CMT lost a brilliant and beloved member of our family in the early hours of June 19, 2013. CMT Editorial Director and renowned music journalist Chet Flippo passed away, peacefully, in Nashville. This is a stunning loss to all of us. Chet was a stoic Texan, fiercely loyal and intensely private. He was honest to the core and widely regarded as a bit enigmatic, even among his closest colleagues. For all, it was a terrific privilege to work with Chet Flippo.
Chet Flippo was one of the early Rolling Stone writers and a legendary rock critic. He was the author of seven books, including “On the Road with the Rolling Stones”. Long ago, I read and re-read my frayed paperback copy of this book, living vicariously through Chet’s exotic pirate stories. Chet’s 1978 Rolling Stone magazine cover story “Shattered” (featuring his nose-to-nose confrontation with an angry Mick Jagger) is the kind of no-holds-barred music journalism that doesn’t exist anymore, anywhere. Chet was a fierce advocate for country music long before country was cool. In books such as YOUR CHEATIN’ HEART: A BIOGRAPHY OF HANK WILLIAMS, in his writing for Texas Monthly and the New York Times and during his five year tenure as Billboard magazine’s Nashville bureau chief, Chet articulated the virtues and joys of country music with a passion and intelligence that helped make the genre respectable even among snobs and city slickers.
Chet joined CMT in 2001 and brought that same integrity to his role as editorial director. He interviewed artists, oversaw the music content of CMT programming, and perhaps most influentially wrote a regular column for CMT.com called “Nashville Skyline” in which he celebrated artists who would benefit from his attention and took the industry to task for crimes of trend-hopping, image manufacturing, and anything that smacked to Chet of disloyalty to country’s core values. He was not conservative in his tastes – Chet championed legitimate musical innovation – but he loved country music too much to let Music Row get away with fostering hypes and copycat artists on the public. Because his criticisms came from a respected insider and known country music-lover, his columns were taken very seriously by the Nashville community. Chet kept everybody honest.
Chet Flippo was born in Fort Worth, Texas and served in the US Navy during the Vietnam War. He earned his master’s degree in journalism from the University of Texas in Austin. He taught at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. He received the Country Music Association’s 1998 CMT Media Award and the Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism. His long marriage to Martha Hume Flippo ended with her death in December 2012.
If you knew Chet and you knew how much he loved Martha, it does not seem quite so surprising that he has gone to join her so soon.
We will love and respect Chet forever.
Brian Philips is President of CMT.