Nashville Blues

Police Investigate Rising Country Music Star's Death

In a Nashville recording studio, old friends have come together to make the music they love — country music. On hand are keyboardist Jim "Moose" Brown, bass player Kevin "Swine" Grant and songwriter Wynn Varble.

They're considered the best of the best along Nashville's music row but tonight, one special member of their musical family is missing from the mix: Randy Hardison.

"He was such a part of our lives, it's hard to believe, even still, that he's not here," says Jim Brown, who adds that the whole town misses Randy.

Randy, 41, was a player.

"He's probably one of the most talented people in this town but you would never know by talking to him," says Varble.

"He had been nominated as drummer of the year at the Academy of Country Music Awards and had had several big cuts by big artists," adds Brown.

Randy's friends include artists like country star Darryl Worley. "He could do anything. Drums, singing, playing guitar, writing songs," Worley recalls. "Randy was getting ready to set this town on its ear. He had the momentum."

"He would have gone on to be probably one of the people that changed the business," says Lee Ann Womack, who is a superstar now but was a new kid on the block when she met Randy.

"He was one of the first people that I met when I came to town, one of the first real friendships that I had," she remembers.

Asked if Randy opened some doors for her and helped her career, Womack says: "Oh absolutely. Randy introduced me to a lot of other singer/songwriters and taught me a lot about writing. I was just a new writer and just learning how."

Randy wrote a song that appeared on her second gold album, and is one of her favorites, titled "When The Wheels Are Coming Off."

Randy's lyrics could warm your heart but they could also really make you laugh. "He's got some funny stuff like 'Beauty's in the eyes of the beer holder,' " jokes Varble.

Randy's humor was the stuff of legends in Nashville. "He kept everyone in stitches all the time," remembers Worley.

"He used to tell me he couldn't get a date in a woman's prison with a handful of pardons," says Jim Brown.

"It wasn't true. Randy Hardison had more girlfriends than you could shake a stick at," explains Worley. "His wit and his charm and his ability to make people happy. Just make your feet lift up off the ground."

Randy grew up in Inola, Okla., population 988. By the time he was 8 years old, his mother Becky says Randy got his first guitar; by age 14 he was playing drums.

As his talent grew, so did his Nashville dream.

"I worried about him going out there," remembers Becky. "He was barely out of high school. But he was a very independent boy. He could take care of himself."

But in June 2002, Randy's long journey from Oklahoma to country music stardom was over. A neighbor discovered Randy lying just outside his apartment in a pool of blood.

"Looked like somebody had poured a bucket of blood on the ground," recalls Jack Crawford, who lived next door. "I didn't know what to think. All I was worried about was making sure my family was OK and to call an ambulance for this man to get some help."

Immediately, friends from all over Nashville descended on the hospital to be at Randy's side. "I asked what happened and the nurse said, 'Well, we think he fell off a ladder,' " Jim Brown remembers.

From all appearances, Randy had simply fallen and hit his head on the cement.

Jim and Kevin tried to talk to Randy but say he couldn't remember a thing. But Randy's friends, like Worley, knew better. "The first thing out of my mouth, I said, 'He didn't fall off no ladder. Somethin' has happened.' "