Pioneering African-American country artist Big Al Downing died July 4 at a hospital near his home in Leicester, Mass.
Downing, 65, was felled by complications from Leukemia, with which he had been recently diagnosed.
Known for both his singing and piano playing, Downing charted 15 titles on Billboard’s Hot Country Songs chart between 1978 and 1989 including the top 20 hits “Mr. Jones,” “Touch Me (I’ll Be Your Fool Once More)” and “Bring It On Home.” During his more than four decade-long career, he recorded for the Warner Bros., Team and Vine St. labels, among numerous others.
Downing was a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Fame and the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame and was a frequent guest on the Grand Ole Opry.
As a songwriter, he had two of his compositions recorded by his idol, Fats Domino: “Mary, Oh Mary” and “Heartbreak Hill.”
His last album, “One of a Kind,” was released in 2003. Downing had been recording tracks for a new album at the time of his diagnosis and had continued to perform more than 75 dates a year.