Dawn Sears (1961–2014)

Dawn Sears (1961–2014)

Nashville lost a valued musical asset with the passing of Dawn Sears, who died on Thursday, Dec. 11, after more than a year of battling lung cancer.

Dawn Sears by Jim McGuire

Photo credit: Jim McGuire

Born in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, she grew up to the sound of her parents’ Country albums. Lefty Frizzell, Merle Haggard, George Jones, Dolly Parton and Connie Smith were among her lifelong influences. They inspired her as well to begin playing guitar at age 11 and get up for the first time before an audience at 14, to sing “Satin Sheets” as a talent contest participant in the VFW Hall at Grand Forks, North Dakota.

She hit the road at 17, traveling throughout the Western states and the Midwest before settling in Nashville and marrying fiddler Kenny Sears. They had met the year before in Las Vegas, when he was playing in the Sahara Lounge with Mel Tillis, and would remain together for the rest of her life.

Sears began to make herself known in Nashville after becoming a regular performer on Ralph Emery’s TNN program “Nashville Now.” Signed to Warner Bros. Records in 1991, she released three singles before accepting an offer from Vince Gill to tour as one of his backup singers. Their long-running professional association continued after Sears became a member of The Time Jumpers more than 10 years ago. Gill joined her as a new member of the Grammy-nominated Western Swing ensemble in 2010.

In addition to her musical career, Sears worked as a licensed clinical aesthetician and ran  her own clinical skin care practice, Skinsation, in Goodlettsville, Tenn.

An event in Sears’ honor took place Nov. 30 at Depot Square in Gallatin, Tenn. Featuring performances by Reba, Riders In The Sky and the Time Jumpers, and emceed by Olympic Gold medalist Scott Hamilton, “Dawn Sears & Friends Benefit for Lung Cancer Research” raised more than $100,000 for the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center.

Watch Dawn Sears sing the Mickey Newbury classic “Sweet Memories” with The Time Jumpers at Nashville’s Station Inn: