Flippo, 69, died unexpectedly of complications from a brief illness, according to a media release from the Country Music Hall of Fame & Musuem's Liz Thiels.
Flippo was editorial director at cable channel CMT and CMT.com, where he had worked for 12 years and wrote a popular weekly column, “Nashville Skyline.”
As a writer and editor for Rolling Stone in the 1970s, he covered artists and subjects from the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, and John Lennon, to Joseph Heller, Tom Wolfe and the Who. He also initiated country-music coverage for Rolling Stone, profiling the likes of Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Tanya Tucker and Waylon Jennings, among others.
Born October 21, 1943, in Fort Worth, Texas, Flippo served in the U.S. Navy during the Vietnam War and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in journalism. After working as contributing editor for Rolling Stone magazine while in graduate school at the University of Texas in Austin, he became Rolling Stone’s New York bureau chief in 1974. After Rolling Stone moved its offices from San Francisco to New York in 1977, he became Rolling Stone senior editor.
“Magazine writing can be enervating. It can be degrading. It can also be one hell of a lot of fun,” Flippo penned in 1991. “In some ways it reminds me of the military. You get to travel and see the world and meet lots of interesting people. You also have to follow the rules and put in your time before they let you out to do what you really want to.”
Flippo left Rolling Stone in 1980 to write the book titled "Your Cheatin’ Heart: A Biography of Hank Williams," and he went on to write books on Paul McCartney, Graceland, the Rolling Stones and David Bowie. St. Martin’s published an anthology of his articles, "Everybody Was Kung-Fu Dancing: Chronicles of the Lionized and the Notorious," in 1991. He also wrote articles for the New York Times, TV Guide, Texas Monthly, Q Magazine of London and other publications, and he wrote TV scripts for VH1, CBS and CMT.
Chuck Dauphin, Billboard's country-news editor, is one who was influenced by Flippo's words in his youth.
"Growing up as a child who read music magazines and liner notes, I was aware of Chet Flippo at an early age," Dauphin told Examiner.com. "How could one not have been? His Rolling Stone articles speak for themselves some four decades later. His love of music came through in every word and every stroke. His work for CMT.com has repeatedly turned me on to new acts, because I figure, if Chet Flippo liked them -- they were going to be good."
Moreover, "(Flippo) stood firm in interviews with acts like Waylon Jennings and Mick Jagger, showing the difference between journalist and writer," he continued. "(And) when I was blessed with the job of writing for Billboard, I said that it was the ultimate honor to write for the same place that Edward Morris, Gerry Wood and Chet Flippo wrote for.
"Though I never was fortunate to meet him," Dauphin added, "that honor has never meant more than tonight. RIP with your sweet Martha!"
Beyond his Rolling Stone fame, Flippo also contributed liner notes to "Wanted! The Outlaws," the 1976 album that brought the Outlaw movement to the attention of a broader audience, and, by a fluke of scheduling, sang backing vocals, with his wife, Martha Hume, on the 1972 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album "Will the Circle Be Unbroken,: which united the young California band with pioneering country artists such as Roy Acuff, Maybelle Carter, Earl Scruggs and Merle Travis.
From 1991 to 1994, Flippo was a lecturer in journalism at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville before moving to Nashville to work for Billboard. He received the Country Music Association’s 1998 CMA Media Achievement Award. In 2006, The International Country Music Conference (ICMC) honored Flippo with the Charlie Lamb Award for Excellence in Country Music Journalism.
Before joining CMT in 2001, he was country music editor for Sonicnet.com. From 1995 until joining Sonicnet in 2000, he was Billboard’s Nashville bureau chief.
Flippo was preceded in death by his wife, noted music journalist and author Martha Hume Flippo, who died Dec. 17, 2012. Survivors include sister Shirley Smith of Brandon, Fla., and brothers Bill Flippo of Saginaw, Texas, and Ernest Flippo of Abbington, Mass.
At this writing, plans for a memorial service are incomplete. The family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.