Wayne Mills called himself an "outlaw," a country singer who loved performing in honky-tonks. But he was shot in the head and killed in a Nashville honky-tonk around 5am Saturday, WZTV reports. Mills, who had been playing in country bars for decades with his Wayne Mills Band, was at the Pit & Barrel Bar when he got into a fight with Chris Farrell, the bar owner, over smoking inside. Farrell allegedly killed Mills; he says he shot in self-defense. Mills and Ferrell, both 44, were friends, CNN reports. (SavingCountryMusic.com describes them as "buds.")
The bar was closed at the time, but other friends and acquaintances were inside; they left when the argument started, investigators say. Mills' friends call him a "honky-tonk hero." Says one, "He led an outlaw style of music that no one else could lead. Really a firm believer in true country music." He was on the cusp of a major distribution deal at the time of his death; country stars including Blake Shelton had opened for his band during tours before they made it big, USA Today reports. Mills leaves behind a wife and 7-year-old son.