Region mourns country star Danny Patton
This story ran on nwitimes.com on Friday, May 26, 2006 12:45 AM CDT
The region lost another fine member of its local music community this past Sunday, when a tragic highway accident in Alabama claimed the life of the much loved and respected country music guitarist Danny Patton.Patton, who grew up in the Black Oak neighborhood of Gary and played the local club circuit for years, perished along with other members of The Billy Walker Band when the van they were traveling in flipped over.
The band was returning to their home base of Nashville, Tenn., following a gig in Montgomery, Ala., when the accident occurred. At press time it appeared that Billy Walker might have dozed off behind the wheel and careened of the median wall.An amazing guitarist and superb banjo player, the 40-year-old Patton first became well known to Northwest Indiana music fans in the mid-1980s when he was hired to play guitar with the Hazzard County Band."We hired Danny when he was just 17 years old and he played with us for about 12 years," recalled Hazzard County Band founder/steel guitarist Nelson Wynn. "He was an amazing young player at the time and he just got better and better."After his Hazzard County years, Patton hooked up for a spell with two other popular country/country-rock groups, The Stony Creek Band and Virgil Kane, before eventually putting together his own bluegrass group, Flintlock."Danny put Flintlock together with his brother Jamie Patton," recalled Wynn, who also owns Broadway Music in Merrillville. "Danny played five-string banjo in that band along with guitar. Jamie, who lives in Highland and still plays with the current line-up of Flintlock, played mandolin and guitar."Patton later went on to bend his strings on stage for two years during the late 1990s with the Born To Boogie Band, fronted by country music radio station US99's Big John Howell.A dyed-in-the-wool country picker, Patton realized a personal dream when he relocated to Nashville six years ago and hooked up with the veteran country music star Billy Walker."Billy Walker had a string of country hits long before Elvis came along and had been a card carrying member of the Grand Ole Opry for more than 40-y ears," noted Wynn. In recent years The Billy Walker Band had become something of a ‘house band' on the Grand Ole Opry which gave Danny Patton the opportunity to play his guitar proudly on the Opry stage each week while broadcast over the venerable airwaves of WSM-AM radio.The 77-year-old Billy Walker, his wife Bettie Walker, band bassist Charles Lilly and the Walkers' 21-year-old grandson Joshua Brooks were also killed in the accident that claimed Danny Patton.The Billy Walker Band's drummer Johnny Barber of Nashville was not traveling in the van that night and survives his band mates."I've been told a collection is being taken up at the Grand Ole Opry and that the Opry is going to cover the costs for Danny's funeral," said Wynn, emotionally."The Opry was home to Danny and he was very well liked and respected there," continued Wynn.Danny Patton is survived by his three children Amie, Daniel Jr. and Bradley of Northwest Indiana (and their mother Tina Garver); his mother Cheryl Holstein and younger brother Joey Patton of Glendale, Ariz.; older brother Jamie (Ann) Patton of Highland; fiancee Teryl Peterson of Nashville; many nephews, nieces, cousins; and a wealth of friends and fans.The wake for Patton will be 2 to 8 p.m. today at Kuiper Funeral Home, 9039 Kleinman Road, in Highland with funeral services to follow Saturday morning.In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made to a special trust fund set up for Patton's children at First Midwest Bank of Northwest Indiana (formerly the Bank Calumet).The opinions expressed solely are those of the writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.