Singer-Songwriter Jimmy Work Dead at 94
Jimmy Work, who had a popular career as a Nashville-based country singer in the '50s and wrote songs that have been covered by many, has died at the age of 94.
Nashville's Tennessean newspaper reports that Work died on Saturday (Dec. 22) at his residence in Dukedom, Tenn. His cause of death has not been publicly disclosed.
Work's obituary states that he was a United States Army veteran who served in World War II. According to AllMusic.com, he was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1924, but his family moved to a farm in Dukedom when he was just two. He was beginning to write songs by his teens, and the singer, guitarist and fiddler eventually built enough of a following to begin recording. His third single, "Tennessee Border," failed, but a year after his version, five different artists — Red Foley, Bob Atcher, Jimmie Skinner, Tennessee Ernie Ford and Hank Williams — all recorded the song, and it became a hit for four of them simultaneously, with Williams' version also failing to chart.
That attention got Work a deal with Decca Records, as well as an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. That deal also yielded no hits, but when he moved to Dot Records in the mid-'50s, Work did finally score two hits in 1955 with "Making Believe" and "That's What Makes the Jukebox Play." Kitty Wells' rendition of "Making Believe" eclipsed Work's; his peaked at No. 11, while hers hit No. 2.
Work's career waned as country music gave way to rockabilly and more modern influences, and those proved his last hits, though he kept writing and touring sporadically. After he retired from music, he worked for Goodyear and later continued working as a millwright on his farm in Dukedom.
Emmylou Harris covered "Making Believe" and scored a Top 10 hit in 1977, and Moe Bandy took his version of "That's What Makes the Jukebox Play" to No. 11 in 1978. That same year, BMI honored "Making Believe" as one of its 101 award-winning country songs series.
Works' obituary lists his 93-year-old wife, Ruth Elizabeth Coltharp Work, among his survivors. They married on Oct. 4, 1941, and had recently celebrated their 77th anniversary. He is also survived by two daughters, Brenda Beutler and Debbie (Randy) Marr of Dukedom, Tenn; three grandchildren; four great-grandchildren; and seven great-great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a daughter, Kathy Work; his parents, Joe and Mary Ann Johnson Work; and a sister, Lynda Sue Edwards.
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