DeFord Bailey (December 14, 1899 – July 2, 1982) was an early country music star and the first African American performer on the Grand Ole Opry. Bailey played several instruments but is best known for his harmonica tunes. He was one of the few notable African-American stars in country music.
A grandson of slaves, Bailey was born near the Bellwood community in rural Smith County, Tennessee, and learned to play the harmonica at the age of three. He contracted polio (or as it was called at the time 'infantile paralysis'). During his year-long confinement to bed he developed his distinctive style of playing. In 1918, he moved to Nashville performing locally. His first documented radio appearance was June 19, 1926 on WSM in Nashville. On December 10, 1927, he performed his most famous piece "Pan American Blues" for the first time. Upon Bailey's debut performance of the "Pan American Blues," WSM Barn Dance George D. Hay is quoted as having said: "From now on we will present the Grand Ole Opry." The radio show has been known by that name ever since.
Bailey was a pioneer member of the WSM Grand Ole Opry, and one of its most popular performers, appearing on the program from 1927 to 1941. During this period he toured with many major country stars, including Uncle Dave Macon, Bill Monroe, and Roy Acuff. Like other black stars of his day traveling in the South and West, he faced many difficulties in finding food and accommodation because of the discriminatory Jim Crow laws.
In 2005, Nashville Public Television produced the documentary "DeFord Bailey: A Legend Lost". The documentary was broadcast nationally through PBS. Later that year, thanks to his pioneering efforts, Bailey was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame on November 15, 2005. On June 27, 2007, the DeFord Bailey Tribute Garden was dedicated at the George Washington Carver Food Park in Nashville.
SOURCE: From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
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