, among many others, had already made several acclaimed albums of his own while also appearing regularly on the popular Ernie Ford TV series of the 50's....and by 1963, when Whitney Houston was born, Billy had become a sought after studio player, producer and arranger working with superstar acts from, among so many others,  The Beach Boys to Glen Campbell to Nat King Cole to Nancy Sinatra to a fellow whose name even today's youngsters know....


For sixty years, Billy was a behind the scenes essential to an amazing list of popular music history.

And he was singularly the nicest, most loving man I have ever known.

But his passing won't be considered breaking news.

I posted today, on Billy's website ( that "there are no words...." and, for several many paragraphs now, I have rambled on in an attempt to find some.

Billy would have liked my desire to keep it short and sweet.

He wasn't much for accolades.

He just let his talent, his spirit and his heart do the talking.

That heart has been stilled by time.

The talent, though, is going to be available for generations to come.

And the spirit...

That spirit will be around for sixty times sixty years.

That may not be what CNN considers breaking news.

But it should be.


  1. Great clip of Nancy and Billy! In this rare recording, Lee Hazelwood mentions Billy.

  2. What a touching tribute to a great and loving man. Well said. I hope you don't mind if I share this post.
    (Jeanne is my aunt-in-law, and is also a great person)