Bobby Emmons performs 2009

Bobby Emmons performs on stage as part of the Ponderosa Stomp at House of Blues on April 29, 2009 in New Orleans.

Leon Morris/Redferns

County musician and songwriter Bobby Emmons, who wrote hits for Waylon Jennings and George Strait and played on more than 100 chart hits as a session musician, has died. Emmons passed away Monday in a Nashville hospital, while being treated for an undisclosed illness, the Memphis Commercial Appeal reports. He was 72. 

The Mississippi-native was a mostly self-taught organ player and keyboardist who became a staple of the Memphis, Tenn., music scene and played on about 120 of chart hits -- according to the Commercial Appeal -- between 1962 and 1972. 

Emmons got his start with the Bill Black Combo from 1960-1963, before going on to a successful career in the house bands at house bands at Hi Records and American Studios. Known as the 827 Thomas Street Band, the American Group, and, eventually, the Memphis Boys, Emmons' band's hit records included Elvis Presley's "Suspicious Minds," Dusty Springfield's "Son of a Preacher Man", Neil Diamond's "Sweet Caroline, Merrilee Rush's "Angel of the Morning", B.J. Thomas' "Hooked on a Feeling", Joe Tex's "I Gotcha", Bobby Womack's "Fly Me To The Moon," and many more.  

 

Guitarist Reggie Young, who played with Emmons in the Bill Black Combo, Hi and American bands, told the Commercial Appeal, "We were a creative band, nobody tried to take over anything, we settled on things as a unit -- that's what made us work. If an artist came in, we became their band and not our band. We always did what was best for the singer and the song. Bobby was good at bringing all that together. He was an amazing musician, but I can't stress how decent a person he was as well. That came through in everything he did."

Throughout his career, Emmons also played on recordings by Wilson Pickett, Garth Brooks, Townes Van Zandt and Roy Orbison.  

As a songwriter, he had a number of successful tunes to his credit as well, for acts including Waylon Jennings ("Luckenbach, Texas," "Women Do Know How to Carry On" and "Wurlitzer Prize") George Strait ("So Much Like My Dad"), Tanya Tucker ("Love Me Like You Used To") and B.J. Thomas ("Help Me Make It to My Rockin' Chair"). 

Most recently, Emmons had been playing with Memphis soul singer-songwriter Dan Penn, performing live and even on The Late Show with David Letterman. Watch that performance here:

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