Steel Guitar Hall of Famer Weldon Myrick, an instrumental force in country music
for half a century, died Monday at Saint Thomas Hospital, after suffering a stroke. He was 76.
Mr. Myrick's first indelible contribution to country music came on July 16, 1964, when he
played steel guitar on "Once a Day," the Bill Anderson-penned song
that became an eight-week No. 1 country hit and provided an entrance into the mainstream
for Connie Smith.
Now a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, Smith calls Mr. Myrick, "The guy who was
responsible for creating the Connie Smith sound."
"Weldon was so creative," Smith told Colin Escott, who wrote the liner notes to her Bear
Family boxed set, "Born To Sing." "He was always working on a new lick or a new
sound, and he was so loyal to me."
Mr. Myrick's part on "Once A Day" was prominent enough that he could have been
credited as a duo partner.
"'Once a Day' is a catchy true-confessions tear-fest with Smith tear-ing through
the song and Weldon Myrick's steel guitar acting as the sob sister that bawls right
back at her,'" wrote Dana Jennings in "Sing Me Back Home: Love, Death, and Country Music."
For "Once a Day," producer Bob Ferguson wanted a bright steel sound
and actually adjusted Myrick's amplifier to get that sound. Myrick told Escott, "I thought
it was an awfully thin sound, but it wound up being very popular."
The song afforded Mr. Myrick the notoriety to adjust his own amplifier any way he liked, and
he played on varying styles across the decades.
Mr. Myrick's steel graces Bill Anderson's "Bright Lights and Country Music,"
Jerry Jeff Walker's "Mr. Bojangles," Donna Fargo's "Happiest Girl in the Whole U.S.A.,"
Delbert McClinton's "Victim of Life's Circumstances,"
Linda Ronstadt's "Long Long Time," Alan Jackson's
"Chattahoochee," George Strait's "Let's Fall to Pieces Together,"
Ronnie Milsap's "Houston Solution" and many more.
He was the first call to play steel on Neil Young's "Heart of Gold,"
but was booked up and ceded that session to Ben Keith.
Mr. Myrick, born and raised in Jayton, Texas, started playing steel at age 8 after
steel-playing brother Tex went into the Air Force and left his instrument at home. As a
teenager, Mr. Myrick and fellow Texas youth Waylon Jennings came to Nashville
and recorded with a Lubbock-based singer named Hope Griffith. He visited
Music City again in 1958 to record for Capitol Records as part of the Ben Hall Trio,
then returned to Texas and worked as a policeman in Big Spring for a few years.
In 1963, Mr. Myrick moved to Nashville and found work making music with Anderson, himself
a future Country Music Hall of Famer. Anderson heard Smith singing at a country music
park in Ohio, encouraged her to move to Nashville and encouraged her to record with
his deft young steel player.
When "Once a Day" hit, Mr. Myrick joined Smith's band, but he soon left the road to
focus on recording. In 1966, he joined the Grand Ole Opry staff band. Mr. Myrick
played on the "Opry" regularly for 32 years. He also recorded as a singer for Starday,
Prize and other labels.
"I was very fortunate that I got to record with all of my heroes over the years," Mr. Myrick
wrote in the liner notes of his "Keepsakes" compilation. "I accomplished more than
I ever dreamed."
Upon learning of Mr. Myrick's death, fellow Pedal Steel Hall of Famer Lloyd Green
said, "He was a good person and a really fine steel player. You'll never hear an unkind word
about this man."
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