Roy Acuff

Category:
Tennessean of the Year
Year Honored:
1989

Biography

Probably no single performer has influenced the Grand Ole Opry and country music in general as much as Roy Acuff, the “King of Country Music.” Born in 1903 in Maynardsville, Acuff grew up in the Knoxville suburb of Fountain City, where his principal interests were sports and not music. A three-letter man in high school, his passion was baseball, and his career ambition was to become a major leaguer. Unfortunately, Acuff suffered sunstroke on three different occasions when trying out for a professional club and never realized his baseball ambitions. With his playing days behind him, Acuff took up the fiddle. In 1932 he joined a traveling medicine show in the mountains of Virginia and East Tennessee, performing both as a fiddler and a singer. In 1936 he and his band recorded thirty tunes in just two sessions for the American Record Corporation. One of them, “The Great Speckled Bird,” was so popular that it brought Acuff an invitation to appear on the Grand Ole Opry, where he soon became a regular. He is generally credited with transforming the Opry from a show that was predominantly instrumental into one in which vocals became increasingly important. In 1942 Acuff and partner Fred Rose founded Acuff-Rose Publications, the first music publishing company in Nashville and eventually one of the largest in the music industry. Acuff has received many honors, including election to the Country Music Hall of Fame.

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