on the Opry
October 5, 1925, a new broadcast station, WSM, went on the air.
The station, which was created by the National Life and Accident
Insurance Company, was interested in presenting a first-class image
so it hired George D. Hay, one of America's most popular announcers.
Hay (who was nicknamed Judge Hay) had a fondness for folk music
and had started a variety program known as "The National Barn
Dance" while working at WLS in Chicago. Shortly after he arrived
in Nashville, Hay aired a similar program with a local champion
fiddler named Uncle Jimmy Thompson. The show received a huge response.
On December 27, 1925, WSM and Judge Hay sent out a press release
announcing that WSM would begin a regular broadcast of an hour or
two of old familiar tunes a show that became known as "The
Barn Dance," and later the "Grand Ole Opry."
was home to another radio station that started in the fall of 1925.
WDAD went on the air a few months earlier than WSM and was operated
by a local radio supply store called Dad's. Pop Exum, the manager
of the store and one of DeFord's biggest fans, made DeFord a regular
on WDAD. Pop had met DeFord at an auto accessory store that he had
managed prior to Dad's and where DeFord would come to buy auto parts
for his bicycle. Another one of Dad's regulars was Dr. Humphrey
Bate, a country doctor who also played the harmonica. Dr. Bate's
band, later called the Possum Hunters, played on both WDAD and WSM.
When Dr. Bates heard DeFord play, he insisted that DeFord join him
on WSM's new Saturday night "Barn Dance" program. One
night, DeFord agreed to come and played on that evening's show without
an audition. The show's announcer, Judge Hay, liked DeFord so much
he asked him to perform regularly from that point forward. >>
Source for the material
in this section, including excerpts:
David C. Morton with Charles K. Wolfe, DeFord Bailey: A Black Star
in Early Country Music (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1991)
YEARS | OPRY YEARS | POST-OPRY