‘Session Guitar Star’ Reggie Young Of The Memphis Boys Dies At 82

Young was a much-respected session man on countless hits created in Memphis and Nashville.

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Guitarist Reggie Young, who played on well over 100 much-loved hits including Elvis Presley’s ‘Suspicious Minds’ and ‘In The Ghetto,’ Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline,’ Dusty Springfield’s ‘Son Of A Preacher Man’ and Dobie Gray’s ‘Drift Away,’ died on Thursday (17) at the age of 82.

Much respected by his peers, the news drew many comments on social media, including from many country stars in Young’s adopted home of Nashville. Keith Urban wrote: “My love and prayers go out today to the friends and family of the great Reggie Young!!!!!! Thank u for ALL the music Reggie!!” Travis Tritt added: “Very sad to hear that legendary guitar player Reggie Young has died. Reggie played on most of my 90s albums and was the most recorded studio guitarist in history. Famous for the guitar lick on Dobie Gray’s ‘Drift Away,’ Reggie was also a great human being.”

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Tritt’s fellow Nashville notable Steve Wariner observed: “Humble, brilliant, icon, hero. A few words often used when talking about the legendary guitarist, Reggie Young. We will surely miss you old friend. Rest In Peace.” Nick Marinelli, guitarist in Bonnie Raitt’s band, wrote: “Not nearly enough room for his credits here so do a search. A sad day for music. Thanks for the inspiration Reggie.”

Young was the lead guitarist with the so-called Memphis Boys, who were the house band at American Sound Studio in Memphis, where he often played on as many as 20 sessions per week between 1967 and 1972. Born in Caruthersville, Missouri in 1936, he moved to Memphis at the age of 13. He was a member of  Eddie Bond and the Stompers by the mid-1950s, touring with the likes of Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison and Carl Perkins.

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His connection to Presley came first via his work with the Bill Black Combo from 1964, formed by Elvis’ original bassist. Young played on sessions at the celebrated FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals and then in-house at American, before relocating again, temporarily to Atlanta and then to Nashville. There, his guitar work could be heard on Billy Swan’s ‘I Can Help,’ Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler album, Waylon Jennings’ Honky Tonk Heroes and on sessions for Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, John Prine and many others.

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He is pictured at the top of the story playing with Haggard in an image from Ace Records’ Session Guitar Star compilation. Already scheduled for late January 2019 release before the news of Young’s death, it features countless examples of his work, also including Bobby Bland’s ‘A Touch Of The Blues,’ J.J. Cale’s ‘Cocaine,’ James and Bobby Purify’s ‘Morning Glory,’ Haggard’s ‘I Think I’ll Just Stay Here And Drink’ and on Jimmy Webb’s song ‘The Highwayman,’ as recorded by the quartet who took that name, featuring Jennings, Cash, Willie Nelson and Kris Kristofferson. Young went on to tour with the quartet.

Young was part of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s Nashville Cats exhibition in 2008. In 2012, Ace Records released the retrospective Memphis Boys: The Story Of American Studios, and in 2017, approaching the age of 80, the guitarist released his first-ever solo album, Forever Young.

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