Russ Hicks dies after accidental fall, guitarist from Nashville, TN passed away at 82

The legendary steel guitarist Russ Hicks has passed away. (Source: Facebook)
The legendary steel guitarist Russ Hicks has passed away. (Source: Facebook)

 

In a poignant moment for the country music community, there is a collective sense of grief as the industry bids farewell to a true legend. Russ Hicks, the renowned steel guitarist from Nashville, Tennessee, has passed away at the age of 82.

A virtuoso of the steel guitar, Hicks leaves behind a musical legacy that echoes across the rich tapestry of country music history. His influence spans decades, marking him as a maestro whose artistry has profoundly shaped the soul of Nashville’s musical landscape.

Russ Hicks passed away

Russ Hicks, a revered maestro of the steel guitar, whose musical brilliance adorned countless classic country masterpieces, including the memorable tunes on Ween’s “12 Golden Country Greats,” has left us.

The Rittenberry Steel Guitar Company broke the sorrowful news on Facebook, emphasizing Russ Hicks’ deep influence, both as a musician and as a beloved figure in the close-knit musical community.

His extraordinary skills and unique contributions to the music scene have made an enduring impact, resonating profoundly with fans and fellow artists alike.

Russ Hicks Cause of Death

According to recent updates, the esteemed steel guitarist Russ Hicks experienced a significant incident, leading to a fall and subsequent admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). As word spread about his health condition, a wave of support surged from his devoted fanbase, uniting admirers worldwide in prayers and optimistic thoughts for his recovery.

Unfortunately, despite the collective hopes and well-wishes, Russ Hicks succumbed to the challenges he confronted in the ICU, marking the conclusion of a musical era. The iconic musician, at the age of 82, bid his final farewell, leaving behind a legacy distinguished by unparalleled contributions to the realms of steel guitar and country music.

Who was Russ Hicks?

Russ Hicks’ journey from playing in rock ‘n roll garage bands to becoming one of Nashville’s premier session musicians has crisscrossed the United States multiple times. Yet, from an early age, there was a clear certainty that he was destined for greatness.

Today, Hicks is recognized as one of the nation’s finest pedal steel guitar players, boasting an extraordinary musical career spanning over five decades.

Early Life

Raised in West Virginia, the musically gifted Russ Hicks began playing the guitar at the age of thirteen. While still in high school, he established the rock ‘n roll band, The Teen Tones, which was swiftly signed to Decca Records, prompting a move to Las Vegas.

After a year in Vegas, Hicks returned to Aiken, South Carolina, where his parents were residing. He graduated from Aiken High School and, just days later, relocated to Chicago to join The Versa-Tones.

At the age of 21, he became part of The Impellas and moved to Houston, where they performed in clubs. By the end of the year, Hicks returned to West Virginia, where he married Diana Carol Stewart, the future mother of his first two daughters. Russ re-established The Versa-Tones, entertaining audiences in clubs and supporting local artists. The band even made appearances on The Buddy Starcher Show, aired on WCAS in Charleston, WV.

Career Beginning

While attending a telethon at a local TV station, Russ Hicks, present in the studio audience, witnessed the awe-inspiring pedal steel guitar performance by the legendary Buddy Emmons in Little Jimmy Dickens’ band. This experience left Hicks so captivated that he made the pivotal decision to resign from his rock ‘n roll band and invest in a Gibson Electraharp.

Embracing the pedal steel guitar, Hicks discovered his true musical calling. After a year of touring and recording with Smith, Hicks made a significant move by joining Ray Price and the Cherokee Cowboys, a band distinguished by featuring five fiddlers during that period.

When Price’s ensemble shifted to Texas, Hicks chose to part ways and settle in Nashville. There, he secured a position with Kitty Wells and embarked on a three-year tour with her. Subsequently, Hicks returned to the Slim Mims Show, which had relocated to Orlando, Florida.

Harmony Across Decades

In the 1970s, upon returning to Nashville to focus on studio work, Russ Hicks crossed paths with Charlie McCoy, a seasoned studio professional and fellow West Virginian. Collaborating with iconic session musicians like Grady Martin, Hargus “Pig” Robbins, Pete Wade, Buddy Harmon, Bob Moore, Roy Huskey, Jr., and Harold Bradley, Hicks contributed his skills to recordings by a diverse array of artists, including Marty Robbins, Ronnie Milsap, Mickey Gilley, Larry Gatlin, Jerry Lee Lewis, Tom T. Hall, Don Gibson, Wanda Jackson, Townes Van Zandt, and the Charlie Daniels Band, among others.

His musical versatility extended to movie soundtracks, including Clint Eastwood’s Every Which Way But Loose. Joining the Nashville-based Barefoot Jerry, led by Wayne Moss, a renowned studio picker, Hicks became part of the Hee Haw TV show’s house band from 1980 to 1992, under the leadership of Charlie McCoy.

Over the years, Hicks has been a featured performer at steel guitar shows across the United States and globally, leading workshops and sharing his musical knowledge from his home. Establishing Woodshed Records, his studio, Hicks delved into producing and recording his albums/CDs.

While maintaining an active presence in the Nashville area, Hicks, a Lifetime Member of the American Federation of Musicians, continues his role as a studio musician. He operates from his Home Studio, various Nashville Recording Studios, and even ventured to renowned Residential Studios in France in 2021, exclusively collaborating with the celebrated French Superstar, Eddy Mitchell. This partnership, involving live concerts and recordings, echoes a longstanding connection that began in Paris, France, during the 1970s, featuring Russ, Charlie McCoy, and fellow Barefoot Jerry bandmates.

Personal Life

Married to Laney Smallwood Hicks since 1979, Russ and Laney still find joy in creating the music that initially brought them together. Their musical journey began at the Monument Records Disc Jockey Convention Show in Nashville, Tennessee, where they were label mates.

While they have traveled the world together, their home has been in Pegram, Tennessee, just beyond Nashville. In a log home crafted by Russ himself, they raised their children, creating a warm and welcoming space known as “Hicks Holler” for annual Jam Session Fish Fries that brought scores of friends together over the years.

As a proud father, Russ cherishes his four daughters, Angela Maria, Jennifer Lynn, Holly Beth, and Lindsay Hope. In a unique celebration of the father-daughter bond, Russ has recorded individual CDs with each of his daughters, highlighting their distinct musical gifts.

Tributes

During this poignant time, a wave of condolences has poured in from Russ Hicks’ circle of friends and devoted fans.

Tim Wallis wrote: “R.I.P. Russ Hicks. He was one of the best Pedal Steel Guitar players I’ve had the pleasure to pick with and know. His musical accomplishments were impressive by anyone’s standards.”

NTSGA-Nashville Tennessee Steel Guitar Association wrote: “More bad news. Just learned that Legend member and HOF Russ Hicks passed today. He was a wonderful friend and a great player. Please keep Laney and their family in your prayers.”

Billy Boggs wrote: “Rest in Peace Russ Hicks, you’ve been a great longtime friend of the family, an excellent player, singer, writer and just good guy, such a talent who has played with more stars than I can count. Our thoughts and prayers are with Laney and the girls and his family and friends. 💔😢🙏

As we collectively mourn the loss of a true virtuoso, we reflect on the legacy of Russ Hicks, a master of the steel guitar whose artistry will continue to resonate through the timeless notes of country music.

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