Webb Pierce, 69, Country Music Hall of Fame nominee who had over 50 top 10 hits in the 1950s and ’60s, died Feb. 24 in Nashville of pancreatic cancer.
Pierce was known as much for his flamboyant style – which included flashy rhinestone-covered costumes, a silver-dollar-studded car and a guitar-shaped swimming pool – as for his music. His hits included “There Stands The Glass,” “Wondering,” “Missing You,” “Back Street Affair,” “I Ain’t Never,” “Tupelo County Jail,” “In The Jailhouse Now” and “Any Old Time.”
His hit “Slowly,” recorded in 1954, is believed to be the first country hit to feature the now-standard pedal steel guitar.
Pierce’s band, the Wandering Boys, was a training ground for a number of other stars, including Floyd Cramer, steel guitarist Jimmy Day, the Wilburn Bros. and singers Goldie Hill and Faron Young. Pierce also helped launch the careers of Merle Kilgore, Mel Tillis and Roy Drusky.
Born on a farm near West Monroe, La., Pierce began performing on Monroe’s KMLB radio in the early 1940s, and joined KWKH’s popular “Louisiana Hayride” in 1949. Three years later, he was hired by the Grand Old Opry to replace the fired Hank Williams.
His hits “Why Baby Why” (a duet with Red Sovine), “It’s Been So Long,” “I’m Walking The Dog,” “Even Tho” and “More And More” led to more than 30 show business awards.
In 1955, Pierce became a regular on the ABC-TV series “Ozark Jubilee.” In the ’60s, he starred in the hillbilly films “Buffalo Gun,” “Road To Nashville” and “Music City USA.”
He also was instrumental in the establishment of Nashville as a music center. Following Roy Acuff’s lead, he co-founded Cedarwood Publishing with Jim Denny in 1953, becoming the second country star with his own song business. Cedarwood was the first firm to build an office building on what is now known as Music Row.
In 1989, Pierce was given the Master Achievement Award during Country Music Week ceremonies staged by the Reunion of Professional Entertainers Organization. Last October, he was nominated to the Country Music Hall of Fame; his election is expected.
Survived by his wife, Audrey, a son, a daughter, a half-brother and two grandchildren.