Lauded songwriter, producer and musician Freddy Powers died Tuesday after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 84.
The Seminole, Texas native penned a string of Number One hits for Merle Haggard in the Eighties, including “Let’s Chase Each Other Around the Room,” “A Place to Fall Apart” and “Natural High,” and also wrote George Jones’ chart-topping “I Always Get Lucky With You.” A longtime friend and sometime bandmate of Willie Nelson, he co-produced Nelson’s 1981 album, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which went on to platinum-selling status.
From a young age, Powers would become noteworthy for performances that blended traditional honky-tonk with Dixieland jazz. His first stage work came at local Texas honky-tonks with his family band. In Fort Worth, Powers met guitarist Paul Buskirk, a friend and collaborator of Nelson’s, and in the mid-Fifties began writing songs with the Redheaded Stranger and playing bass in his band for a short time.
The following decade, Powers took up a musical residency at the Riviera Casino in Las Vegas, mixing comic elements with his Dixieland jazz-country music. His band, the Powerhouse Four, consisted of a tuba and three banjos. Their act was a popular Sin City attraction through the early Seventies.
At Haggard’s invitation, Powers relocated to California where the two lived (and partied) with each other on houseboats on Lake Shasta. The streak of hits for Haggard followed, including the aptly titled “A Friend in California,” and the two toured together for six years. Powers also wrote songs cut by Ray Charles, Stoney LaRue, Suzy Bogguss and Big & Rich.
In the Nineties, he co-hosted a talk show for the Austin Music Network, earning a CableACE nomination. And in 2000, Powers released his own LP, The Country Jazz Singer.
The musician founded the Freddy Powers Parkinson Organization to raise funds for research into the disease. He is survived by wife Catherine.