Guitar legend Roy J. Ayres died June 9 at his Riverview home surrounded by family.
Ayres was 82 years old.
He was born in Columbus, Miss., on Dec. 10, 1929, and grew up loving music. At the age of 8 years he taught himself how to play the steel guitar. Shortly after turning 16, he began his professional musical career when he join Pee Wee King and the Golden West Cowboys, playing weekly on the Grand Ole Opry. He was best known as Pee Wee King’s lead steel guitarist on the original recording of the "Tennessee Waltz," which was widely considered the most successful record of its era.
He served in the United States Marine Corps during the Korean War, where he received numerous campaign awards and personal recognition. Following his tour of duty in Korea, he obtained his master's degree in physics from the University of Louisville in 1956 and spent eight years in the aerospace industry as a physicist.
Following his aerospace career, he worked at Fender Music Corp. where he contributed to the design of many of its musical products. Before joining Fender, Ayres served in city government in Garland, Texas and Clearwater and county government in Clay and Bradford counties.
Upon his retirement in 2003, he rekindled his love for music and the steel guitar. In 2005 Ayres was inducted into the Seattle “Pioneers of Western Swing” Hall of Fame. In 2006 he was inducted into the Sacramento, Calif., “Western Swing Music” Hall of Fame. And in 2007 he achieved the highest honor for a steel guitarist when he was the 57th inductee into the International Steel Guitar Hall of Fame in St. Louis.
"He was an amazing man who lived a wonderful life but will be dearly missed," said his daughter, Tammy Martin. "He was loved by so many people around the world. The condolences my mom has been receiving has been over whelming. He was such a humble man. He left this earth listening to his music."
He is survived by his wife Laurie; daughters Sondra and her husband Tim, Tammy and her husband Tim; sons Dean and his wife Tammy and Ed and his wife Toni; grandchildren Jessie, Kenny, Tyler, Kyle, Chloe, Ryan, Ben, Katelyn and Brian.
Open visitation will be held Wednesday, June 13, at , 6919 Providence Rd., Riverview, from 5 to 7 p.m. with the funeral service immediately following the visitation. There will be no graveside services.
Flowers will be accepted at Serenity Meadows. In lieu of flowers, monetary donations can be made to Christ the King Lutheran Church, 11421 Big Bend Rd. Riverview.