Vern Young passes

Vern Young, who enjoyed a long career in country and bluegrass music, passed away on June 14, 2019. He was 95 years old and had resided in Lamar, Missouri, since 1989. 

Guy Lewis “Vern” Young was born in Palmyra, near Rochester, New York, on February 10, 1924, and was raised by his grandparents. 

He first took an interest in music at the age of 15, learning to play the guitar by watching others playing at the Grange League Federation, Main Street, Palmyra and other dance halls of the town.  

Along with friends, Young would frequent a small diner located in a railroad car. There they would sit in a booth and play guitar and sing while listening to Ernest Tubb records on the juke box. 

From there, he began working in radio and television. Using his given name Guy, Young was told by a radio boss that he would have to change his name. “Someone came up with ‘Vern’ and it stuck,” Young is reported as saying.

With his first wife, Anne, Young performed in the eastern states and Canada during the 1940s and into 1950. They did live radio shows in Rochester, along with owning a record shop in Rochester, before they moved to Nashville, Tennessee. 

In January/February 1951, after being befriend by Rudy Lyle and then being introduced to Bill Monroe backstage at the Ryman Auditorium, he was hired by Monroe for about a week to deputize for a temporarily absent Jimmy Martin. Young’s first appearance with Monroe was at the Coliseum, Evansville, Indiana. They played three shows at movie theatres in Missouri following that.

Later that year Young returned to Rochester where he became a regularly featured guest on Max Raney’s TV show on WHAM TV, and Sparkey Gillen’s weekly radio show on WHEC Radio. Also, he hosted his own daily broadcast of recorded country music on SSAY in Rochester.

After moving west to Utah, Young became an award-winning radio announcer on KSOP, the 25,000- watt country music station in Salt Lake City, Utah.

After a few years, he left his radio career and graduated from the Utah Highway Patrol Academy in Salt Lake City, taking a job as a deputy sheriff in Tooele County, Utah, at which time Young was featured in the True Detective magazine for his arrest of a notorious criminal.

Later he was a deputy sheriff in Virginia City, Nevada, and a marshal in Granby, Colorado. 

After spending a short time back in radio work in the York, Pennsylvania area, Young returned to the Salt Lake City area where he began working for the Federal Government in security and later as an aircraft firefighter at Hill Air Force Base bombing range on the Great Salt Lake Desert.

In 1990, after retiring and being invited to do a live concert at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City that he moved to Lamar, Missouri, he formed the Vern Young Band and he started performing country/bluegrass music full-time throughout the United States. 

Young played bluegrass and country music for over 60 years, during which time he worked with Ernest Tubb, Little Jimmy Dickens, Hank Thompson, Grandpa Jones, and other traditional country artists. 

In 2002 Young was inducted into America’s Old Time Country Hall of Fame and in October 2006 he was inducted into the New York State Country Music Hall of Honor in Cortland, New York.

Also, he won the Midwest State Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass Music in America (SPBGMA) Traditional Male Singer of the Year award eleven years. He was nominated for the prestigious SPBGMA Award in Nashville, Tennessee, by fans in 2000, 2001, and 2002.

He retired from the entertainment business in 2012. One of his last appearance was at the Wayne County Fair in Palmyra, a reprise of his first performance all those 60 years ago. 

R.I.P. Vern Young

The funeral service will be held on Monday, June 17, 2019 at 7:00 p.m. at Konantz Warden Funeral Home in Lamar, Missouri. There will be a visitation before the service from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. Interment with a grave side service will be at the Marion Cemetery in Marion, New York on Thursday June 20, 2019 at 10:00 p.m. 

A Discography: 

  • The Best of Vern Young (Atteiram 1714, circa 1993) 
  • Heavenly Sounds (Vern Young 11093, 1993 (cassette))
  • Sings the Old Time Way (Vern Young 12094, 1994 (cassette))
  • By Request (Vern Young 197, 1997 (cassette))
  • Legacy (Vern Young 3301, 2001)

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About the Author

Richard Thompson

Richard F. Thompson is a long-standing free-lance writer specialising in bluegrass music topics. A two-time Editor of British Bluegrass News, he has been seriously interested in bluegrass music since about 1970. As well as contributing to that magazine, he has, in the past 30 plus years, had articles published by Country Music World, International Country Music News, Country Music People, Bluegrass Unlimited, MoonShiner (the Japanese bluegrass music journal) and Bluegrass Europe. He wrote the annotated series I'm On My Way Back To Old Kentucky, a daily memorial to Bill Monroe that culminated with an acknowledgement of what would have been his 100th birthday, on September 13, 2011.