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Tom Brumley Steel Guitarist for Buck Owens and Rick Nelson Dies

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Tom Brumley Steel guitarist Tom Brumley, known as a perfectionist with an instantly recognizable sound, also spent 10 years in Rick Nelsons band.

Tom Brumley, a legendary steel guitarist who contributed to the “Bakersfield sound" of Buck Owens and the Buckaroos in the 1960s before spending 10 years performing with Rick Nelson, has died. He was 73. Brumley died Tuesday at Northeast Baptist Hospital in San Antonio, eight days after suffering a heart attack, said his wife, Rolene Brumley.

During his years with Owens, from 1963 to 1969, Brumley traveled the world and played on landmark recordings such as Together Again, “I've Got a Tiger by the Tail" and Act Naturally. Brumley, whose “pure" steel sound was known in the music industry as “The Brumley Touch," received an Academy of Country Music Award for No. 1 Steel Guitarist in 1966.

“I grew up watching the Buckaroos," said country music singer Marty Stuart, who recorded with Brumley and knew him for 20 years. “To me, they were country music's answer to the Beatles.Tom's steel guitar parts stand as monumental and foundational works that are considered textbook in the vocabulary of country music.

“He was also, in my opinion, one of the cornerstone guys that kind of bridged country music and rock 'n' roll, as well, with his Ricky Nelson works." Brumley left Owens' band in 1969, after Nelson invited him to play steel guitar with his band for his “Live at the Troubadour" album.

“It was a godsend being asked to join Rick's band, and I still think 'Garden Party' was a highlight of my recording career," Brumley told Canada's Edmonton Journal in 2005. “Initially, I only accepted the offer to do four shows with him at the Troubadour, but I enjoyed it so much I stayed with him for 10 years."

Brumley said that Nelson, who died in an airplane crash on New Year's Eve 1985, “was such a great guy, and we had such a close relationship that I still stay in touch with his boys." He later spent three years recording and touring with Chris Hillman and the Desert Rose Band.

From 1989 to 2003, he performed with his sons, Todd and Tommy, in the Brumley Family Music Show in Branson, Mo. Over the last decade, he performed or recorded with artists such as Chris Isaak, Merle Haggard, Glen Campbell, Waylon Jennings, Ray Price, Reba McEntire, Rod Stewart and Martina McBride.


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