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Willie Nelson’s Bassist Dan “Bee” Spears Dies

Photo by Master Sgt. Lee Roberts, USAF

Dan “Bee” Spears, Willie Nelson’s bass player for more than four decades, has died at the age of 62. Spears’ girlfriend Dee Pearce said Spears slipped and fell while exiting his motor home near Nashville on Thursday night and died from exposure to the elements, KXAN reported.

Spears was born in San Antonio on August 11, 1949. He started playing bass for Willie Nelson at age 19, according to this birthday note on Nelson’s website.

We called Ray Benson, frontman of Asleep at the Wheel and a close friend of Spears for 38 years, to get his reaction.

“I’m just shocked. It’s not something you expect at all,” Benson told us. “But to paraphrase an old friend, Warren Zevon, ‘Enjoy every taco,’ because you just don’t know.”

“Bee was, no pun intended, the basis of Willie's sound,” Benson said. He said Spears’ traveling bass lines worked perfectly with Nelson’s guitar and said the band "basically grew that sound. It's the most eclectic individual sound you'll ever hear out of a band. You'll never hear another band sound like that."

Benson described Spears as “a funny guy. He was a smart guy. And like I said, he was Willie’s left hand."

In a Tweet, Willie Nelson expressed “sadness and shock” at Spears’ death. Nelson also posted this statement to his website:

We are deeply saddened by the death of Family member Dan "Bee" Spears, long time friend and bassist for Willie Nelson and Family. We are still in shock and gathering details as the day continues. He apparently died of accidental exposure at his property near Nashville, Tennessee.

Here's a video of Spears singing "Okie from Muskogee" with Nelson and his band at a taping of Austin City Limits:

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @KUTnathan.