Chet Flippo, Former 'Rolling Stone' Editor, Dead at 69

Texas native's coverage helped boost country music's profile

June 19, 2013 1:35 PM ET
chet flippo cmt
Chet Flippo
Courtesy of CMT

Chet Flippo, a former Rolling Stone editor who was the editorial director of CMT, died this morning. He was 69. No cause of death was available.

Flippo started writing for Rolling Stone when he was studying at the University of Texas in Austin, where he earned a master's degree in journalism. He became Rolling Stone's New York bureau chief in 1974, and took on the title of senior editor when the magazine relocated from San Francisco in 1977.

The Unsinkable Dolly Parton: Chet Flippo's 1980 Cover Story

In addition to writing about artists including Bob Dylan, John Lennon and the Rolling Stones – the latter in a confrontational 1978 cover story – Flippo helped boost the profile of country music with his coverage of artists such as Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings and Dolly Parton. He left Rolling Stone in 1980 to write his first book, Your Cheatin' Heart: A Biography of Hank Williams, which he followed up with titles about Paul McCartney, the Stones, David Bowie and Graceland. Flippo also contributed to The New York Times, Texas Monthly and Q magazine.

In the early Nineties, Flippo taught journalism as the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, before moving to Nashville in 1995 to work as Billboard's bureau chief there. After leaving for Sonicnet in 2000, he joined CMT in 2001, where he wrote the influential column "Nashville Skyline" – a forthright survey of artists he deemed worthwhile and music-industry transgressions he decried.

Willie Nelson, Holy Man of the Honky Tonks: Chet Flippo's 1978 Cover Story

"Chet was a fierce advocate for country music long before country was cool," CMT President Brian Philips said in a statement. He continued, "Chet articulated the virtues and joys of country music with a passion and intelligence that helped make the genre respectable even among snobs and city slickers."

Flippo was born in Fort Worth, Texas, in 1943, and served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. His wife, the journalist Martha Hume, died last December.

Additional reporting by Adam Gold

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