Star Percussionist Willie Ackerman Passes

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• December 17, 2012

Willie Ackerman on the set of Hee Haw. He was on the show for 25 years.

Willie Ackerman, a longtime drummer on the Grand Ole Opry, on Hee Haw and on Music Row recording sessions has died at age 73.

Ackerman passed away at Skyline Medical Center last Thursday, Dec. 13. Born William Paul Ackerman, he was a Nashville native who became a professional musician at age 17.

He rose to prominence during the Nashville Sound era of the 1950s and 1960s and can be heard on records by Patsy Cline, Willie Nelson, Charley Pride, Tom T. Hall, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Chet Atkins, Ray Price, Faron Young, Roger Miller, Johnny Paycheck, Bobby Bare, Jim Reeves and hundreds of others.

Among the hits he set the tempo for were “El Paso” by Marty Robbins, “The Grand Tour” by George Jones, “Amos Moses” by Jerry Reed, “Wings of a Dove” by Ferlin Husky, “Black Rose” by Waylon Jennings, “Walk on By” by Leroy Van Dyke, “Ahab the Arab” by Ray Stevens and “Girl on the Billboard” by Del Reeves. He was extremely active as a musician between 1957 and 1990.

Willie Ackerman was a member of the Nashville local of the American Federation of Musicians for 50 years and served on the union’s board of directors. He was also a Deputy Sheriff of Davidson County.

He is survived by his wife Jeannie, his musician son Trey, daughters Kelly Ackerman and Angela Pardaen, seven grandchildren, brother John Robert and sisters Helen Demonbreun, Sammie Guthrie and Frankie Corinne Boyle.

His memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. this morning [Monday, Dec. 17] at Marshall-Donnelly-Combs Funeral Home, followed by burial at Spring Hill Cemetery in Madison. Memorials can be made in his honor to the Opry Trust Fund.

Willie Ackerman and Jim Glazer, circa 1958.

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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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