Charlie Vaughn, an award-winning musician from Carrollton who performed with many country music greats, died Thursday at the age of 79.
Vaughn was honored with the “Legend Award” by the Georgia Steel Guitar Association. In his long career he shared the stage and studio with country greats like Willie Nelson, Waylon Jennings, Connie Smith, Tony Booth, Charlie Pride, Kenny Price, Faron Young and Billy Walker.
Vaughn began his music career in high school, playing keys in his high school rock band. Later, at West Georgia College, he and a few buddies formed a rock band called The Collegiates, playing their first professional shows as openers for Jerry Lee Lewis.
“I’d always liked country music,” he told the Times-Georgian in a 2009 interview. “I listened to country music from the time I was old enough to turn on the radio, but there were no country bands around here then … so I just played in a rock band just to be able to play.”
Although rock music brought him some success, when Charlie bought his own steel guitar in 1962 there was no turning back. He learned how to play country music from listening to records and “figuring out licks” along the way. As he improved, so did his gigs. He landed a regular job in Atlanta, performing at the Play Room, then opened at The Nugget. Playing there, Vaughn shared the stage with many of Nashville’s greats. They liked his style and Charlie’s reputation as a steel player just got bigger and bigger.
In the 1970s, when The Nugget burned down, taking Charlie’s steel guitar with it, Vaughn left the club scene in Atlanta and came back to Carrollton, giving up music. He began work as an electrician, but it wasn’t long before he was performing again. Local bands like the Sundowners, Watusi Rodeo and the George Britt Band needed the sweet signature of a steel guitar and were proud to have Charlie Vaughn play for them.
Vaughn had a large fan base in west Georgia and was the steel guitar player that anchored the right side of the Lowell Opry House stage until his retirement from hearing loss.
“Charlie was a one of country music’s finest steel players,” said George Britt, founder of the Lowell Opry House. “He had a great run and I have so many memories of him lighting up that steel guitar. I still have patrons say how much they miss him playing at Lowell. We lost a great steel guitar player when he had to retire and now that he’s gone, we’ve lost a great friend.”