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Saturday Song: Billy Grammer “Gotta Travel On”

August 13, 2011

The Grand Ole Opry lost another member this week. 

Billy Grammer, a singer and guitarist whose 1958 recording of “Gotta Travel On” became a crossover hit and led to a long career on the Grand Ole Opry, died on Wednesday in Benton, Ill., the town where he was born. He was 85 and lived in Sesser, Ill.

“Gotta Travel On,” adapted by Paul Clayton and others from a British folk tune, was a million-seller and the first hit for Nashville’s Monument Records and its founder, Fred Foster, appearing on the pop, country and rhythm & blues charts. Since then it has been covered by, among others, Jerry Lee Lewis, June Carter and Bob Dylan, who recorded it for his 1970 double album, “Self Portrait.”

Grammer was a regular at the Grand Ole Opry for decades, Mr. Grammer delivered the invocation for the opening of its new hall in 1974 with President Richard M. Nixon in attendance. He also appeared on Ed Sullivan’s and Dick Clark’s television shows.

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