Beloved country musician Jo Shay has died at the age of 91, just weeks after her son Shawn Wray also passed. According to the Union-Bulletin, Shay died on April 4 at Providence St. Mary Medical Center in Walla Walla, Washington. Sadly, Wray died on March 12, with congenital heart failure being listed as the cause of death for both. Matt Wray, Show's son and Shay's grandson, commented on how the family has been managing, saying, "It's been a really rough month."
Shay was the eponymous Grandma in the country band Grandma and the Boys, which also featured Wray. Musician Jimmye Turner spoke fondly of Shay, calling her a "positive force in the local music scene. She was an enthusiastic musician, always a joy to have her play with us." He added, "Just listening to her play and sing brought a smile to everyone there. With her husband, Rod, we always looked forward to making music with her."
Turner's daughter Dyani added, "She was such a sweet, talented force. I remember her singing and playing from when I was very small." Dyani went on to say that Shay "very unassuming and approachable and so funny, but so respected in the folk music circles here. Always made me feel comforted and secure just by her presence."
Glenn Morrison, another local Walla Walla musician, also praised Shay. "Her music was from the 'true vine' of traditional country music, right up from the roots," he said. "She usually played mandolin and sang great old songs right from the heart. From the Carter Family to Gene Autry and Merle Haggard, Jo had a big repertoire of classic country tunes and could perform them all."
Matt, who recorded two CDs by Grandma and the Boys, also spoke about Shay's husband Rod being a longtime supporter of the band. "He was a loyal fan of Grandma and the Boys. He was the roadie. He hauled her gear, set it up and broke it down and always sat in on her performances."
Finally, one of Shay's close friends, Kate Hockersmith, said of the late musician, "Jo was an inspiration to many of us, especially me. I adored that she never seemed to miss an opportunity to play music, and sometimes she’d arrive at the jams after playing all day at the local assisted living facilities, or fishing all day. I always used to joke that I wanted to be just like Jo when I grow up. It wasn’t really a joke. She loved life and lived life to the fullest. Something we could all look up to."