Another legendary guitarist in the form of Leon Rhodes bids the country music industry farewell. A Texas native, Rhodes was best known for performing alongside icons like Lefty Frizzell, Ray Price, and Ernest Tubb. He was also a member of the Grand Ole Opry house band.
On Saturday, December 9, the country guitarist succumbed to his death in his Nashville home. He was 85 years old.
Fans will never forget his signature playing style: strumming his guitar with blinding speed and topnotch accuracy. Born on March 10, 1932, in Dallas, Rhodes first learned to play the guitar at a very young age. He used his older brother’s guitar to practice. Slowly, his skills began to shine and get better, that at the age of 16, Leon Rhodes became part of the musicians for The Big D Jamboree. It was a country music program held on the Dallas-based radio station called KRLD-AM.
During the 1950’s, he recorded songs with Ray Price and Lefty Frizzell in Texas. In 1960, he was hired by Tubb to be the Texas Troubadours’ lead guitarist. Alongside the band’s frontman, Cal Smith, bassist Jack Drake, steel guitarist Buddy Charleton, and drummer Jack Greene, Rhodes let his career as a musician flourish for over seven years. Following his exit from the Troubadours, Rhodes went on to become a member of the Opry staff band. He became among the band’s mainstays until the year 1999.
Soon after, Leon Rhodes became part of the show that featured The Whites and Porter Wagoner. Aside from his undeniably amazing stints as part of some of the country’s finest bands, he also worked as a session musician for country singers like George Strait, Loretta Lynn, and Reba McEntire. After his retirement in 2014, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame and was dedicated an exhibit at the Country Music Hall of Fame Museum’s Nashville Cats series.
Funeral services were held for Leon Rhodes last December 12, Tuesday, at Old Hickory, Tennessee. He is survived by his wife, Judi, along with his eight children, 25 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren.
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