Wednesday, August 10, 2011

RIP Billy Grammar

BENTON - Billy Grammer, a Benton native and legendary country
musician, died early Wednesday morning. He was 85.
Grammer died at 12:20 a.m. Wednesday in Benton Hospital after a long
illness, said his widow, Ruth.

His own hits include "Gotta Travel On," which sold more than a million
copies and also was recorded by Bob Dylan, Webb Pierce and performed
by Buddy Holly on his last tour. Grammer also toured with artists
including Jimmy Dean and Grandpa Jones.

In the studio, he played on albums by Louis Armstrong, Patti Page and
Charley Pride, including on Pride's hit "Kiss an Angel Good Morning."

Although he stopped actively performing more than 20 years ago for
health reasons, Grammer returned to the Grad Ole Opry to perform on
occasion.

When he retired, Grammer built a house on what was originally his
family's land, Grammer Hill in Sesser, where his grandfather, a Civil
War veteran, is buried.

Born in Benton in 1925, Grammer grew up in Southern Illinois. After
spending time in the military, Grammer married his childhood
sweetheart, Ruth Burzynski, to whom he has been wed for 64 years.

While the two were living in Washington, D.C., Grammer was hired as a
singer at WARL in Arlington, Va., by Connie B. Gay, a popular country
DJ. When the lead guitarist was fired, Grammer took up double duty and
began honing his skills on the fretboard, which would make him famous.

While performing as a sideman on Jimmy Dean's television show, Grammer
met a young Roy Clark, who was primarily a banjo player at the time,
and taught him a thing or two about playing guitar.

In the 1960s, Grammer developed his own line of guitars. One that was
owned by Johnny Cash was sold at auction for $131,000.

Grammer said the most memorable moment in his career was the first
night Roy Acuff introduced him on the Opry broadcast, which he grew up
listening to. Another was delivering the invocation for the opening of
the Grand Ole Opry House in 1974 in front of President Richard Nixon.

GRAMMAR, Billy
Born: 9/28/1925, Benton, Illinois, U.S.A
Died: 8/10/2011, Benton, Illinois, U.S.A.

Billy Grammar's western - musician:
Dust to Dust - 1994

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