When that cold wind comes to get me,
I don’t want nobody standin’ ‘round sheddin’ tears and feelin’ sorry.
‘Cause I’m gonna go to see my God. Hey everybody whistle Dixie.
Let ‘em lay me ‘neath the sod."
-- "Whistle Dixie" by Darryl Worley
Relatives, friends and loved ones gathered in the Chapel of Memories at Magnolia Funeral Home this week to honor and celebrate the life and legacy of music icon Jimmy Ray Pyle.
Pyle died Saturday at the age 70. A private concert and celebration was held Tuesday in his honor and performed by a handful of his many friends. Performers in attendance were Jennifer Woodfin, Billy Terry, Billy Lawson, Wayne Jerrolds, Darryl Worley, The Jake Landers Band and friends, Cheryl McCoy, the Harmoniers, Larry Casabella and New Outlaws and Kay Bain to name a few.
"Jimmy always told me, you can't just settle for the first line that pops in your head. It should relate back to the title and be the best thing you can think of, not the first," said country music star Darryl Worley as he strummed the cords of his guitar.
The chapel grew quiet as he launched into his beautiful rendition of "Louisiana Rain."
"I'm haunted by your sweet voice calling my name. We may never be the same, but I got memories in the Louisiana Rain..."
"It was probably Jimmy's favorite song," said Worley as he completed the tune.
"We recently had close to an hour-long conversation and I was so thankful for that. We laughed and talked about how horrible the state of country music is today. He got a kick out of me calling it 'foreign country'," said Worley, as he began a more upbeat number he wrote, called “Whistle Dixie."
Got a whole lot out of livin’, my simple southern life. Tried to do my share of givin’, and I know my soul’s all right...
Worley is a native of Hardin County who stages the Tennessee River Run every September. Worley's six albums have produced 18 singles on the Billboard Hot Country Songs charts, including three Number Ones: "I Miss My Friend", "Have You Forgotten?" and "Awful, Beautiful Life." Nine other singles have reached the Top 40.
Pyle, an Iuka resident whose recording studio was in Burnsville, is remembered as a kindhearted man who invested in the lives of many.
"Daddy opened the door to Nashville for a lot of people, Darryl included," said daughter, Regina Pyle Ahmad. "He always said he didn't make any money in the music studio."
In addition to his contributions to the music industry, Pyle was also an inventor.
"It was just natural for Jimmy to be free," said sister Dwanna Bergeron. "He wasn't arrogant. He never forced anything upon anyone. He also never stopped. His mind was always inventing stuff to make life easier for everyone."
Wayne Jerrolds remembers his friend of nearly 50 years as a man of great character and dignity.
"He was a fine musician. It was in his blood to follow suit. He was a true gentleman in every respect, I'll tell you that," said Jerrolds, a well known Bluegrass artist who has a park named after him in Savannah, Tenn.
A lyrical version of "Amazing Grace" echoed through the room as Cheryl McCoy paid tribute to her late friend and business partner.
"He was a perfectionist. He was gonna have it perfect or not at all," said McCoy. "We went in as partners and bought a radio station. I told him we didn't know anything about a radio station. We had some good times together."
"Not only was he a perfectionist, but he was honest as the day is long," said Worley, who released four albums with DreamWorks Records in Nashville. "Everything people have said is true today. He'd be really happy about this. I guarantee you, he is smiling."
Pyle had an ear for music and could pick out even the slightest sounds, friends agreed.
"He would work with you. He could hear things that nobody else could hear," said Bro. Jimmy Daniel of the Harmoniers.
"He once told me my timing was off on my guitar and I needed to pat my foot. I looked like a rocking horse trying to pat my foot," said Larry Casabella. He laughed as he demonstrated for the crowd.
Casabella and New Outlaws began a chorus of "I Can't Stop Loving You."
I can't stop loving you. I said I made up my mind to live in memory of the lonesome times...
"My daddy never met a stranger. He did what he said he'd do even if it cost him money," said Ahmad. "He was always trying to help someone. He'd give free recording minutes in the studio, let them get set up and practice a little bit and teach them how to use the mic to make the sound better. I remember someone cutting an album once for only $75."
He was an artist, performer, studio owner, songwriter, musician, producer, radio station owner, carpenter, carpet store owner, self-made businessman, a Red Cross volunteer and a pilot, noted family members.
Jennifer Riddle Woodfin remembers her mentor as a sweet, soft-spoken man who never yelled.
"I don't know where I'd be if it wasn't for him. I certainly wouldn't be in Murfreesboro, Tenn.," said Woodfin. "Everything I am today is because of him. Jimmy taught me how to write. He could dissect a song better than anyone and when he talked, you listened."
Yesterday's gone sweet Jesus and tomorrow may never be mine. So for my sake teach me to take one day at a time...
"Jimmy isn't on a walker where he is now," remarked one friend. "He walking around kicking up gold dust."