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


December 14, 1899 DeFord was born outside of Bellwood, Tennessee.
1901 DeFord's natural mother, Mary, died from an unknown illness.
  DeFord's aunt, Barbara Lou (his natural father's sister) took care of DeFord and eventually became his foster mother.
1902 DeFord contracted infantile paralysis (polio).
  DeFord's foster mother married and started her own family, never leaving DeFord behind.
1908 Lewis Bailey, DeFord's paternal grandfather, died.
1909 DeFord's foster family moved to Davidson County, Newsom's Station.
1915 DeFord's family moves to Williamson County.
1917 DeFord's family moved to Thompson Station and DeFord became a houseboy for the Watsons, a white family.
June 30, 1918 DeFord's natural father, John Henry Bailey, died.
September 1918 DeFord's family moved to Nashville.

The Watsons contracted the flu and DeFord stayed in Thompson's Station to nurse them back to heath.

DeFord then joined his family at J.C. Bradford's home in Nashville.
1923 Barbara Lou Odum, DeFord's foster mother, died.
1923 - 1925 DeFord worked odd jobs at the Bijou theater and was an elevator operator at the Hitchcock building.
1925 DeFord was hired to play the harmonica at a formal dinner, celebrating the National Life and Accident Insurance Company's new building.
  DeFord played the harmonica regularly on WDAD, a local radio station owned by a radio supply store called Dad's.

1925 Fellow WDAD musician, Dr. Humphrey Bate, insisted that DeFord join him on the new WSM Saturday night "Barn Dance" show. DeFord went on the air without an audition.
December 1927 After DeFord Bailey played his "Pan American Blues," WSM Announcer Judge Hay got the idea to change the name of the show from the "Barn Dance" to the "Grand Ole Opry."
1928 DeFord settled into a weekly routine with the Opry, appearing twice as often as any other performer.
November 1928 DeFord left the Opry to play at the Knoxville station, WNOX.
1928 DeFord's foster father, Clark Odum, died in Detroit.
February 23, 1929 DeFord returned to Nashville and the Opry.
1929 DeFord married Ida Lee Jones.
1930's DeFord opened a barbeque stand, shoeshine stand, and rented rooms in his house to supplement his Opry salary.
January 3, 1932 DeFord and Ida Lee had their first of three children, DeFord Junior.
1933 DeFord began touring with other Opry performers.
October 15, 1934 DeFord and Ida Lee's first daughter, Dezoral Lee, was born.
December 29, 1936 Christine Lamb, DeFord and Ida Lee's youngest child, was born.
May 1941 DeFord was asked to stop performing on the Opry.

Post-Opry Years
1941 DeFord opened his first full time shoeshine parlor in the back room of his house on 13th Avenue South. Eventually, he moved his business to a shop on 12th Avenue and had nine chairs and as many employees.
1940s - 1960s DeFord made occasional guest appearances on the Opry, usually as a guest star on a regular's segment.
1963-1966 DeFord made guest appearances on "Night Train." His son DeFord Jr., was a regular performer on that show, which highlighted local R & B music.
1970's DeFord turned down many lucrative offers to perform professionally, including an invitation to play at the National Folk Festival and to appear in the Burt Reynolds film, "W.W. and the Dixie Dancekings."
February 23, 1974 DeFord appeared on the Opry in the new theater at Opryland amusement park
October 1974 - October 1976 Friend and biographer David Morton recorded DeFord in his apartment and later released a CD of these recordings.
December 14, 1974 DeFord appeared on the Opry, in honor of his 75th birthday.
1975 DeFord appeared on the Opry.
1982 DeFord appeared on the Opry for the last time.
July 2, 1982 DeFord Bailey died.
June 23, 1983 Dedication Service for DeFord Bailey at Greenwood Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee. David Morton said:"The catalyst for all this was that I promised DeFord some time ago that I would make sure that he had a proper tombstone on his grave."
1991 David Morton's book about DeFord Bailey was published:David C. Morton with Charles K. Wolfe, DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1991)
1998 The Legendary DeFord Bailey CD was released.