Steel Guitar Legend Ivan 'Little Roy' Wiggins Dies

By Jay Orr / Tennessean Staff Writer



                  Ivan Leroy "Little Roy" Wiggins, 73, steel guitarist for
                  many years with Eddy Arnold, died yesterday at his
                  home in Sevierville.

                  The cause of death was unknown. He had suffered
                  from a variety of illnesses, including diabetes and
                  heart disease.

                  A Nashville native, Mr. Wiggins picked up the
                  Hawaiian-style steel guitar at age 6 after hearing early
                  Grand Ole Opry musician Burt Hutcherson play. At
                  age 13, he was expert enough on the instrument to
                  join Paul Howard's Arkansas Cotton Pickers on the

                  Later, he joined Pee Wee King's Golden West
                  Cowboys as a temporary replacement for Clell
                  Summey. When Arnold left the Golden West
                  Cowboys, he hired Mr. Wiggins for his own band,
                  the Tennessee Plowboys. He played on Arnold's first
                  recording session as a solo artist, Dec. 4, 1944, at
                  WSM Studios in Nashville. Arnold made his original
                  recording of Cattle Call at that session.

                  "Little Roy Wiggins' crying steel guitar was the
                  hallmark of Eddy Arnold's early style, the style that
                  made him country music's biggest star in the late
                  '40s," said country music historian Ronnie Pugh of the
                  Country Music Hall of Fame.

                  "You just can't imagine the early Eddy Arnold sound
                  without that," he said. "It would be like not having
                  Billy Byrd on Ernest Tubb's records."

                  Mr. Wiggins stayed with Arnold for 25 years,
                  providing a "ting-a-ling" sound that distinguished the
                  singer's recordings.

                  "When you heard him play, you knew it was him and
                  you knew it was going to be an Eddy Arnold record,"
                  said Grand Ole Opry announcer Eddie Stubbs.
                  "Artists' recordings aren't that easily identified in this
                  era. There's no telling how many people took up the
                  steel guitar as a result of hearing the records Little
                  Roy played on."

                  In the late 1950s Mr. Wiggins made instrumental
                  records for Dot, Starday and several smaller
                  independent labels. He went on to play in the same
                  style with George Morgan, the Willis Brothers, Ernie
                  Ashworth and other Opry acts.

                  Mr. Wiggins joined the insurance and real estate
                  business in Brentwood with Arnold's partner and
                  accountant, Charles Mosley.

                  He was a Nashville representative for Vox
                  instruments, and in the late 1960s he opened a music
                  store, Little Roy Wiggins' Music City, at 427
                  Broadway, near the Ryman Auditorium.

                  When the Opry moved to Opryland, Wiggins
                  eventually closed his store and moved to Pigeon
                  Forge, Tenn., where he performed for tourists and
                  ran a music shop.

                  Mr. Wiggins was inducted into the Steel Guitar Hall
                  of Fame in St. Louis in 1985. "He inspired a
                  generation of players to pursue the beauty of the
                  smooth, pure melody line," reads Mr. Wiggins'
                  plaque. "A man of character and quiet determination,
                  he viewed 'artful simplicity' as a performer's first virtue
                  for advancing the steel guitar."

                  Survivors include his wife, Faye Wiggins, Sevierville;
                  three daughters, Karen and Kristi Wiggins, both
                  Sevierville, and Barbara Jean Malone, Franklin; a
                  son, Howard Wiggins, Brentwood; and three grandsons.




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