For decades, Hurshel Wiginton graced the television screens of thousands of country music fans. He was a founding member and bass singer in the group the Nashville Edition, which served as the background vocalists on the popular variety show Hee Haw.
Over the years, Wiginton also offered his vocal talents to hit country songs such as Dolly Parton‘s “I Will Always Love You” and Dottie West’s “Country Sunshine.” In total, it’s estimated that Wiginton and the Nashville Edition appeared on 12,000 recordings over the course of three decades.
After being in poor health for the past few years, Wiginton passed away at his daughter’s home on Monday (March 6). He was 79 years old.
The Tennessean reported the news of Wiginton’s death, writing that his funeral arrangements are being planned in his hometown at the Hamilton Funeral Home in Alabama. A service will take place at the Poplar Log church, which is where Wiginton sang as a child.
Wiginton was born on January 28, 1938, and it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with music. He started singing at a young age, and took of to chase his musical dreams in Nashville once he was older.
After he arrived in Nashville, Wiginton teamed up with Joe Babcock, Dolores Edgin, and Ricki Page to found the group that would go on to become the Nashville Edition. They were originally called the Town and Country Singers, but changed their name due to trademark issues.
In no time at all, the Nashville Edition found themselves recording background vocals for some of the greatest artists in country music. They sang for everyone from George Jones to Hank Williams Jr., and even got the chance to sing for “The King” himself, Elvis Presley.
The Nashville Edition had developed a strong reputation in Nashville, leading to their two-decade run on Hee Haw. They were with the show from the start, and made their debut appearance on its first episode in 1969.
In 2013, Wiginton spoke during a panel at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum about how the Nashville Edition ended up on the show. As it turns out, Wiginton was the only one in the group that believed the gig was worth doing!
“I had to talk them into it because they were afraid they’d miss so many sessions. I said, ‘I’ve got a feeling about this show, OK? Let’s do it.’ And they all agreed. Of course, 25 years later, it turned out to be a pretty good show,” he said.
The Nashville Edition originally sang from behind the scenes on Hee Haw, and never appeared on camera. But that all changed in later episodes, when the group started to appear on stage with the cast and guest performers. One a few occasions, the group was featured all on their own.
Wiginton’s daughter, Anna, said that up until the last three years, her father still enjoyed going out and singing karaoke. She spoke about how beloved he was by everyone who ever knew him.
“People just fell in love with him when they met him,” she said. “He never met a stranger, even late in his life. It seemed wherever we went in town, somebody knew him.”
Wiginton’s entire family released a statement on his death, writing, “Our favorite bass singer may no longer be with us but will live on forever in the music he recorded. He now will serve in the greatest group of all times as one of God’s angels.”
We’re so sorry to hear of Wiginton’s passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and loved ones during this time.