This ‘Idol’ Judge Just Lost a Good Friend

American Idol Judges

ABC/Eric McCandless

Luke Bryan is mourning the loss of music executive Larry Willoughby, who helped secure Bryan’s first record deal with Capitol Records, according to Taste of Country.

The singer penned a tribute to the late A&R executive on Instagram, writing, “This guy believed in me and rolled the dice on a goofy boy from Georgia. He was very key and critical in getting me my record deal at Capitol Records.”

According to Music Row, Willoughby suffered from Alzheimer’s and also contracted COVID.

He is survived by his wife, two sons, and two granddaughters.

The music exec was born in 1950 in Houston, Texas. His wife was his high school sweetheart. Willoughby was the former Vice President of A&R for Capitol Records Nashville and was involved in the career development of stars like Keith Urban, Trace Adkins, Eric Church, and Dierks Bentley, according to Music Row. 

Here’s what you need to know:

Willoughby’s Career

Willoughby kicked off his career as a singer-songwriter for Guy Clark’s band. He eventually scored a deal with Atlantic Records.

Willoughby’s debut album peaked at No. 47 on the Billboard charts in 1984. The title song from the album soared to popularity, though, and in 2006, Brooks & Dunn performed the song with guest vocals by Vince Gill and Sheryl Crow. The song was nominated for Musical Event of the Year at the CMA Awards and Best Country Collaboration with Vocals at the Grammys, according to Music Row.

After touring for a handful of years, Willougby began working on the business side of music. He worked as a tour manager for Rodney Crow before he was hired as the Director of A&R at MCA/Universal Records.

Larry Willoughby – Building BridgesHere's the original version of the Brooks & Dunn/Sheryl Crow hit "Building Bridges." Larry Willoughby wrote and originally recorded the song. It reached #55 on the Billboard Country chart in 1984 (Atlantic America 99797). Vince Gill sings background and plays guiltar on this song.2009-08-28T05:03:28Z

Stars Lost to Coronavirus

Willoughby’s obituary, according to The Arts of Entertainment, reads, “We mourn with the family of Larry Willoughby, we understand how disheartening they could be right now, so we are sending our thoughts and prayers to the affected ones. Larry Willoughby has left friends, family, and loved ones heartbroken as the news surrounding the death of the deceased was released across social media on January 14, 2021.”

Sadly, Willougby joins a number of celebrities who have passed away from COVID-19.

Gilligan Island star Dawn Wells passed away in late December at age 82. Her publicist, according to People, said the actress died of causes related to the novel coronavirus.

Country music legend Charley Pride passed on December 12 at age 86, also due to complications from COVID-19, according to his website. Pride was known for hits like “Kiss an Angel Good Morning” and “Is Anybody Goin’ to San Antone.’

Gold medalist Arnie Robinson Jr. also passed in December. The Olympian was a Track and Field star, and passed at 72. Robinson Jr.’s death was preceded by that of fashion designer Kenzo Takada, who was 81 when he died of coronavirus complications, according to People.

Others who have passed from coronavirus include Jay Johnstone, Tommy DeVito, Bruce Williamson, Tom Seaver, Hermain Cain, Nick Cordero, Brandis Kemp, and Roy Horn among others.

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