Chuck Dauphin, the undisputed sweetheart of country music journalism, died Wednesday night at 45.
Dauphin was the rare journalist who could claim the title “CMA Award winner.” The Country Music Association bestowed him with its CMA Media Achievement Award backstage during a lull in the telecast in 2014.
A writer and radio personality who was held in particularly warm affection by many of Nashville’s stars as well as his fellow scribes, Dauphin spent the last eight years as one of Billboard’s key country music contributors. Even as he struggled in hospice care this year, suffering from the effects of diabetes, he continued to file stories from his bed, including one last interview with Vince Gill about his new album, “Okie,” that was published Aug. 22. “A new album from Vince Gill is always time to smile,” he enthused in his final tweet.
Dauphin was beloved by many stars in Nashville, who supported him as he’d unflaggingly supported them. Among them was Randy Travis, who visited Dauphin’s bedside in his final days. In June, Dauphin had written of having dinner with Travis and his wife, Mary.
“Chuck was the greatest friend I will ever have, and his memory will be eternal through his words,” Lauren Tingle, a fellow music journalist, tells Variety. “He treated everyone like family regardless of whether they were a celebrity or a stranger. He impacted the souls of many with his unprecedented kindness. His devotion to those in his life sets the standard for what real friendship is. It was an honor to know him and get to know his family, especially his father, Charles Dauphin, Jr., and his aunt, Diana. They raised him right.”
Tingle and publicist Jackie Marushka were two stalwart friends who stood and sat by Dauphin after he was transferred to hospice care a week before his death.
Nashville celebrities quickly weighed in to eulogize Dauphin, including Travis, who said in a statement, “If ever you needed a friend… or a kind word… you could count on Chuck Dauphin. A gentleman through all the years of my career, who always focused on the best in everyone. Chuck was a gift to this world and leaves us all better because he crossed our paths. Rest now in peace and perfect health, Brother Chuck — Forever and Ever, Amen.”
Dauphin, who once had been a reliable Facebook raconteur, had mostly disappeared from social media in recent months, worrying friends. In the moments when he did return, he openly worried most of all that his worsening health would affect his ability to continue as a country music journalist. In his last post, he wrote, ““I was depressed and tired…but moving into the new place has made me hungry again..Maybe I have something to live for…I was also depressed about my career which seemed to have slowed down a bit during my illness…but I want to make it back…I want to live…Don’t get me wrong…there are still a lot of challenges…..and maybe home health can help with some of them…but I hope to make it back healthwise and career wise. I ask for your prayers during this time…it’s going to be the toughest thing I have ever done, but I think I can, I think I can…”
Dauphin’s byline was also seen in Rolling Stone, The Boot, Roughstock, CMA Close Up, At Home Nashville, Country Now, Sounds Like Nashville and the Dickson County Herald.
Dauphin was familiar to radio listeners in Dickson Country, Tennessee as “Crazy Chucky.” He started his career in radio in 1991 while he was still a junior in high school, at WDKN in Dickson, where he worked for 18 years, eventually becoming program director while maintaining his status as on-air personality. He also worked at WNKX in Centerville and was heard on Nashville’s WSM-AM and as a guest on SiriusXM. In his last years he became a sportscaster, as well, as the voice of Hickman Country football broadcasts.
Dauphin was highly supportive of other country music journalists, doling out compliments on a regular basis, although his greatest reverence was naturally revered for the practitioners of the genre itself, to which he devoted himself as if it were a second faith alongside his own Christianity.
“Chuck knew every thing about country music: the artists, the songs and the people who wrote the songs,” wrote singer Jimmy Wayne on Facebook. “He could tell you just about anything you needed to know about country music… Let’s all remember Chuck and think about him and his legacy and how much he has helped every artist through his writing. He’s made all of us look like bigger stars than we will ever be.