b. Ivan Leroy Wiggins, 27 June 1926, Nashville, Tennessee, USA, d. 3 August 1999, Sevierville, Tennessee, USA. As a child, Wiggins was fascinated by the Hawaiian guitar-playing of Burt Hutcherson on the Grand Ole Opry and immediately decided to learn to play the steel guitar. Wiggins proved a very adroit learner; at the age of 14, he was playing the instrument on the Grand Ole Opry as a member of Paul Howard’s Arkansas Cotton Pickers, in a style that was reminiscent of the earlier melodic Hawaiian styles. He called himself Roy and purely because of his age, his fellow musicians added the Little. He later worked the Grand Ole Opry for a year with Pee Wee King’s Golden West Cowboys, but in 1943, he became Eddy Arnold’s steel guitarist. He remained with Arnold until 1968 and during those years, he was responsible for the effective and immediately recognizable steel guitar playing that became an accepted part of Arnold’s hits, such as ‘Bouquet Of Roses’, ‘Cattle Call’, and ‘Anytime’. He made no solo recordings until the early 60s, since Arnold, like several top stars, frowned on his musicians recording in their own right. In the late 60s, Wiggins played with George Morgan, where again he added the distinctive steel sound to recordings such as ‘Hey Mr Ting-A-Ling Steel Guitar Man’ and Morgan’s smash hit ‘Candy Kisses’. After Morgan’s death in 1975, Wiggins worked partly as a session musician but also played with several Grand Ole Opry artists, including Ernie Ashworth and the Willis Brothers. In 1985, Wiggins had been inducted into the Steel Guitar Players Hall of Fame in St. Louis. In the late 80s, he relocated to the tourist centre of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, where, until 1993, he played the localSmoky Mountain Hayride and also, for a time, managed Ernest Tubb’s local record shop. In 1992, he opened his own musical instrument shop and eventually, with the exception of several special concert appearances, he devoted his attention to running his business. He died from a heart seizure in 1999.
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