Jerry Brightman, former pedal steel player for Buck Owens, passed away on March 9 at his home in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. He was 61 years old.

Brightman, born Gerald Warner Brightman in Akron, Ohio, in 1953, began playing pedal steel when he was just six years old, according to SITStrings.com. By age 12, he was performing publicly, including at Ponderosa Park, a 12,000-seat outdoor venue in Salem, Ohio. At age 14, Brightman joined the staff band at the Wheeling Jamboree in Wheeling, W. Va.; as a member of the Wheelers, he regularly performed for a live broadcast that reached 23 states and more than 250,000 listeners.

When Owens reached out to Brightman, asking him to play on some recording sessions, he was so impressed by the pedal steel player's talent that one week later, Brightman was invited to be part of Owens' band, the Buckaroos. From 1972 to 1975, Brightman recorded 16 albums with Owens and joined him for several tours. He also appeared as a cast member on the TV show Hee Haw.

When Brightman, who also played guitar for Owens following the death of guitarist Don Rich, retired from the Buckaroos, he switched to the business side of the music industry. He helped start the Jamboree in the Hills country music festival, which began in 1977 and continues to this day. Brightman also served as the general maanger of the Saturday Night Jamboree radio program on WWVA from 1977 to 1982.

After 20 years away from the music business, Brightman returned in 2002 to release a CD, Back Again, followed by Back Again, to the Country in 2003. He also produced a line of professional steel guitars and played on session dates for other artists. In addition, he launched a management company for new artists, helping with concert production and record producing.

Brightman passed away suddenly at his home. According to his obituary, a visitation will take place on March 16, from 6PM to 7PM,  at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in Cuyahoga Falls, with a memorial service following.

The Boot extends our condolences to Brightman's family.

Country Stars Who Died in 2014