Gordy Nichol passes

Gordy Nichol with Louisa Branscomb and Pamm Gadd

Henry Gordon “Gordy” Nichol, 60, of Chattanooga, TN, passed away on November 1. Born in Nashville, he was a well-known musician playing upright bass and steel guitar. His sudden death has deeply impacted the country and bluegrass music community. 

Survivors include his wife, Chrissie, son, Harrison, father, step-mothers and a sister. Funeral services were held on November 6 and he was buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery. 

Chrissie, also a musician, shared some history on her late husband.

“He came from a musical family. His grandmother played piano and was on WSM radio. Gordy was really proud of that. His daddy plays clawhammer banjo.

Gordy played upright bass for bluegrass for a long time with Hiwasee Ridge. They played the World’s Fair (in Knoxville), the Station Inn (in Nashville), and all over the place. Music has been a big part of his life for a long time. 

He had a brief time when he went into the Air Force for four years, but he still tried to play. Then he went into the Army National Guard as an Army Black Hawk crew chief. He had a car accident so he had to retire from the military and he went into teaching. He taught music at two Catholic schools, St. Jude and OLPH (Our Lady of Perpetual Help), in Chattanooga. He was giving piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass lessons. He taught it all.

He played upright bass in bluegrass and in a jazz trio. He played electric bass for country groups. In later years after the car wreck, he taught himself the steel guitar. The doctors thought it was a great way to exercise his legs.

He was asked to play on numerous recordings and worked in the studio a lot, especially here locally. People would hire him to do shows in bands and do fill-ins. You name it and he did it. He also played on one recording with Bobby Osborne singing.”

Brian Blaylock, TN picker, noted…

“He is on my CD from 2007.  We did it at the Rec Room at Ben Surratt’s studio with Bobby Osborne and Randy Barnes.

I’ve known Gordy since I was a kid. I have lost a dear friend. He played music with my dad and uncle. Great musician and will be missed. I’m just in shock. Miss you, pal.”

Chrissie stressed that her relationship with Gordy was centered on music.

“He married me, and I play music. I play guitar and mandolin. I was playing in another band, Cole City Grass, when he was playing in Hiwassee Ridge. We met years ago at a place called the Mountain Opry back in the ’80s. We finally hooked up five years ago and got together. 

He said, ‘I’m in this country group and we need a bassist. Why don’t you see if you can learn bass?’ So I picked up the bass. I got the job! He was playing steel and I was playing bass. We played bluegrass together. I played mandolin and he played bass. We did a lot of gigs together. It was something we enjoyed and it was something that we shared. He’s going to be missed sorely.”

Other notable musicians expressed their condolences as well.

Singer/songwriter, Louisa Branscomb, said of Gordy…

“I met him about 15 years ago. Gordy was well-known regionally throughout the southeast. He was widely sought after as a bass player as well as a steel guitar player. When I met him, I felt there are people who play the song and do really well and then, there are players who become the song. They feel the song so well and raise the song to a new level. Gordy was that person. He was the person that I tried to get. Especially with original music, to find someone like that was a blessing.

Most of the gigs that Gordy played with me and my band was based on original music. He really seemed to love to play original songs. I loved to hear how he interpreted the rhythm and the playing. He could also sing the third part. We later formed a trio with Pam Gadd. We also played in a band called Friends of Distinction. I have very fond memories from those gigs.

We did some cuts in the studio. He could play lead so well that it was seamless. When we had a trio, it seemed like a whole band. He was such a good bass player. He was in a class by himself.”

Branscomb especially appreciated his dependability.

“Gordy had an incredible work ethic. He was always on time with his bass out ready to go. He was the one you wanted around. He was funny and knew how to be in a band. Sometimes, it takes a skill set to be in a band. No matter who we were playing with, Gordy promoted good will. He was a very kind person.

He also came with me to Southport, NC, to play for my non-profit, ScreenDoor Songwriter Alliance. He was wonderful with the kids. He did a great job.

 I’m just one person who knew him. He was just someone that you wanted to be around as a person and as a musician. He will be missed.

I have been thinking of this line from a Rumi poem: ‘We have fallen into the place where everything is music.’ We had fun and played good music. That’s the bottom line.”

Fellow musician Pam Gadd agreed. “Makes my heart hurt. Miss this fellow always.”

On Saturday, December 3, there will be a concert and silent auction for Gordy to help with funeral expenses, held on Farm to Fork in Ringgold, GA. The event runs from 2:00-6:00 p.m. His friend, David Hasty, will be the host.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.