DeFORD BAILEY: A LEGEND LOST Photos of DeFord Bailey Courtesy of, L-R: Dennis Wile; Les Leverett; David Morton


List of Songs
Samples of DeFord's Music


In one eighteen-month period in 1927 and 1928, DeFord made what turned out to be his entire collection of commercial recordings. During three recording sessions, he produced a total of eleven three-minute sides, barely enough for a modern LP and in contrast to the hundred plus recordings of his Opry contemporaries such as Uncle Dave Macon and the Delmore Brothers. DeFord's efforts brought him little monetary reward and he did not pursue future recording sessions.

First Session: In the spring of 1927, Judge Hay, the Grand Ole Opry announcer, arranged for DeFord and two other musicians to record at Columbia Records in Atlanta. DeFord recorded only two songs, Listen"Pan American Blues" and "Hesitation Blues." Judge Hay was not pleased with the session and canceled the deal. The two Columbia sides were never issued.

Second Session: Judge Hay then arranged for DeFord to record with Brunswick and Vocalian in New York. DeFord recorded eight songs, Listen"Pan American Blues," "Dixie Flyer Blues," "Muscle Shoals Blues," "Evening Prayer Blues," "Up Country Blues," "Old Hen Cackle," Listen"Alcoholic Blues," and Listen"Fox Chase." The songs were issued in the Brunswick 100 "Songs of Dixie" series, apparently the only songs performed by a black musician in the entire series, and again in the Vocalian 5000 series entitled "Old Time Tunes."

"I recorded eight tunes and I played every one of them perfect the first time. They couldn't get over that. They said I was the first one to ever record in that studio who didn't have to play something more than once."

Third Session: DeFord's third commercial recording session happened at Victor in Nashville. It was the first recording session to take place in what would become Music City USA. Only three of the eight sides he recorded were released by Victor: "Ice Water Blues," "Davidson County Blues," and "John Henry."

The Legendary DeFord Bailey Album
During 1974 - 1976, DeFord allowed David Morton to tape a large part of his repertoire on quiet evenings in his apartment. The album includes some of DeFord's best harmonica work as well as his lesser-known guitar work, blues singing, and banjo playing.

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)

Audio Sources:
Courtesy of The Legendary DeFord Bailey and Tennessee Folklore Society

Courtesy of The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum


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