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James Clayton "Jimmy" Day

Death: January 22, 1999 (65)
Immediate Family:

Son of Herbert Leo Day, Sr. and Valley Bertha Day

Managed by: Private User
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Immediate Family

About Jimmy Day

Jimmy Day (born James Clayton Day; 1934–1999) was an American steel guitarist active in the 1950s and 1960s whose career in country music blossomed about the time the pedal steel guitar was invented after pedals were added to the lap steel guitar. He was a pioneer on pedal steel in the genres of Western swing and Honky tonk and his modifications of the instrument's design have become a standard on the modern pedal steel. Day's first job after high school was performing on the Louisiana Hayride as a sideman accompanying developing country artists including Hank Williams, Webb Pierce, Willie Nelson, Jim Reeves, Ray Price and Elvis Presley. He recorded and toured with all these artists and was featured on hit records by of many of them, including Ray Price's, "Crazy Arms" and "Heartaches by the Number". He was a member of Elvis Presley's band for about a year, but, along with fellow bandmate Floyd Cramer, resigned after Presley requested them to re-locate to Hollywood; instead, Day moved to Nashville to work as a session player and Grand Ole Opry musician. He was a member of the Western Swing Hall of Fame (1994) and the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame (1999). Day died of cancer in 1999.


Pedal steel guitar player James Clayton (Jimmy) Day was born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on January 9, 1934. He grew up in Lousiana, moved to Texas and then Nashville, Tennessee, and eventually returned to Texas permanently. As a teenager, after graduating from high school in 1951, he played non-pedal steel guitar on the Louisiana Hayride.

It was on the Hayride that he performed as a sideman for many future stars, such as Jim Reeves, Johnny Horton, Hank Williams, Elvis Presley, and Faron Young. His first recording was Beff Pierce's 1952 hit "That Heart Belongs to Me." Day later became a member of Reeves's band and took up the pedal steel guitar. He was influenced by steel guitar innovators such as Shot Jackson and Buddy Emmons. Together, Day, Jackson, and Emmons manufactured the Sho-Bud brand of pedal steel in 1957. Day named his own steel guitar "Blue Darlin'."

Ray Price invited Day to join the Cherokee Cowboys, and Day quickly demonstrated his now legendary style on such songs as "Crazy Arms" and "Heartaches by the Number." Day later teamed up with Willie Nelson on such songs as "Shotgun Willie." He became a member of the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1982. He is also a member of the Texas Steel Guitar Hall of Fame and the Texas Western Swing Hall of Fame.

Like most sidemen, Jimmy Day never received the fame he deserved for his contribution to shaping Texas country music. However, he helped make many others famous. They realized the value of his contribution and sought him out. Day played with Webb Pierce, Ernest Tubb, Skeeter Davis, and Patsy Cline, as well as many others stars. He also played with lesser-known stars such as Alvin Crow, Clay Blaker, and Don Walser. It did not seem to matter to Day who they were or where they were from, as long as he liked their music and could make a contribution.

In 1978, as Nashville studios increasingly eliminated the steel guitar from most recordings, Day returned to Central Texas, where he believed he could find audiences that still appreciated him. He went back to Nashville for a short time in 1991, but returned to Texas for the remainder of his life. He lived in Buda, near Austin. Day and his wife, Marilyn, had two daughters and three sons. He died of cancer on January 22, 1999, and is buried in Barton Cemetery in Buda, Texas. He was inducted into the Country Music Association Hall of Fame on February 25, 1999.

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Jimmy Day's Timeline

January 9, 1934
January 22, 1999
Age 65