Country music has lost one of its’ finest traditional voices with the unexpected passing of Daryle Singletary. The singer passed away Sunday night (Feb. 11) at the age of 46, causing a wave of tributes across social media from artists such as Craig Campbell, who said of the singer “…Sad day…the greatest country voice of my time is now singing in Heaven’s band. Gonna miss you.”
Born March 10, 1971 in Cairo, Georgia, if there was ever a singer that fulfilled his destiny, it was Singletary. He grew up enamored of artists such as George Jones, Merle Haggard, and Randy Travis. It was his purchase of the latter’s Storms of Life album at the age of 15 that had a particularly deep and profound impact on him. He began to sing Gospel music with his brother, and also worked on sharpening his songwriting skills. At the age of 19, he moved to Nashville, where he began playing in the clubs and recording demos. In 1992, Travis heard the singer on “An Old Pair of Shoes” — which he recorded and took to No. 21 on the Hot Country Songs chart — and was also struck by the singer’s classic-sounding delivery. With Travis in his corner professionally, Singletary soon found himself on the roster of Giant Records.
Singletary’s first single, “I’m Living Up To Her Low Expectations,” with Travis on board as a co-producer found favor with audiences, hit No. 39 on the Hot Country Songs chart. His next single, “I Let Her Lie,” would hit No. 2 that fall, and help to establish the singer as one who traditional-minded fans would point to as a keeper of the country flame. In a 2002 interview, the singer said that he was simply doing what he was born to do.
“I’m not trying to stand on a soap box or a pedestal. I’m just doing what I love to do,” he said. “I just try to sing what comes from the heart. I’ve been fortunate enough to have people allow me to do it.”
He continued to record for Giant through 1998, with “Amen Kind Of Love” also hitting the runner-up slot on the charts. He then moved to Audium / Koch, where he recorded perhaps the most critically-lauded album of his career – 2002’s That’s Why I Sing This Way. A collection of Country standards that included appearances from acts such as Dwight Yoakam and George Jones, the set also featured the final recording from Johnny Paycheck – on “Old Violin.” Being able to include the singer in his recording resume was something that Singletary took great pride in.
“I was on the Grand Ole Opry one night, and we had been doing the song in our show. I played it, and came off the stage, and Marty Martel – Paycheck’s manager – was standing there with a cell phone. He gives it to me, and it’s Johnny. He was listening, and he just had so many kind words to say about it. He was in the hospital, and had turned down so many things, but he agreed to do the recitation on the last line. It’s something I’ll never forget. I’m glad I got that on tape. It was such a big deal, and a feather in my cap,” he said with reverence.
The singer recorded three more solo albums and continued to tour throughout the United States. He also began to perform at a local Nashville club occasionally with Bluegrass queen Rhonda Vincent – who also appeared on That’s Why I Sing This Way. The two recorded an album of duets, American Grandstand, which was released last summer. At the time of the release of the disc, Vincent praised her duet partner, saying, “Daryle Singletary is the greatest male singer in country music. I have admired him so much. I remember meeting him in Jack McFadden’s office, and became a huge fan instantly. I can’t think of someone who I love singing with anymore, because our voices meld so well together. To find someone that you work with that you are so like-minded on is amazing. I think that’s the number one thing about the business – when you get to sing with someone you admire so much – it’s amazing.”
Though his chart legacy – fourteen entries between 1995 and 2002 – wasn’t the largest by any standards, Singletary will no doubt be remembered as a torch-bearer for artists such as Lefty Frizzell and Keith Whitley to modern-day generations of fans and artists. And, perhaps, that’s what he was most proud of artistically. “I feel very fortunate that I’ve been able to record country music, and have it get played on the radio. It’s what I always dreamed of.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.1 of 1