Tribute To John Hughey: Remembering The Steel Guitar Legend

Randy Kohrs | November 21st, 2007

John Hughey It seemed at the visitation yesterday of Steel Guitar Hall of Fame member John Hughey, that everyone in Nashville had lost a family member. There wasn’t a parking spot to be found within a block of the funeral home. I even heard someone say that not since Chet Atkins has the Nashville musician community lost such a patriarch of country music. I whole-heartedly agree. His playing can be heard on recordings of everyone from Conway Twitty to Vince Gill to Elvis Presley. All of the blogs for the steel and telecaster forums exploded with personal stories of John and the sadness of such a great man’s passing. I admit I am having trouble writing this dealing with my own feelings.

Just a couple of months or so ago, John had a stint put in after having heart troubles. It didn’t keep him down long, though. Just last Wednesday night, my girlfriend and bandmate, Ashley Brown, and I saw John playing at Legends Corner (could it be more fitting) on lower Broadway in Nashville and he said he was feeling so much better, and his playing reflected that. His wife, Jean, was in the crowd, as they were rarely seen apart after he came off the road with Vince Gill. In keeping with that, Jean stood by his side yesterday for hours on end as hundreds of people paid their respects.

A few years ago, I recorded a vintage-style country CD, and John Hughey was the one person I knew that had to be a part of it. That was a huge career highlight for me. Sadly, the band he had been in for the last several years, called the Time Jumpers won’t be the same without his class and soul on stage every Monday night. Andy Reiss, guitarist for the Time Jumpers, said they don’t know what to do having lost their master of the steel guitar and the bands centerpiece. I am quite sure that the Nashville recording scene will just have to shut down for the day as every musician in town will be at the funeral saying goodbye to a very dear friend and musical hero.

My condolences to his wife, Jean, and the rest of his family. I loved him and he will forever be etched in the beautiful architecture of the pedal steel guitar and country music. He was a very strong man of God. Jesus Christ and Jean are what made him tick. He even had a cross elegantly trademarking his guitars in the front, proudly letting the world know his beliefs and quietly giving a message of Christianity to all. He knew where he was going, and rest assured that God is putting an extra 12 bar solo somewhere in the show today for John Hughey.

Randy Kohrs is a Nashville based musician and released his third solo album earlier this year, titled Old Photograph. Randy felt compelled to write a little something about John Hughey, who he spent many hours playing music with and graciously accepted the opportunity to honor his dear friend with a tribute. Thanks to Randy for sharing this with us and our condolences go out to John Hughey’s family and loved ones.

  1. wayne tenhet
    November 23, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    God bless for all the beautiful music.John was a master,We used to watch him on slim an speck roads show in Memphis.john rarely smiled and Slim or Speck used to poke him with a drumstick or something to get him to smile.John lived a wonderful life.and anyone living could not ask for a better life.

  2. Roger
    November 24, 2007 at 12:56 pm

    I have been a frequent visitor to the timejumpers weekly monday night gig in nashville and it will not be the same without John there. You could feel the respect and awe all of his bandmates had in being a part of a band with John. A month back Vince Gill sat in with them and he laughed and said that when he was on the road with John in his band he was John Hughey’s lead singer….they proceeded into a western swing version of Go Rest High On That Mountain…..today it seems a fitting send off. Condolences to the family and nashville recording community.

  3. GEORGE VANCE
    November 25, 2007 at 3:39 pm

    HI RANDY:
    I AM NOT A MUSICAN—JUST A HUGE MUSIC FAN. I AM 57 YEARS OF AGE AND MY FIRST MEMOROES OF JOHN GO BACK TO THE SLIM RHODES TV SHOW ON WMC TV IN MEMPHIS IN THE EARLY 60s. I AM A FELLOW ARKANSASAN AND AM SO PROUD OF JOHN—-HE HAD A REMARKABLE CAREER AND A WONDERFUL LIFE. ONE LEARNS MANY THINGS ABOUT A PERSON WHEN THAT PERSON PASSES AWAY AND THE THINGS I HAVE LEARNED ABOUT JOHN THESE PAST FEW DAYS ONLY ADD TO MY RESPECT FOR HIM. I WOULD VENTURE TO SAY THAT JOHN TRULY LOVED THE MUSIC AND THE FACT IT PAVED THE WAY TO A GOOD LIFE FOR HIM AND HIS FAMILY HE SIMPLY LOOKED UPON AS A BLESSING FROM THE LORD.
    IT WAS BEAUTIFUL TO SEE THE MUSIC COMMUNITY RETURN SOME OF THE LOVE THAT HE HAD GIVEN TO IT ALL THESE MANY YEARS. WE WILL MISS JOHN BUT NEVER FORGET HIM—-HE IS NOW IN A PLACE FILLED WITH BEAUTIFUL MUSIC AND I KNOW HE IS A HAPPY MAN.

