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Steel guitarist Ralph Mooney dies

March 27, 2011 at 9:39 AM   |   Comments

KENNEDALE, Texas, March 27 (UPI) -- Steel guitarist Ralph Mooney has died of complications of cancer at his home in Kennedale, Texas, his wife said. He was 82.

Mooney played pedal steel guitar in Waylon Jennings' band for 20 years and also played on hit recordings by Merle Haggard, Wanda Jackson and West Coast country singer Wynn Stewart, the New York Times reported.

He wrote the enduring country classic "Crazy Arms" and his steel guitar work was so distinguishing it was dubbed the "Mooney sound" by professional musicians, the newspaper noted.

"His high G-sharp tuning made for a bright, piercing sound that really stood out," said Michael McCall, an editor at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville. "His playing cut through the noise of the honky-tonks and matched nicely with the louder beat and the and the louder volume of the solid-bodied Fender Telecaster guitar."

Mooney was born on Sept. 16, 1928, in Duncan, Okla. He moved to California in the 1940s, where he learned to play steel guitar.

He was honored as steel guitarist of the year in 1966 by the Academy of Country Music and he was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in 1983.

Last year he performed on Marty Stuart's album, "Ghost Train: The Studio B Sessions," which featured an instrumental remake of "Crazy Arms."

Mooney, who died last Sunday, is survived by Wanda, his wife of 62 years; a son, a daughter, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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