Tributes, memorials and memories continue to flow upon the news of the passing yesterday of Bill Carruthers at the age of 67. Less than three weeks ago, he had celebrated his birthday and a few times in the past few weeks, he would post photos of an early evening backyard fire and close the post with three words: “life is good.”

An award-winning drummer – he was named the Canadian Country Music Association’s Drummer of the Year for four consecutive years (1990-1993) – he was also part of South Mountain, the super-group of musicians who were named winners of the CCMA Rising Star award. And he played those drums backing most of the biggest stars in Canadian country music at one time or another, and for some legendary American country artists. Bill was even nominated Country Person of the Year and Record Company Person of the Year, an indication of how well-thought of he was in the industry. And soon after he helped get Casino Rama off the ground (he booked Faith Hill as their opening act), he was even nominated for Talent Buyer/Promoter of the Year.

Those are just the industry accolades for a guy whose life was music, country music. Growing up and playing in a family band gave him that love of the music and his love of family, particularly his sons. When his dad, Harry, a legendary musician in his day, died four years ago, Bill insisted on playing music with family and friends on the day of the funeral, after the services, at the Hideaway Restaurant in Langton.

Bill and I go back to the early 1980’s, when he was part of Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame member Marie Bottrell’s band. He was a big brother to her, watching out for her when she was out on the road at a very early age. And he would sometimes “mug” for the camera, like the time he was backstage at Hamilton Place as Marie was getting ready to open a concert with Lee Greenwood. He didn’t have to put down his beer when he was checking to make sure his pants were done up.

Bill will also be known as the longtime drummer in the late Terry Sumsion’s band Stagecoach. The band’s steel guitarist, Doug Johnson, noted on social media that Bill was “an inspiration, guiding force, teacher, friend, mentor and driving force in everything I have been fortunate enough to do in country music.” Terry recorded “Mirrors Never Lie,” which Bill wrote, for his for album, “Our Lovin’ Place.” Bill was at Terry’s side during his final concerts, singing harmony and sharing some great road stories. And he was with Terry for his final show in January 2011 in Simcoe.

Bill and I cried (and laughed a time or two) together the night Terry died. I was at the radio station after receiving the news and Bill, stopped by in the early morning hours as I was finishing a tribute to our dear friend. Bill also came into the studio for our tribute to Terry on the Monday after he died. I don’t think I could have made it through that whole show without Bill there for most of it.

Soon after I had moved to Tillsonburg and began working at Country 107.3, Bill and I re-connected after a few years, thanks to his son, Darryl. Darryl told his dad his should listen to this station. One Saturday morning, a few days later, there was Bill at the door as I was coming off the air. Darryl had brought us together. Darryl’s untimely passing from a heart attack at the age of 36 in 2010 was a difficult blow, but Bill’s love of his son and his faith helped sustain him in all the years that passed.

If you think I have great stories, they are no match for Bill’s. Hearing some road stories or stories from his days booking legends for two of the biggest casinos in Ontario were truly amazing. He had the most amazing insights with entertainers like Tony Orlando, Jay Leno, and fellow drummers Ringo Starr and W.S. “Fluke” Holland, Johnny Cash’s only concert drummer. Asking to back Kitty Wells and Johnny Wright for one-night, he ended up touring with them for the better part of a week. Johnny would share some incredible stories with Bill about his old friend, Hank Williams. I’m so lucky Bill shared some of them with me.

Bill had the uncanny ability to bring out the best in people, to make them do their best work. He also had the unique gift of putting people in their place, if they deserved it, but without being insulting. He did it by a quick quip or a gesture that might seem small but spoke volumes. No matter how big the entertainer thought he was, Bill quickly brought them down to earth.

Last year, as part of a show he had booked in Tillsonburg, he brought Marie, Thomas Wade, guitar master Steve Piticco and Doug Johnson into the station for live radio music magic. It was one of several moments I will forever cherish and it was made possible by him.

Doug summed Bill up nicely in the past few hours, writing, “You were a very special player, singer, road manager and booking agent.” Bill Carruthers was truly one-of-a-kind.

Service details are pending. But in the meantime, our deepest thoughts, prayers, condolences and sympathies to his loving family, dear friends and many fans. Our grief should be comforted somewhat knowing he’s been reunited with Harry, Darryl and Terry and knowing the Heavenly Choir has welcomed one of its most outstanding members.

To quote Doug one more time, “’Silver Wings,’ my good friend.”