Hank Williams’ Steel Guitarist, Don Helms, Passed Away Today At 81

Brody Vercher | August 11th, 2008

  1. frozenphan
    August 11, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    I thought I was the only one who still appreciated Patty Loveless. “Here I Am” would be my number one Patty song.

  2. John Maglite
    August 11, 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Wow, really sorry to hear about Don Helms. What a loss. His style of playing really defined classic country. He left quite a legacy.

    I appreciate the plug, though I fear you might have just sent a bunch of rabid Jessica Simpson fans my way.

  3. Kelly
    August 11, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    I really enjoyed the Loveless top 25 write-up. Her back to back albums, “When Fallen Angels Fly” & “Trouble With the Truth” defined the female country vocalist for me in the nineties.

  4. m.c.
    August 11, 2008 at 1:59 pm

    Don Helms had been hospitalized recently, but, as of last Friday, his family believed he was recovering and would be going home this week. He was still playing gigs only a few weeks ago, and had been appearing regularly once a month at Robert’s Western World on Sunday afternoons. He’d play something like “Cold, Cold Heart,” and it would give everyone who heard it chills. I got to hear him several times in the last two or three years, still playing that red ssteel with the tall spindly legs that he played with Hank, and whenever he’d go into a Drifting Cowboys song, you’d know how important his style of playing was to Hank’s sound. He started with Hank when he was 17, in 1944, and Hank liked him to play it clean and to mimic the song’s melody, something Don mastered. He once told me that, back then, musicians played melodies, and now they all play riffs. His passing is monumental. He also was married to his wife Hazel since they were 18, and they were inseparable, so keep her in your thoughts.

    That said, it’s not exactly accurate to call Don the last living Drifting Cowboy or last link to the Drifting Cowboys, as the above newspaper quote says and others are already writing. Helms was the last living member of the classic Drifting Cowboys lineup, but there were a lot of members of the band over the years, and some are still alive.

    Bernice Turner was a Drifting Cowboy in the ’40s when Hank was still in Montgomery, and she always has claimed to have taught Hank the sock rhythm on acoustic guitar that became so important to his sound. She’s still alive and recently moved to Nashville from Memphis. Also, the great guitarist Pete Wade, who was with Ray Price for many years, was a Drifting Cowboy during one of the band’s last tours with Hank. Pete is still active and very well. There are a few others still kicking around in Alabama who were early members of the band.

  5. Jaime
    August 11, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    I have played Patty’s “Nothin’ but the Wheel” more times than I can count. Like Boldt I could never figure out why that song wasn’t a huge hit either.

  6. Dylan Gramm
    August 11, 2008 at 11:20 pm

    Glad to see Loveless’s version of YOU DON’T SEEM TO MISS ME made it on the list – one of my favourite Jim Lauderdale tunes.

  7. Rick
    August 11, 2008 at 11:32 pm

    OMG! You mean perky little dancing queen Julianne Hough and the sensitive pretty boy Chuck Wicks are together! That is like so totally awesome and really cool ’cause they are like the cutest couple ever! (lol)

    I’m sorry to hear about the passing of Don Helms as direct living links to traditional country’s greatest artists of the past are fading away fast (well the few that remain anyway).

    Keep up the support for Emily West because in spite of her talent Airhead Country Radio ain’t bitin’….

  8. Funk
    August 11, 2008 at 11:57 pm

    You mean perky little dancing queen Julianne Hough…

    I’d hit that.

  9. Jim Malec
    August 12, 2008 at 7:39 am

    Even airhead country radio can’t keep a talent like Emily down for long.

  10. David Nisbet, Scotland
    August 12, 2008 at 11:03 am

    RIP Don.


Juli Thanki on WAMU's Bluegrass Country

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