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Billy Walker, 77, Grand Ole Opry star

FT. DEPOSIT, Ala. -- Billy Walker, the Grand Ole Opry legend whose hits included ''Charlie's Shoes" and ''Cross the Brazos at Waco," died in a wreck yesterday along interstate in Alabama. He was 77.

Mr. Walker was killed along with his wife, Bettie, and two of his band members when their van ran off Interstate 65 south of Montgomery and overturned, state troopers said.

The two band members were Charles Lilly Jr., 44, of Hendersonville, Tenn., and Daniel Patton, 40, of Hermitage, Tenn.

Mr. Walker's grandson, Joshua Brooks, 21, was injured and remains in critical condition at an Alabama hospital, officials said.

The group was on their way back to Nashville after performing at a show near Gulf Shores.

According to the Opry's website, Billy Walker was born in Ralls, Texas, learned to play the guitar through money plucking turkeys, and built an early career as the ''Traveling Texan, the Masked Singer of Country Songs." He later shared the stage with Elvis Presley.

Mr. Walker joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1960.

In 1963, he had been scheduled to fly out of Kansas City with Patsy Cline after a benefit concert. Instead, after receiving an urgent call to return home, he switched plane tickets with Hawkshaw Hawkins. Cline, Hawkins, Cowboy Copas, and Randy Hughes were killed when their plane crashed.

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