Feb. 27, 2014 at 2:29 PM ET
Stand-up comedian and country singer Tim Wilson, who infused original songs into his comedy, died in Columbus, Ga., on Wednesday night of a massive heart attack, his manager Chris Dipetta told TODAY.
Wilson, 52, drove to Columbus from a gig in Michigan to visit his brother en route to a weekend show in Birmingham, Ala. when he started feeling ill, said Dipetta, who worked with Wilson for 30 years.
"I talked to him yesterday afternoon and said he felt bad, was short of breath, and I said, 'get to the hospital now," said Dipetta, fighting tears. "His brother took him to the hospital and he had a massive heart attack and passed away at 9:15 p.m."
Although Wilson was not a household name, he had a strong and expansive following that admired his humorous country songs such as "Garth Brooks Ruined My Life" and "First Baptist Bar & Grill." He also co-wrote Jeff Foxworthy’s hit “The Redneck 12 Days of Christmas.”
"Tim was probably one of the greatest characters I’ve ever been around," said Dipetta, who also has managed Foxworthy and Steve Harvey. "He was the greatest storyteller. I used to call him comedy’s Tennessee Williams because he had more stories than anybody. It’s tough to put into words what kind of a character he was. But everybody loved him. He spoke his mind, and he’d get into a conversation with you for hours, debate just about anything."
Wilson also worked with his friend, Billy Gardell, on Showtime's "Billy Gardell Presents the Road Dogs." Dipetta, who manages Gardell, said Gardell frequently opened for Wilson on the road and "they've been friends forever." On Thursday, Gardell ("Mike and Molly") expressed his sorrow on Twitter.
In addition to releasing more than a dozen albums, Wilson was a frequent guest on radio shows such as "The John Boy and Billy Big Show," "The Bob and Tom Show" and "Big D and Bubba." He also appeared on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno."
"The John Boy and Billy Big Show" paid tribute to their friend and colleague Thursday with an 'in memoriam' page on the show's site. Wilson had been a recurring player in "The Bob and Tom Show" since 1995. His colleagues there tweeted memories of him and called him a "friend and brother."
Other friends and fans posted their thoughts on the show's Twitter feed as well.
Wilson is survived by his wife, Deidre, and his children from a previous marriage, Sophia, 24, and Ari, 15.
Funeral services will be held in Columbus this weekend, his manager said.