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Merle Kilgore (Wyatt Merle Kilgore)

Merle Kilgore

Merle Kilgore

The multi-talented Kilgore had a varied career, ranging from huge successes as a songwriter to his most recent role as personal manager for Hank Williams Jr. He was also an artist in his own right, as well as an actor.

As a songwriter, he is best known for co-writing Johnny Cash’s 1963 No. 1 hit “Ring of Fire” with June Carter Cash and for penning Claude King’s 1962 No. 1 hit “Wolverton Mountain.” He also wrote Webb Pierce’s hit “More and More,” which stayed at No. 1 on Billboard’s country singles chart for 10 weeks in 1954.

As a performer, Kilgore landed eight cuts on Billboard’s country singles chart between 1960 and 1985, including “Love Has Made You Beautiful,” a top 10 hit in 1960. He recorded for Starday, Columbia, Warner Bros. and Elektra. As an actor, he appeared in seven films.

His role as Williams’ manager -ó a job he still held at the time of his death ó- earned him the Country Music Association’s manager of the year accolade. Among his other honors, the Shreveport, La.-raised Kilgore was a member of the Louisiana Hall of Fame and was an honorary Tennessee state senator.

He generously volunteered his time to the industry, serving during his career as both a director and VP of the CMA board. He also served at various times as president of Nashville Songwriters Association International, the Nashville Songwriters Foundation and the Reunion of Professional Entertainers (ROPE).

He is survived by his wife, Judy, sons Steve and Duane Kilgore, daughters Pam Compton, Kim Pomeroy and Shane McBee, eight grandchildren and a great granddaughter.

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  • August, 09, 1934
  • Chickasha, Oklahoma


  • February, 06, 2005
  • Mexico

Cause of Death

  • cancer


  • Hendersonville Memory Gardens
  • Hendersonville, Tennessee

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