DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music

DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music

by David C. Morton, Charles K. Wolfe
     
 
Ever since country music came into its own, the figure of DeFord Baily (1899-1982) has fascinated and puzzled historians. A harmonica virtuoso, blues signer, guitarist, banjoist, and composer, Bailey was a founding member of the 'Grand Ole Opry.' One of the show's most popular performers from 1925 to 1941, this extraordinary musician was a pioneer recording artist and

Overview

Ever since country music came into its own, the figure of DeFord Baily (1899-1982) has fascinated and puzzled historians. A harmonica virtuoso, blues signer, guitarist, banjoist, and composer, Bailey was a founding member of the 'Grand Ole Opry.' One of the show's most popular performers from 1925 to 1941, this extraordinary musician was a pioneer recording artist and toured widely with such Opry Hall of Fame members as Uncle Dave Macon, Bill Monroe, and Roy Acuff.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1973, while writing a feature story for a newsletter for residents of public housing in Nashville, Morton realized that his subject, an elderly black man, was the legendary ``harmonica wizard'' of the early days of Grand Ole Opry. During the next decade Morton, now executive director of the Reno (Nev.) Housing Authority, tape-recorded conversations with Bailey, collected letters and documents, and, assisted by Wolfe, a country music historian at Middle Tennessee State University, wrote this biography of the reclusive musician who had virtually disappeared from public view for 40 years. Quoting Bailey's colorful speech wherever possible, the authors chronicle his career and tell the story of Grand Ole Opry and the people who promoted it in the 1920s and '30s. They also set the record straight on how Bailey, who died in 1982 at the age of 83, was, through no fault of his own, fired from the show in 1941. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Bailey is largely forgotten today, a victim of the recording industry's emphasis on the blues during the 1920s--a decision which segregated forever ``black'' folk music from ``white'' folk music. Bailey was from an African American mountain culture that shared much of its musical heritage with its Anglo-Saxon neighbors, producing a unique hybrid which Bailey called ``black hillbilly.'' A virtuoso on the harmonica, guitar, and banjo, Bailey became one of the Grand Old Opry's earliest stars during the 1920s, only to be fired from the Opry in 1941 during one of the Opry's more repressive eras. Bailey's story is told mainly in his own words through interviews conducted by his longtime friend Morton, with Wolfe (English and folklore, Middle Tennessee State Univ.) providing cultural and historical background. The authors' stated goal was to write a book of universal appeal, and indeed the work is a fascinating cultural history. Unfortunately, Bailey's obscurity will probably limit the book to folk music enthusiasts. Nevertheless, it is highly recommended.-- James Stephenson, Soc. of the Cincinnati Lib., Washington, D.C.
Booknews
The origins of southern music are described from the perspective of Bailey (1899-1982), singer, instrumentalist, a founder of the Grand Ole Opry, and the first black star in country music in the 1920s and 30s. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780870496981
Publisher:
University of Tennessee Press
Publication date:
11/01/1991
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
224

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