Chuck Dauphin, a Billboard contributing writer since 2011, died Wednesday (Sept. 18) of complications from diabetes. He was 45.
The longtime radio and music journalist was an esteemed Nashville fixture, well known for his passionate support of country music.
During his last days at Nashville’s Alive Hospice, he was kept company by a steady stream of music community friends including John Schneider (who sang The Dukes of Hazzard theme to him); one of his heroes, former WSM-Nashville DJ and Grand Ole Opry announcer Keith Bilbrey; and country superstar Randy Travis. “If ever you needed a friend…or a kind word, you could count on Chuck Dauphin. A gentleman through all the years of my career, who always focused on the best in everyone,” Travis said in a statement. “Chuck was a gift to this world and leaves us all better because he crossed our paths. Rest now in peace and perfect health, Brother Chuck—Forever and Ever, Amen.”
In 2014, Dauphin received the CMA Media Achievement Award, an honor voted on by the CMA member publicists in appreciation of journalists who promote country music.
“I can’t carry a tune or play an instrument, but I have always loved telling people about music — whether a superstar like Tim McGraw or Lee Ann Womack, a legend like Kenny Rogers or a brand-new artist that nobody has ever heard of — yet,” Dauphin told Billboard at the time.
“We will remember Chuck as first and foremost a true country music fan, second only to his skills as one of our genre’s most beloved journalists,” CMA CEO Sarah Trahern told Billboard upon hearing of Dauphin’s passing. “We are grateful to have had the honor of awarding him with our CMA Media Achievement Award in 2014 in addition to his many contributions to CMA Close Up throughout the years.
Dauphin’s health had taken a turn for the worse in summer 2018, when he had to have his foot amputated due to complications from diabetes and an infection. Until his death 13 months later, he was in and out of the hospital and rehab, but he continued to write for Billboard, most recently interviewing Vince Gill just weeks ago about his latest album, Okie.
The piece was one of more than 1,000 articles Dauphin estimated he had written for Billboard and other publications, including Rolling Stone, Sounds Like Nashville and The Boot. “Despite his poor health, all Chuck wanted was to get back to writing and highlighting the artists he believed so passionately in,” says Melinda Newman, Billboard’s executive editor, West Coast & Nashville. “Country artists had no better friend than Chuck. The love and regard he held for acts — whether they were newcomers or veterans — came through in every story that he wrote. Chuck was a true believer in country music and his faith never wavered. The depth of his knowledge greatly enhanced our coverage and we will miss him dearly.”
Dauphin, who grew up in Burns, Tenn., outside of Nashville, was equally passionate about radio, often spending hours at night trolling for tunes.
“I would scan down through the AM band at night, and find stations such as WBAP/Dallas, WWL/New Orleans, and WLW/Cincinnati. Each of those stations had live bodies on the air back then. I used to think it was so neat that at 12:30 a.m., you could hear them talking 500 miles away,” he said in 2014. “I actually developed my own imaginary radio station, WBRQ — W-Burns (my hometown in Tennessee)-Q. I would take my boom box that my grandmother had bought me, and would read ads from the local paper, and do intros and outros of the songs.”
These skills served him well when he started working as a radio broadcaster in 1991, during his junior year in high school, at WDKN, Dickson, Tenn. He worked there for 18 years, rose to program director and was known to everyone in Dickson County by his on-air personality, “Crazy Chucky.” His radio career also included stops at WNKX, Centerville, Tenn., and Nashville’s WSM-AM.
Among the survivors are his father Charles F. Dauphin, Jr.; his stepmother, Marcia Dauphin; stepson Zach Heath and stepdaughter Isabella Heath. Visitation will take place at the Taylor Funeral Home in Dickson 5 p.m.- 8 p.m., Sept. 21 and 1 p.m.-3 p.m. Sept. 22. A Celebration of Life will take place at Burns Church of Christ in Burns at 3 p.m. Sept. 22.
In lieu of flowers, his family asks that donations in Dauphin’s name be made to Music Health Alliance, MusiCares, Alive Hospice, The Opry Trust Fund or Nashville Humane Association.