Grand Ole Opry star Billy Grammer, best known for his 1959 hit Gotta Travel On, died Wednesday morning in his home state of Illinois of natural causes. He was 85.
Grammer, the oldest of 13 children, grew up in Benton, Illinois as the son of a coal worker that also had a passion for the violin. After learning the basics of the instrument from his father, Billy went on to master it along with the mandolin and the guitar and began performing with his family at local gatherings near his home town.
After a stint in the Army he moved to the Washington, D.C. area and later played guitar on television’s The Jimmy Dean Show. A much sought after session-guitarist, Grammer had an extremely busy career playing on albums by Patti Page, Louis Armstrong, Charley Pride and Eddy Arnold, among others.
“I’ve got a little more of a broad sense of music than the average guy coming up playing country music,” Grammer said once, according to his profile on the Grand Ole Opry website. “Musicians I have talked to through the years have told me that I have a little extra punch, a little extra push.”
In addition to his one of a kind playing abilities, Grammer also designed guitars, and a brand of flat-top came from a company he started in the 1960s. He donated his first “Grammer” guitar to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1969.
In 1990, he was inducted into the Illinois Country Music Hall of Fame.
Grammer is survived by his wife of 66 years, Ruth, three children, four brothers and four sisters; eight grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.
Watch Billy Grammer as he recalls the days when the Grammer guitar was first introduced to the marketplace.
via National Post