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Jimmy Capps, Veteran Grand Ole Opry Guitarist, Dead at 81

(Image credit: Ed Rode/WireImage/Getty Images)

Jimmy Capps, an illustrious country guitarist and 50+-year veteran of the Grand Ole Opry's house band, has died at the age of 81, a rep for the Opry confirmed (opens in new tab).

Most well-known for his incredible tenure at the Opry - which began (opens in new tab) in 1967 and lasted up to the week before his death - Capps was also a first-call session guitarist, lending his skills to a litany of timeless country hits, including Kenny Rogers’ “The Gambler,” George Jones’ “He Stopped Loving Her Today” and George Strait’s “Amarillo by Morning.”

Born in 1939 in Fayetteville, North Carolina, Capps first came to prominence in the late '50s with the Louvins, performing with the band at the Opry, and becoming an Opry member in 1959.

Capps would go on to become the lead guitarist in the Opry's house band in 1967, backing the radio show’s guest artists every week for more than 50 years.

Some of Capps' other session credits include Tammy Wynette’s “Stand by Your Man,” Barbara Mandrell’s “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool" and the Oak Ridge Boys' “Elvira.” He was inducted into the Musicians Hall of Fame in 2014.

"The heavenly choir has gained one of the finest players to ever play, and quite frankly one of the finest men to ever live," The Oak Ridge Boys wrote of the late guitarist on Twitter (opens in new tab).

In a 2019 interview (opens in new tab) with the American Federation Of Musicians, Capps said he felt blessed about his lengthy career.

“It’s been that way all down through the career I’ve had. Every day is different, and that’s just it: You get up wanting to do what you love. And not everyone is blessed with being able to do a job that they love. But I have been.”

Jackson Maxwell
Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at GuitarWorld.com and GuitarPlayer.com. He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.