Ben Peters, the Grammy-winning songwriter who penned No. 1 country hits,
including Kiss An Angel Good Morning, Daytime Friends and Before
The Next Teardrop Falls, died Wednesday of pneumonia at Saint Thomas
Hospital. He was 71.
Born in poverty in rural Mississippi and neglected as a child, Mr. Peters worked
cotton fields in his youth. Peters found his grandfather's saxophone in an attic,
learned to play the instrument and ran away from home to New Orleans while he was
still a teenager. Mr. Peters took the sax with him and began playing in clubs.
After attending the University of Southern Mississippi — where he met his bride,
Jackie Macon — Mr. Peters became a pilot in the U.S. Navy.
Upon returning to the United States, he took various jobs and wrote songs until
the wee hours.
The Peters family moved to Nashville in 1966. Mr. Peters did some work as a
solo artist but eventually concentrated on writing and established himself
as one of country music's greatest songsmiths. Mr. Peters often drew from
real life when writing songs. Kiss An Angel Good Morning, which became
Charley Pride's biggest hit, was written after Mr. Peters'
wife reminded her husband to pay attention to their daughter, Angela,
whose nickname was 'Angel.'
"Hey, you need to go kiss your Angel good morning," Jackie said,
giving birth to an international hit that won a 1972 Grammy Award.
Mr. Peters, a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, wrote
14 No. 1 songs, and was recorded by artists including
Jerry Lee Lewis, Brenda Lee, Ray Charles, Eddy Arnold,
Alan Jackson, George Jones, Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson.
In addition to his wife and daughter, Mr. Peters is survived by his daughter
Debbie Thomas, son Justin Peters and five grandchildren.
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