NASHVILLE, Tennessee (Reuters) - Steel guitarist Don Helms, the last remaining member of Hank Williams' original Drifting Cowboys Band, has died from a heart attack, fellow performer Marty Stuart said.
Helms, 81, died on Monday at Nashville's Skyline Medical Center, Stuart said.
"He was the dean of Nashville musicians and truly an essential part of the Hank Williams legacy," Stuart said.
Helms, a native of Alabama, joined the Drifting Cowboys in 1949 after Williams became a Grand Ole Opry star.
When Williams succumbed to drugs four years later, Helms went on to play for Ray Price, Ferlin Husky, Cal Smith and others. He also performed with Williams' son Hank Williams Jr. and grandson Hank Williams III.
Helms played Williams' classic tunes on recordings by Patsy Cline ("Walkin' After Midnight"), Lefty Frizzell ("Long Black Veil") and Stonewall Jackson ("Waterloo").
Reporting by Pat Harris; Editing by John O'Callaghan