Roy Claxton Acuff was a crooning fiddle player from the mountains of Tennessee who became one of country music's biggest stars. Acuff, a gifted athlete, started out to be a baseball player before a bad case of sunstroke ended his career in the minor leagues. He began performing on the radio in 1933 with his backing band, the Tennessee Crackerjacks, and by 1936 they were making records and performing throughout the region. (Among their earliest recordings were two of their most popular tunes, "The Wabash Cannonball" and "The Great Speckled Bird.") Acuff and his band, later called the Smoky Mountain Boys, first performed at the Grand Ole Opry in 1938 and became one of its most popular acts, mixing in comedy skits with their performances of traditional country music. In the 1940s Acuff's popularity rivalled that of Frank Sinatra. Acuff topped the charts with "Wreck on the Highway," "Night Train to Memphis" and "The Precious Jewel," he toured the nation relentlessly and he appeared in several movies -- all while transforming the Grand Ole Opry into the world's standard for country music. In 1942 he teamed with songwriter Fred Rose to form Acuff-Rose Music Publishing, the hugely successful publisher of country songs. Acuff-Rose published tunes by stars like Hank Williams and Roy Orbison (including Orbison's hit "Pretty Woman") and was finally sold to Sony in 2002 for $157 million. In 1962, Orbison became the first living performer to be honored as a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame. In spite of changing styles in country music, Acuff stuck to traditional songs and appeared at the Grand Ole Opry regularly up through the 1980s.
Besides his distinctive “hillbilly” voice, Roy Acuff’s sound included a dobro (a Hawaiian guitar)… He was the (losing) Republican candidate for governor of Tennessee in the election of 1948.
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