    THANKS,
    GEORGE VANCE
    WYNNE, ARKANSAS

  4. Tammy
    November 30, 2007 at 10:02 am

    Very nice things to write..glad to know there are so many “good” people out there.

    Thanks,
    John’s niece

  5. Bob Barclay
    December 1, 2007 at 10:48 am

    The Lord has called John home to be with his many friends that have went on before him. The Lord loaned him to us and gave him a great talent to share with the world. I will always be able watch him on the time jumpers dvd that I have. I ask the Lord to comfort Jean and his family until we all meet again. God Bless

  6. Theresa D. Bush
    February 23, 2008 at 6:35 pm

    Met John in Tulsa, Ok at a steel guitar convention and what a thrill. He will always be in my heart as the greatest steel player that ever played and even a better person. I will always keep his music in my head as well as my heart.

  7. Pete Ethridge,Meridian,Ms
    July 31, 2008 at 10:00 am

    To everyone who knew John,heres my story.It saddens me about his passing on,Mr John did a really nice and loving thing for me back in1998,he was going to be in Magee,Ms for a show and I had a sudden sickness and could not make the show becouse the DRS told me not to travel for a few months.A freind of mine Jim Parker went to the show,he got to talk to Mr John and told him his #1 fan was sick and could not make the show. so mr. john sent me an singed pictuer of him and told me to get well soon.a few tears later i got to go to a show where he was,Mr.Parker tolg MR. John as i was coming in that his #1 fan was here,I got to go over to his table and got to talk to him,and he rembered that Mr Parker told him about me .I was very nervouse and I ask Mr John would it be posible for me to get my picture taken with him?He said he would be glad to,and that has been in my heart from then on,i would not take any amount of money for that moment.Mr. John treated me like he knew me all my life,and that realy touched my heart. his wife was there also and she was a very very nice person to meet also. iwill never forget the love they showed me that day,it will be in my heart the rest of my life to have meet and talked to Mr John and his wife.may he rest HIGH ON THE MOUNTAIN,my prayers are still with his family and will always be.I know he touch the life of everone he met,he treated everyone so Once again thats my story of a great steel player and a very loving person.To All My GOD bless each and everone Ill miss you BUTTERMILK JOHN Love Alwats Pete Ethridge,Meridian Ms o

  8. barbara lee
    January 10, 2009 at 4:20 am

    i was so sorry to hear of johns passing. i was a devout fan. i always enjoyed listening to his music. he could make the steel talk. i was also so glad to read the write up about him knowing Jesus. thats all that really matters .

  9. Carl
    December 5, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Dear John, we miss you and your music. But we are comforted by knowing that you are at peace and happiness with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

  10. Marty Willis
    March 18, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    John was the epitimy of talent. I use to watch him and Brad Suggs on local TV in Memphis and later I worked sessions and night clubs with him and he was a joy with whom to play. He could double as an electric guitarist for rock and roll and back up the singer like a chorus. I especially liked doing the Bill Black Combo album Bill Black Goes West. I liked the other top steel guitarists but John was something special. May God have a special place on his bandstand in Heaven. Marty Willis

Tagged In This Article

// // // // // // //

Current Discussion

  • Louie: "Brotherly Love," IS a Keith Whitley song. Trying to take advantage of the impact sales, and the tragedy of Keith's …
  • Erik North: A big loss for not only the Nashville songwriting community, but for songwriting communities everywhere, in my opinion, that Paul …
  • luckyoldsun: If they're only allowed one modern inductee per year in the H-o-F, then there's a backlog developing. You have Skaggs, …
  • Leeann Ward: I'm not an ETC fan, but I do love "Brotherly Love" with Keith Whitley.
  • luckyoldsun: It's got to be "What I'd Say." (I think that's the title.) There was some question, I believe, over whether …
  • Paul W Dennis: probably "Nobody Falls Like A Fool" or "Silent Treatment"
  • Lynchie from Aberdeen: Where in heck's name is "That Was A Close One"?!?!? It's the guy's best song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrR_2rXiKA0
  • Cody: Love seeing ETC getting some credit! My five, in no particular order at first; Crowd Around the Corner Home So Fine I Have …
  • Juli Thanki: I think it's technically a Keith Whitley song, but I've always been fond of his duet with ETC, "Brotherly Love."
  • luckyoldsun: Lots of very good artists have not had anywhere near the radio play and hits that Lee Ann Womack has …

Recently Reviewed Albums

  • deadmanstown
  • tom t hall storytellers
  • paulthorntooblessed
  • duhksbeyondtheblue
  • kelleymickwee
  • sandrarhodes
  • candi staton
  • sturgillsimpsonmetamodern