October 21

Remembering The Death Of Tennessee Ernie Ford, Whose Bass-Baritone And Friendly Twang Made Him A Country Star

On October 17, 1991, country singer Tennessee Ernie Ford died of liver disease at Reston Hospital Center with his wife by his side. He was 72.

Ford had visited Washington to attend a state dinner with President George W. Bush at the White House. He had been on his way to Dulles International to catch a flight back home in Palo Alto, California when he was afflicted with what his son Bob Ford described as an “advanced stage of liver disease and dysfunction.”

He was immediately taken to the Reston Hospital Center, the nearest hospital to the airport. Ford was hospitalized for nearly a month – with his son noting that his father had been “awake, alert, and improving” at one point – before breathing one’s last.

The Beloved Pop And Gospel Balladeer

Tennessee Ernie Ford was primarily known as a singer and recording artist, with more than 80 albums under his belt. Tennessee Ernie Ford songs such as “Tennessee Waltz,” “Cry of the Wild Goose,” and “The Shotgun Boogie” were such massive hits. His recording of “Sixteen Tons,” which he sang in a strong, mournful baritone-bass, has also sold more than twenty million copies all over the world since its release.

Meanwhile, his easy-going manner and down-home humor also made him a popular network television star from the 1950s and 60s. He first appeared on television during NBC’s live half-hour daytime show in 1955. With the viewers’ remarkable response, Ford was instantly promoted to prime time. The popular variety and country music show, The Ford Showran from 1956 to 1961 and featured some of the biggest names at the time, including John Wayne, Gary Cooper, and more.

Truly, Ford has enjoyed one of the most vibrant careers in country music.


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