William David “D” Kilpatrick, a former record executive, Grand Ole Opry manager and founding member of the Country Music Association, died on Wednesday (May 21) at his home in Franklin, near Nashville, Tennessee. He was 88 years old and he had been battling against lung cancer.
Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on July 18, 1919, Kilpatrick’s first job in the music business was in sales with Capitol Records’ distributorship in Charlotte before moving to Atlanta to manage a Capitol branch. In 1950 Kilpatrick moved to Nashville where he is reputed to have became the city’s first salaried country music producer.
Among the artists that he produced for Capitol was James & Martha Carson and Carl Butler. Upon moving to Mercury Records in 1951, he worked with artists such as fiddler Benny Martin (who signed for the label in 1953), bluegrass-gospel great Carl Story, the Stanley Brothers (who also signed for the label in 1953), Buck Ryan, and Bill Clifton (1956).
One legacy out of the many from that era at Mercury is the use of the name Buddy Dee, a pseudonym for Kilpatrick, who really loved bluegrass music (according to fiddler Joe Meadows), for the copyrighting of the traditional song Tragic Love, recorded by the Stanley Brothers on April 5, 1955.
Other samples from this period include God Saved My Soul and Are You Walkin’ And A Talkin’ For The Lord, both songs recorded by Carl Story in 1952, and several country singles, such as the up-tempo honky tonk-styled Ice Cold Love, from Benny Martin that have been re-issued on the Lover Of The Town CD (1999).
Kilpatrick left the label before Clifton was ready to record for him, joining the Grand Ole Opry in the capacity of manager, whereupon he worked to re-establish the show as a powerhouse of the airwaves, inviting Porter Wagoner, the Everly Brothers, Wilma Lee & Stoney Cooper and others to become part of the cast. Two years later joined with other key Nashville music figures to establish the Country Music Association.
In 1959 he joined the Acuff-Rose Artists Corporation, before subsequently working for Warner Bros. Records and Philips Records and then returned to Mercury in the mid-1960s.