Pioneering bluegrass artist Charlie Waller died Aug. 18 at his home in Cordonsville, Va., of an apparent heart attack. He was 69.

Pioneering bluegrass artist Charlie Waller died Aug. 18 at his home in Cordonsville, Va., of an apparent heart attack. He was 69.

Waller had been preparing for several tour dates at the time of his death. A singer and guitarist, he founded the influential bluegrass group the Country Gentlemen in 1957. The group was inducted into the International Bluegrass Music Assn.'s prestigious Hall of Honor in 1996.

Waller began his professional career performing in Washington, D.C.-area bars when he was just 13. After moving to Baltimore, he played with Buzz Busby & the Bayou Boys for two years before forming the Country Gentlemen. The group went on to record nearly 40 albums through many personnel changes. Its latest, "Songs of the American Spirit" is due to be released by Orlando, Fla.-based Pinecastle Records on Aug. 24.

While the group recorded many bluegrass hits, its only single to reach Billboard's Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart was 1965's "Bringing Mary Home" (Rebel Records), which peaked at No. 43.