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Hank Locklin, 91, dies; country singer helped usher in 'the Nashville Sound'
Country singer Hank Locklin, whose smooth tenor voice on hits including "Send Me the Pillow You Dream On" and "Please Help Me I'm Falling" marked a career that spanned half a century, has died. He was 91.
Locklin died Sunday at his home in Brewton, Ala., Grand Ole Opry publicist Jessie Schmidt said in Nashville. She said the cause of death was not being released.
A performer on the Grand Ole Opry for 47 years, Locklin helped usher in "the Nashville Sound" that gave country music a more lush feel.
"I've been blessed to have hit songs that are timeless and appeal to the generations," he said in 2001.
Born Lawrence Hankins Locklin in 1918 in Florida's timber-rich Panhandle, as a teenager he played guitar and sang on radio stations across the South, including the "Big D Jamboree" on KRLD in Dallas and "The Louisiana Hayride" in Shreveport, La.
He scored his first top 10 country hit with "The Same Sweet Girls" in 1949 and scored another chart-topper with "Let Me Be the One" in 1953.
Locklin's 1958 recording of his song "Send Me the Pillow You Dream On" crossed over from country to U.S. and British pop charts and became a standard for many performers, including Johnny Tillotson, Dean Martin, Dwight Yoakam and Dolly Parton.
His recording of "Please Help Me I'm Falling" spent 14 weeks at the top of the country music charts in 1960, the same year he joined the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. His last performance at the Opry was in September 2007.
That song's "slip-note" piano style became Locklin's signature, and his version was featured on the soundtrack of the 1993 movie "A Perfect World," directed by Clint Eastwood.
In the 1970s, Locklin was host of TV shows in Houston and Dallas.
His other hits included "Let Me Be the One," "Geisha Girl," "Why, Baby, Why" and "It's a Little More Like Heaven."
Locklin was widely credited as one of the pioneers of the themed concept album with recordings including "A Tribute to Roy Acuff, King of Country Music," "Foreign Love" and "Irish Songs Country Style," which led to tours in England and Ireland.
In 2001, he recorded "Generations in Song," which featured Parton and Vince Gill. His 65th album, "By the Grace of God," was a collection of gospel songs that was released in 2006.
"The Lord gave me a good voice and I can still sing," he said in 2001.
Information on survivors and funeral arrangements was not immediately available.