Keyboardist Knechtel Dies

Larry Knechtel, a Grammy award-winning keyboardist who accompanied big-name musicians such as Elvis Presley, Ray Charles and the Dixie Chicks, is dead at 69.

Knechtel, who moved to Yakima in 2003, died Thursday at Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital of an apparent heart attack. His death was confirmed by a spokesman for Valley Hills Funeral Home.

Knechtel was born in Bell, Calif., and performed live and in studio recordings with a wide range of artists, including Neil Diamond, Randy Newman, Ray Charles, The Beach Boys, The Doors, Elvis Presley, Hank Williams Jr. and Elvis Costello.

He earned a Grammy award for his arrangement of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” played keyboard on the Dixie Chicks’ Grammy award-winning album “Taking the Long Way” and performed on the Hammond organ for the group’s tour of the same name.

“Larry’s resume is a history lesson in great American music all unto itself,” the Dixie Chicks wrote on their Web site. “The term ‘legendary musician’ isn’t an overstatement when talking about a multi-instrumentalist who can be heard on some of music’s most legendary recordings.”

Blues singer and guitar player Wayman Chapman, a friend and frequent performing partner, said Knechtel had seemed to be in good health following a recent trip to Italy with his wife, Vickie, and a grandson.

“He told me in ‘03 that he needed to think about retiring, but since then he’d been going like gangbusters,” Chapman said.

Other survivors include Knechtel’s mother, Edna Knechtel; a son, Lonnie, of Ferndale; a daughter, Shelli Kokenge, of Gleed; brothers Don Knechtel of Alabama and Bob Knechtel of California; and three grandchildren.