I think this is worth including in full, as newspaper articles don't stay online forever.
Songwriter famed for Long Black Veil
The Guardian, Monday 19 January 2009
When he set out to write what became his best-known song, Danny Dill, who has died aged 84, had it in mind to create "an instant folksong", somewhat in the idiom of Burl Ives. He succeeded so well that many people, in the 50 years since it was written, have taken Long Black Veil to be just that: a page from the great authorless volume of traditional American folk balladry.
As he later told Dorothy Horstman for her 1975 book Sing Your Heart Out, Country Boy, it was inspired by a couple of newspaper stories. One, concerning the unsolved murder of a Catholic priest in New Jersey, provided him with a setting and opening lines: "Ten years ago, on a cold, dark night / Someone was killed 'neath the town hall light." The other was about a mysterious woman who used to visit the grave of the movie actor Rudolph Valentino, wearing a long black veil. Finally, he threw in a scrap of Red Foley's gospel song God Walks These Hills With Me.
The first recording of Long Black Veil, in 1959, was by the Texas honkytonk singer Lefty Frizzell, with Dill's co-writer Marijohn Wilkin playing piano on the session. It has since been recorded by artists as diverse as Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, the Band, the Chieftains, Marianne Faithfull, Nick Cave, the Stranglers and Diamanda Galás. In 1999, the Dave Matthews Band included it on their Top 20 album Listener Supported, and in 2006 Bruce Springsteen sang it on his Seeger Sessions Band Tour CD.
Songwriting was a second career for Dill. Born in Huntingdon, Tennessee, he worked as a country singer during the 1940s and 50s, first as a solo on radio stations in Jackson, Knoxville and Memphis, Tennessee, then in a duet with his wife, Annie Lou Stockard, on Nashville's Grand Ole Opry. As well as the famous Saturday night show, they participated in tours with fellow Opry acts such as Ernest Tubb, Hank Thompson, Eddy Arnold, George Morgan, and the comedian Whitey Ford, known as the Duke of Paducah; it was the Duke who hired the young Horace Dill for his road band in 1944 and rechristened him Danny.
The Dills were Opry cast members for just over a decade, leaving the show in the late 50s. Some years later they divorced. Dill's first success as a songwriter was If You Saw Her Through My Eyes, recorded by Carl Smith in 1954. In the same year as Long Black Veil he produced another story song, Partners, which was a Top 10 country hit for Jim Reeves. A further hit was Detroit City, written in collaboration with Mel Tillis and recorded by Bobby Bare, which won a Grammy in 1963. In his long association with the Nashville publishing company Cedarwood, Dill wrote more than 100 songs. In 1975 he was elected to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Though best known as a writer, he never lost his love of performing. In a recent letter to the website Hillbilly-music.com, he wrote: "I am never as calm, as comfortable, as alive as when I walk before a mic."
His recording career, though fitful, stretched from his first discs with Annie Lou in 1949 to his 2006 album Quality Is Always In Style. He is survived by his daughter Ava.
• Danny (Horace Eldred) Dill, country songwriter and singer, born 19 September 1924; died 23 October 2008