Classic Country: Legends of Country Music

By Charles K. Wolfe | Go to book overview

Roy Acuff

Just how popular was Roy Acuff during his heyday? In the latter days of World War II, Japanese soldiers in the Pacific would try to psych out American Marines by yelling taunts like, “To hell with Franklin Roosevelt! To hell with Babe Ruth! To hell with Roy Acuff!” Back in San Diego, soldiers and sailors from all over the country would hold “Roy Acuff contests,” in which the object was to see who could do the best imitation of the singer. Acuff records were so popular that the government had to issue them on V-discs so overseas troops could hear hits like “Low and Lonely.” It was not unusual for 15,000 fans to show up at Acuff concerts, and not unusual to see the Acuff name ranking with Frank Sinatra and Benny Goodman in popularity polls among servicemen. Nobody in the music business was really surprised to see Roy Acuff run for governor of Tennessee in 1948.

Modern fans who are used to seeing Roy Acuff as the stately, white-haired elder statesman of the Grand Ole Opry may wonder what all the fuss is about and whether Acuff’s role is partially the result of Opry hype. It isn’t. Acuff was actually the music’s first great stylist after the death of Jimmie Rodgers and was a major influence on younger singers like Hank Williams, Lefty Frizzell, and George Jones. Though he’s had only three modest hits since 1950, his continual presence on the Grand Ole Opry gave him a platform from which he continued to influence country music: as a publisher, a media pioneer, a spokesman, and, in later years, a defender of older traditions and performers. His nickname, “The King of Country Music,” may sound a bit mawkish and old-fashioned, but, in many ways, it is remarkably accurate.

Acuff actually came from the Smoky Mountains. He was born in Maynardville, Tennessee, on September 15, 1903. He was born at home,

-19-

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Classic Country: Legends of Country Music
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Part I - From the Hall of Fame 1
  • The Carter Family 2
  • Roy Acuff 19
  • Lefty Frizzell 27
  • Grandpa Jones 33
  • Pee Wee King 38
  • Bill Monroe 44
  • Hank Snow 50
  • Kitty Wells 56
  • Part II - From the Victrola 63
  • Fiddlin’ John Carson 64
  • Vernon Dalhart 70
  • Riley Puckett 76
  • Charlie Poole 82
  • The Georgia Yellow Hammers 85
  • Darby and Tarlton 89
  • Part III - From the Airwaves 93
  • Lew Childre 94
  • The Blue Sky Boys 97
  • Brown’s Ferry Four 103
  • Cousin Emmy 106
  • The Monroe Brothers 109
  • Wayne Raney 114
  • Karl and Harty 117
  • Bradley Kincaid 125
  • Part IV - From the Shadows: Unsung Heroes 129
  • Tommy Magness 130
  • Arthur Q. Smith 143
  • Zeke and Zeb Turner 146
  • Johnny Barfield 152
  • The Rouse Brothers 155
  • Seven Foot Dilly 165
  • The Jordanaires 175
  • Deford Bailey 178
  • Emmett Miller 182
  • Tommy Jackson 185
  • Jimmie Riddle 188
  • Part V - From the Stage: Classic Country 193
  • Curly Fox and Texas Ruby 194
  • The Delmore Brothers 197
  • Don Gibson 203
  • The Louvin Brothers 215
  • The Statler Brothers 221
  • Martha Carson 236
  • The Carlisles 239
  • Albert E. Brumley 243
  • Stringbean 247
  • Part VI - From the West 257
  • Girls of the Golden West 258
  • Billie Maxwell 261
  • Red River Dave 265
  • Skeets Mcdonald 268
  • Part VII - New Fogies 273
  • Hazel and Alice 274
  • Doc Watson 279
  • Roy Harper 285
  • The Freight Hoppers 294
  • Acknowledgments 300
  • Index 301
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