Claude King, a Country music singer and songwriter who was best known for the 1962 hit “Wolverton Mountain,” died Thursday morning at his home in Shreveport, Lousiana. He was 90.
According to Billboard.com, Claude’s old son, Duane King, found the singer lying unresponsive in his bed. Claude had just celebrated his birthday and 67th wedding anniversary to his wife, Barbara, in February.
Born in Keithville, Louisiana, King developed a love for music at an early age but his true passion was sports. After attending the University of Idaho on a baseball scholarship, King began focusing on music and became a cast member of the Louisiana Hayride radio show in late 40s.
The Hayride, which was broadcast on local radio station KWKH, helped to launch the careers of some of the greatest names in American country and western music, including George Jones, Elvis Presley, and Jim Reeves.
“Claude was a legend in the Louisiana music industry, one of the greatest songwriters, and a wonderful friend,” said Maggie Warwick, owner of the Louisiana Hayride trademark and the production company, Louisiana Hayride Co. “Claude and Tillman Franks were on the Hayride from the very beginning.”
After a few unsuccessful attempts at recording in the 1950s, Claude signed with the Columbia Records in 1961 and immediately produced his first hit, Big River, Big Man, which peaked at No. 7 on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart, and was the first of 19 top 40 records through 1971.
King’s greatest hit, however, came in the spring of 1962 when he produced Wolverton Mountain.
The song, which Claude co-wrote with Nashville veteran Merle Kilgore, spent nine weeks atop the country songs chart, peaking at No. 6 on the Hot 100. It sold over one million copies, and was awarded gold disc status.
“He had a gift for melody and lyrics that was very definable,” Warwick said of King’s music ability. “The range and melody and the feeling that goes with his songs, when you hear it, it’s very unique and identifiable with Claude King. He had a personal style that was all his own.”
Listen to Claude’s hit song, Wolverton Mountain, below: