Tennessee Ernie Ford is one of the more famous 1950s country singers with hits such as “The Shotgun Boogie” and “Sixteen Tons.” The latter became one of Ernie Ford’s recognizable songs because of the message of the song and how he performed it. His booming baritone voice became a standard to most country singers and his down-home humor adds to his charms as a performer.

Let us look back at some of the highlights of his career; the achievements and the legacy that he left in the country music industry.

tennessee ernie ford, sixteen tons

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Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Rise to Fame

The country singer is best known for his version of the track “Sixteen Tons.” It was originally recorded by Merle Travis, but the singer accidentally found the song when he was brushing up on Merle’s songbook. Tennessee Ernie Ford’s performance of the track was a crossover hit. It spent 10 weeks on top of the country charts and seven weeks on top of the pop charts. Some would say that his performance of the song was the start of his career as a country superstar.

With the rise of his career, the country singer was able to record hundreds of albums. This earned him numerous nominations and awards with the addition of  the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian award. Ernie Ford did not want to stick to one genre so he did some several songs that were proto-rock & roll, gospel, and pop.

tennessee ernie ford

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His crossover hits were something that was new to the music fans back then that is why they have supported him. His approach to country music paved the way for other cultural figureheads like Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire, and many others. The country singer was also able to host his own prime-time variety program, The Ford Show. It aired on NBC from 1956 to 1961 and it was praised because of the inclusion of gospel songs towards the end of the show.

Because of his contributions and success, Ford was awarded three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for radio, records, and television. He was also inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990.

Listen to Tennessee Ernie Ford’s Song here: