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DeFord Bailey: A Legend Lost Photos of DeFord Bailey Courtesy of, L-R: Dennis Wile; Les Leverett; David Morton
 
TIMELINE
BIOGRAPHY
MUSIC

BIOGRAPHY
EARLY YEARS | OPRY YEARS | POST-OPRY YEARS

Opry Years
Getting on the Barn Dance show
Playing on the Opry
Going on Tour
Leaving the Opry

Deford Bailey: PHOTO COURTESY OF DAVID MORTON PERSONAL COLLECTIONGoing on Tour

In early 1933, WSM organized the Artists' Service Bureau, a booking agency designed to promote personal appearances for the WSM stars. By this time DeFord was one of the most popular musicians on the Opry. Surprisingly, when his race became apparent on tour, it seemed to make little difference to audiences.

"Uncle Dave Macon was the Opry's favorite performer, and I was the second."

Roy Acuff recalled that DeFord would always draw a crowd when out on the road. All of the major acts took DeFord with them to guarantee a larger audience.

"DeFord was loved all over the South,"
- Vito Pellettieri, Grand Ole Opry Stage Manager

Legal restrictions and social norms of the time made socializing with his white associates or fans next to impossible. He wasn't allowed to eat or sleep in the same places. They often had to find him special accommodations in the black section of town. Sometimes he had to sleep in the car if they couldn't find a safe place for him to stay. When eating meals, he usually had to eat in the kitchen of a restaurant or in the car.

DeFord was the only African American in his day to perform regularly and on an equal basis with white performers, and before white audiences, in Dixie and elsewhere. >>


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)


EARLY YEARS | OPRY YEARS | POST-OPRY YEARS

Opry Years
1| 2 |3 | 4