Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Hal Rugg, RIP

Date: Wed, 10 Aug 2005 11:24:05 -0400
From: Bill Knowlton
Subject: From Eddie Stubbs: Hal Rugg Dies


If you'd be kind enough to post the following to the IBMA and bgrassl lists, I'd appreciate it.

It is with much sadness that I must inform you of the passing of Hal Rugg, a member of the Steel Guitar Hall Of Fame, and one of the truly great steel guitar stylists of all time.

As outlined in a previous email, Hal Rugg's credentials were quite significant and impressive.

After arriving in Nashville and working the road and Grand Ole Opry spots with numerous artists in the early 1960's, Hal went to work for the Wilburn Brothers. The year was 1965, and that career move was an important stepping stone in Rugg's performing, television, and recording career. That connection with the Wilburn's opened the door for Hal to accompany two important acts they were representing- Loretta Lynn, and the Osborne Brothers. [Note: The Osborne Brothers home page seems to be down, and the CMT page is a lousy substitute. Apologies. PS: Sonny's hair doesn't really look like that.]

Hal Rugg first accompanied Loretta Lynn in 1965 on her hit "The Home You're Tearing Down." Thereafter he would go on to play on virtually all of Loretta Lynn's recording sessions for the next twenty years. The next time you hear "Don't Come Home A-Drinking (With Loving On Your Mind)," "One's On The Way" or "Coal Miner's Daughter" by Loretta, listen closely to the great steel work of Hal Rugg.

Rugg first played behind the Osborne Brothers on their 1967 Decca session which produced the hit "Rocky Top." Following that, Hal played on every subsequent recording session the Osborne Brothers did for Decca/MCA that featured a pedal steel guitar. Rugg's talents are heard on nearly every cut in the second Osborne Brothers Bear Family box set encompassing the years 1968-1974. The Osborne Brothers wouldn't do a session without Hal--and for good reason--he always knew exactly what to play.

Following a decade of working Opry spots with numerous acts, Hal became a member of the Grand Ole Opry Staff Band when it was formed in 1974 when the Opry moved to its present location.

Over the years, Hal managed to carve out a very successful career as a studio musician. His recording sessions numbered literally in the thousands.

On many occasions Hal told me that he was as proud of the cuts he made with the Osborne Brothers as anything he ever recorded. Earlier today I spoke with Sonny Osborne about the way Hal felt about their music. Sonny responded, "That's really nice. I think one of the reasons that he felt that way was because we never tried to hold him back. We just told him, 'You're the steel guitar player. Just play whatever you want to and whatever you think fits,' and he always did. He was a great talent and a super guy. I sure hate that he's passed away. We're going to miss him."

The body of work that Hal Rugg did with the Osborne Brothers was important to both bluegrass and country music audiences. Rugg's talents greatly enhanced the sound of their studio recordings which were all done live and direct to tape. Those recordings still hold up well today more than thirty years after their initial release. Whether you're listening to country radio and hear one of the Osborne's recordings sandwiched between George Strait and Alan Jackson or to an all-bluegrass
program, the Osborne Brothers recordings from this period are pure classics.

Many dobro players today could take a lesson and learn from Hal Rugg's steel licks on the Osborne Brothers records.

Hal Rugg died this morning under Hospice care in Tucson, Arizona about 9 AM, following a two year battle with cancer. He had just recently celebrated his 69th birthday. Diagnosed initially with lung cancer, Hal was told he had an inoperable brain tumor in February of this year. His last performance was at the steel guitar convention in Dallas, Texas earlier this spring.

Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced, other than his remains will be returned to Nashville for a service and burial here. Once those arrangements have been made, I'll see to it they are provided to these lists.

Hal Rugg was well loved by all who knew him and he will certainly be missed.

Eddie Stubbs


Blogger Charlie said...

Sorry to read this. Hal was part of our studio band when I was producing the Air Force's "Country Music Time" in the early 1970s, along with Lightnin' Chance, Buddy Harmon, Marvin Hughes, Pete Wade, Ray Eddington, Tommy Jackson, Buddy Spiker, Charlie McCoy, and frequently the Jordanaires. They were the only way we could record 14 quarter-hour shows in two days!

11:18 PM  

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