Pioneering Nashville talent booker Billy Deaton, known
as "The Deacon of Music Row," died Saturday, Oct. 31, after a
lengthy illness. He was 74.
Mr. Deaton arrived in Nashville in the late 1960s and handled
booking and management for Faron Young, now a member of the Country Music
Hall of Fame. Where Young could be tempestuous and mercurial,
Mr. Deaton was business-like and cordial, smoothing many a hairy
situation, and his guiding hand was an essential element in Young's success.
Mr. Deaton went on to handle booking for other famed artists,
including Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Charley Pride and Roger Miller.
Mr. Deaton's roster was lengthy and impressive enough that he would often include
the complete list in advertisements and run the slogan, "One call gets 'em
He kept an office on Music Row for more than 30 years, and he is also credited
with co-writing country hits "Wine Me Up" and "Louisiana Man."
Most in the industry knew him as a talent booker, though. He was the man who
brokered deals, arranging for performers to play shows, and he did so
in a manner that tended to please both the performer and the promoter.
"Regardless of who the artist was, the number to call
was 244-4259, The Deaton Agency," said Rod Harris, the president of the
National Association of Talent Directors, an organization that endowed
a Belmont University scholarship in Mr. Deaton's name.
Born near Ruleville, Miss., Mr. Deaton spent much of his childhood in
the fields with his sharecropping parents, raising cotton and corn.
In 1954, he joined the United States Air Force, and during his military
stint he worked as a disc jockey on the Armed Forces Radio Network.
In 1959, he moved to San Antonio, Texas, and there he met future Grand
Ole Opry star Charlie Walker, who encouraged him
to work toward a music career. Mr. Deaton was soon signed as a recording
artist to Smash Records, and he also recorded for San Antonio-based
TNT Records. His most notable single was called "You're Responsible!"
Mr. Deaton sold advertising for a Texas radio station, and in the 1960s he
began booking local shows. His business thrived, ultimately earning
Young's attention and admiration, and thus earning Mr. Deaton a one-way
ticket to Nashville.
"He was one of the good guys, and he was a real pioneer in this industry,"
said Creative Artists Agency's Rod Essig, one of today's
top agents. "He loved music, and he worked in the business until
his health made it impossible. He always wanted to make deals
that made everybody happy, because if everyone is happy with the deal then
everybody wants to work together again."
Funeral arrangements for Mr. Deaton are not yet complete, but services probably will be on Friday.
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