Chet Flippo — veteran music writer, editor and author, as well as Billboard’s Nashville bureau chief from 1995 to 2000 — died from pneumonia on June 19 at age 69. At the time of his death, he was editorial director of CMT and CMT.com.
Flippo’s knowledge of American roots music, country and early rock’n’roll allowed him to write with not only an understanding of an artist’s music, but also the cultural and historic significance it held.
Alan Jackson was among the acts he championed as someone he felt was carrying the torch for traditional country music. “Chet respected the importance of real country music-he had a genuine understanding of its history and a true appreciation for it,” Jackson says. “He was out there telling the world about country music long before it was the ‘cool’ thing to talk about.”
Flippo also put his love of Hank Williams to use in his well-regarded book “Your Cheatin’ Heart: A Biography of Hank Williams,” published in 1980. He wrote a number of others, too, including “Graceland: The Living Legacy of Elvis Presley” and “It’s Only Rock’N’Roll: My On-the-Road Adventures With the Rolling Stones.”
Flippo served as Rolling Stone’s New York bureau chief from 1974 to 1977, then moved into a senior editor position until leaving in 1980.
He lectured at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from 1991 to 1994, before moving to Nashville to work for Billboard after being recruited by former Rolling Stone colleague Timothy White, who was Billboard’s editor in chief at the time. He left Billboard in 2000 for a short stint at Sonicnet before moving to CMT and CMT.com.
CMT president Brian Philips describes his passing as a “stunning loss to all of us,” while Kenny Chesney says he was a “smart and willing-to-tell-the-truth advocate of country music.”