Tribute To John Hughey: Remembering The Steel Guitar Legend
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.
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