Country singer Billy Grammer passes away

August 12, 2011 by Amy Gold

A Thousand Miles Ago album cover
Billy Grammer ca. 1960

Billy Grammer (August 28, 1925 - August 10, 2011) was a country singer, songwriter, guitarist, and long-time member of the Grand Ole Opry. He passed away at 85 in his home town of Benton, IL. He was in Benton Hospital being treated for a long-term illness and had suffered a heart attack earlier this year. He is survived by his wife, 3 children, 4 brothers, 4 sisters, 8 grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

Grammer is best remembered for "Gotta Travel On" which debuted in late 1958 and, during the following year, became a Top Ten hit on both the Billboard Hot 100 and Country Charts and also made the R&B Top 40. He had two other pop hits in 1959, "Bonaparte's Retreat" and "The Kissing Tree," and a long string of hits on the country charts through 1969.

He was born Billie Wayne Grammer on August 28, 1925 in Benton, IL, the eldest of 13 children. After high school, he served in World War II and then worked as an apprentice toolmaker. In the late 1950s, he signed up with Monument Records in Nashville, TN and had his first hit with "Gotta Travel On" on that label. In 1959, he joined the Grand Ole Opry and became a regular cast member. A long-time session guitarist, he also designed guitars and founded a company in the mid 1960s to develop and produce his models. In 1990, Grammer was inducted into the Illinois Country Music Hall of Fame, and on February 27, 2009, the Grand Ole Opry honored him for his 50 years as a member.