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Music Appreciation

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Tue Feb 13, 2024, 01:13 PM Feb 13

On this day, February 13, 1919, Tennessee Ernie Ford was born. [View all]

Last edited Tue Feb 13, 2024, 03:48 PM - Edit history (1)

Tennessee Ernie Ford

Born: February 13, 1919, Bristol, Tennessee
Died: October 17, 1991 (aged 72), Reston, Virginia

Ernest Jennings Ford (February 13, 1919 – October 17, 1991), known professionally as Tennessee Ernie Ford, was an American recording artist and television host who enjoyed success in the country and Western, pop, and gospel musical genres. Noted for his rich bass-baritone voice and down-home humor, he is remembered for his hit recordings of "The Shotgun Boogie" and "Sixteen Tons".


Early years

Ford was born in Bristol, Tennessee, to Maud (née Long) and Clarence Thomas Ford. The 1940 census shows that he had an older brother named Stanley H. Ford.

Ford began his radio career as an announcer at WOPI-AM in Bristol. In 1939, the young bass-baritone left the station to study classical singing at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in Ohio. A First Lieutenant, he served in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II as the bombardier on a B-29 Superfortress flying missions over Japan. He was also a bombing instructor at George Air Force Base, in Victorville, California.


The Ford Show

Main article: The Ford Show

Ford subsequently hosted his own prime-time variety program, The Ford Show, which ran on NBC television from October 4, 1956, to June 29, 1961. Ford's last name allowed the show title to carry a unique double entendre by selling the naming rights to the Ford Motor Company (Ford had no known relation to the Ford family that founded that company). The Ford Theatre, an anthology series also sponsored by the company, had run in the same time slot on NBC in the preceding 1955–1956 season. Ford's program was notable for the inclusion of a religious song at the end of every show; Ford insisted on this despite objections from network officials who feared it might provoke controversy. Network officials stepped back when the hymn became the most popular segment of his show. He earned the nickname "The Ol' Pea-Picker" due to his catchphrase, "Bless your pea-pickin' heart!" He began using the term during his disc jockey days on KXLA.


Later years


Out of the public eye, Ford and wife Betty contended with serious alcohol problems; Betty had had the problem since the 1950s as well as emotional issues that complicated both their lives and the lives of their sons. Though his drinking began to worsen in the 60s, he worked continuously, seemingly unaffected by his heavy intake of whiskey. By the 1970s, however, it had begun to take an increasing toll on his health, appearance and ability to sing, though his problems were not known publicly. After Betty's substance abuse-related death in 1989, Ernie's liver problems, diagnosed years earlier, became more apparent, but he refused to reduce his drinking despite repeated doctors' warnings. His last interview was taped in September 1991 by his long-time friend Dinah Shore for her TV show.

Ford received posthumous recognition for his gospel music contributions by adding him to the Gospel Music Association's Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 1994.

Personal life


Less than four months after Betty's death, Ford married again. On September 28, 1991, he fell into severe liver failure at Dulles Airport, shortly after leaving a state dinner at the White House hosted by then President George H. W. Bush. Ford died in H. C. A. Reston Hospital Center, in Reston, Virginia, on October 17 – exactly 36 years after "Sixteen Tons" was released, and one day shy of the first anniversary of his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.


Look at the new 1960 Fords lined up as the group struts into the studio.

10 months ago

Originally aired September 22, 1960. And very rare for anything in original NBC color from this era to still exist in that format!

Jimmy Bryant & Speedy West w-Tennessee Ernie Ford Live 1950s- 4 songs
58,258 views Jun 22, 2016

Chris Clem
1.43K subscribers

I didn't have good video for this but I did have some decent audio from this 16mm film which I tried to sync.Video footage of Cliffie Stone's Hometown Jamboree Band with Jimmy Bryant and Speedy West backing Tennessee Ernie Ford in 1951 or 52 ? (Not sure of this date). There are 4 songs here.I do know they also did the song (Women is a Five letter word) at this session but I didn't have the video for it.Video quality is bad but any footage of Jimmy and Speedy playing together is rare ......great stuff!

Guitar - Jimmy Bryant
Guitar - Eddie Kirk
Steel Guitar - Speedy West
Piano / Accordian Billy Liebert
Bass - Al Williams
Drums - Roy Harte

I saw Tennessee Ernie Ford at a book signing at the Woodward & Lothrop department store in downtown DC in the mid-1960s.

Thu Jan 25, 2024: On this day, January 25, 1924, pedal steel guitarist Speedy West was born.

Wed Nov 15, 2023: On this day, November 15, 2003, Speedy West died.

Tue Oct 17, 2023: On this day, October 17, 1991, Tennessee Ernie Ford died.

Tue Nov 15, 2022: On this day, November 15, 2003, Speedy West died.

Mon Oct 17, 2022: On this day, October 17, 1991, Tennessee Ernie Ford died.

Sat Feb 13, 2021: Tennessee Ernie Ford was born on this date-

Wed Feb 13, 2019: He was born 100 years ago today: Tennessee Ernie Ford.

Sun Sep 2, 2018: 1965 version of Sixteen Tons
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