Country star Hank Locklin dies

'Same Sweet Girls' was first top 10 hit

NASHVILLE -- Country music star Hank Locklin, who helped pioneer the idea of the concept album and whose songs were popular from Ireland to Japan, has died, Grand Ole Opry officials said Monday. He was 91.

The singer, songwriter and guitarist died Sunday at his home in Brewton, Ala., of undisclosed causes.

Born Lawrence Hankins Locklin in 1918 in Florida's timber-rich panhandle, he played guitar and sang on radio stations across the South as a teenager.

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.

His 1957 recording of "Send Me the Pillow You Dream On" crossed over from the country to the U.S. and British pop charts and became a standard for many performers, including 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 Locklin joined the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville.

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.

Locklin was widely credited as one of the pioneers of the themed concept album with such recordings as "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 and released in 2006.