Nashville Star, Earl Gaines: 1935-2009

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• January 1, 2010

Earl-GainesNashville r&b star Earl Gaines died on New Year’s Eve at St. Thomas Hospital. He was 74 years old. Gaines was a gruff-voiced shouter who was a central figure in Music City’s soul scene for decades. That fact was underscored by his prominence in the Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit and Grammy Award winning CD set Night Train to Nashville.

He first achieved prominence in 1955 by singing lead on the original version of the standard “It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)” for Louis Brooks & His Hi-Toppers. As a solo star, he had later hits with “The Best of Luck to You” in 1966 and “Hymn Number 5” in 1973. The Night Train compilations reissued his “White Rose,” recorded in 1959, and “Don’t Take My Kindness for a Weakness,” from 1965, as well as “It’s Love Baby.” He also performed memorably at the museum exhibit’s opening celebration.

The material he recorded in 1967-73 for the Starday/King imprint DeLuxe Records was reissued in 1998, and he released a new CD titled Everything’s Gonna Be Alright in that same year. He also recorded for such labels as Excello, Champion, Poncello, Hanna-Barbera, HBR, Athens, Sound Stage 7, Ace, Meltone, Appaloosa, Black Top, Ecko and Blue Fye. Often cited as the greatest r&b singer Nashville ever produced, Earl Gaines was in addition notable for his long career. He toured and recorded from the 1950s onward, issuing new CDs as recently as 2005 and 2008, The Different Feelings of Blues and Soul and Nothin’ But the Blues.

The loss of Earl Gaines compounds what has been a devastating year for Nashville’s r&b pioneers. Producer/singer/songwriter Ted Jarrett died last March. Guitarist/singer Johnny Jones passed away in October, as did Ted Acklen Jr., who chronicled the legacy of his father’s famed Jefferson Street nightclub, The Club Del Morocco.

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Robert K. Oermann is a longtime contributor to MusicRow. He is a respected music critic, author and historian.

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