Guitarist James Edward “Spider” Wilson Dead At 79

A longtime fixture on the legendary Grand Ole Opry has passed away.  Guitarist James Edward “Spider” Wilson died Thursday at the age of 79.


It has been reported that Wilson was so enamored with country music as a young man that he used to stand outside an open window of the Ryman Auditorium and listen to Hank Williams perform.    There is clearly a nostalgic image for such a scene.  It was not long before Wilson began playing with Little Jimmy Dickens and his band in 1947, and toured with Ray Price before joining the house band at the Grand Ole Opry in 1953, before he was out of his teens.

One can just imagine all the stories that Wilson could tell about the early days of the Grand Ole Opry and the first big stars that made WSM radio the “The Air Castle Of The South”.  Wilson held that job at the Opry for more than five decades.   Over his lifetime he also was a popular studio musician and can lay claim to having worked with just about every major country sdinger in Nashville.

Sadly, however, his tenure at the Opry came to an end in November of 2006 when he quit the house band after 53 years, claiming that he was being excluded from the televised segments of the Opry broadcasts, which paid more than the portions that aired on the radio.

I have, from time to time, posted about how the Opry has turned its back on older artists and musicians at the Opry, and I have no doubt that Wilson has a legitimate compliant with Opry management.

Wilson is in a variety of film footage such as this one from the 1950’s featuring “Little” Jimmy Dickens.

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