Leon Rhodes, Legendary Country Guitarist, Dead at 85
Leon Rhodes, the guitarist who was an integral part of Ernest Tubb’s Texas Troubadours, as well as the Grand Ole Opry and Hee Haw staff bands, died Saturday morning (Dec. 9) at his Nashville area home at the age of 85.
Rhodes, who began studying guitar at 14, quickly found himself in demand for his lightning-fast, precise playing, landing a spot as a musician on a Dallas radio program at the age of 16. He recorded with such greats as Lefty Frizzell and Ray Price in Texas during the 1950s before Tubb hired him to be the lead guitarist in the Texas Troubadours in 1960.
He left the Troubadours -- against Tubb's will -- in 1966 to work with the Opry, a position he held for more than 30 years; as well as perform session work with such artists as Waylon Jennings, John Denver, Loretta Lynn, George Strait, Reba McEntire, and others. He also put in 25 years as part of the Hee Haw house band, and was honored by the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2014 in the Nashville Cats series.
After leaving the Opry, Rhodes continued to play for Porter Wagoner and the Whites. He retired in 2014. He is survived by his wife, Judi, as well as eight children, 25 grandchildren and 17 great-grandchildren.
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