he left the Opry, DeFord took up shining shoes full time. The experience
was traumatic but it was also a watershed in his life.
|"I could make it on my own. I walked out
of WSM with a smile. I told myself, God gave every
man five senses and I'm going to use them. I ain't gonna
work for another man as
long as I live. I'd work for myself."
first shop was in the back room of his house on 13th Avenue South,
just a few blocks from the Ryman stage, where the Opry continued
to play every Saturday night for years to come. Because of his radio
fame, white customers would seek him out, no matter where his shop
was located. He welcomed them on an equal basis with his black customers,
all sitting side by side and waiting their turns.
said a white barber once asked him how he could mix races up in
his shoeshine shop. He said,
all know me and all
want to hear the same tune."
DeFord had more business than he could handle. He moved his shop
several times and had an elaborate setup, including nine chairs
and as many employees on 12th Avenue South. The only sign he had
outside his shop simply displayed the price of a shoeshine, but
his customers could always find him. >>
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)