RIP, Dean Armstrong

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The Star posted a nice tribute to Dean Armstrong, a man as closely tied to Tucson's musical history as anyone, who died on Sunday at the age of 87:

Every night between sets, Dean Armstrong strolled the dining room at Li'l Abner's Steak House.

He would shake hands with longtime fans and introduce himself to strangers, who quickly became friends.

"He was the nicest man that ever was," said waitress Connie Gilbert. "He was, for me, Li'l Abner's."

Armstrong died Sunday of pneumonia. He was 87 and had been in failing health since he fell and broke his leg in late November.

When Gilbert last spoke with Armstrong two weeks ago, he told her he was feeling better and was eager to return to his Arizona Ranch Hands band.

They had played nearly every weekend at the Marana steakhouse for more than 50 years, and Armstrong's son, Larry, said his father had been focused since his accident on getting well enough to return.

"He was bound and determined to get back there," said the younger Armstrong, who followed his father into music and has been sitting in with his dad's band for the past few months. "That's where he looked like he was home. That's where he enjoyed being and loved to be, and you could see it in his face. Every time he'd get up on stage, it took 20 years off his appearance."

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