Grand Ole Opry Star Billy Grammer Passes Away This Morning
Grand Ole Opry member Billy Grammer passed away early this morning in his home state of Illinois from natural causes. Grammer had been a member of the Opry since 1959 and was 85 years old. Funeral arrangements are listed below.
Billy Grammer was recognized as one of country music’s great guitar players. Grammer was born one of 13 children to a coal mining family in Illinois. He spent his childhood on a farm, where music was a big part of his family and social life. After high school and service in the Army, Grammer heard of a possible opening with Connie B. Gay, a disc jockey and promoter in the Washington, D.C., area. He hitchhiked to Arlington, Virginia, auditioned, and got the job.
His skills as a musician won him stints in the bands of artists such as Hawkshaw Hawkins and Grandpa Jones and a sideman role on Jimmy Dean’s television show. He then formed his own band and began performing as a solo artist. In early 1959, he recorded his memorable hit “Gotta Travel On.” Its success led to Opry membership that same year.
A superb instrumentalist, Grammer was for years in great demand as a session picker. “Musicians I have talked to through the years have told me that I have a little extra punch, a little extra push,” he said. During the 1960s, Grammer turned his talents to developing what was once called “the finest flat-top guitar on the market”—the Grammer Guitar.
He celebrated his 50th Opry anniversary with his wife Ruth and other family and friends at the Opry in February 2009.
Morton & Johnston Funeral Home
410 S Main Street
Benton, IL 62812
Phone Number: (618) 438-0311
Friday, Aug. 12: Visitation 5:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 13: Funeral Service @ 11:00 a.m. at the Morton & Johnson Funeral Home