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DON LIGHT (1937–2014)
Former CMA Board member Don Light wore many hats during his many years of prominence in Nashville. The Tennessee native began his professional career as a radio DJ. In 1961, the Grand Ole Opry house band hired him as their drummer; the Carter Family, Patsy Cline, George Hamilton IV, Jim Reeves and Ernest Tubb were among the greats of that era that he accompanied live on the air.
Light died Tuesday, June 17. He was 77.
Following a period as general manager of Billboard’s Nashville office, Light co-founded the Gospel Music Association in 1964 and served as its first board chairman. A year later, he founded Don Light Talent, the first agency to specialize in gospel artists. Three years later, he became president of the Nashville chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences.
During the 1970s Light expanded into other areas. He would eventually produce more than 50 albums. And as an artist manager, his clients included Jimmy Buffett, Mark Collie, Delbert McClinton, Marty Stuart, Steve Wariner and Keith Whitley; most recently, he worked with Dailey & Vincent and the Steep Canyon Rangers. He served on the boards of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and International Bluegrass Music Association. He also debuted as a NASCAR driver in the ’70s and in 2006 helped launch the Sound & Speed festival, in conjunction with NASCAR and CMA.
His many honors included the Founders Award from the National Association for Campus Activities and election to the Gospel Music Hall of Fame.