Born Roy Claxton Acuff on September 15, 1903, in Maynardville, Tennessee, his colorful career in country music ran from 1936-1992. He was also referred to as the ‘King of Country Music.’ Having been revered with such a prestigious title in the industry of music, one can attest that Roy Acuff contributed greatly to the genre we all love and celebrate today.
He was a singer, a fiddler, and a promoter often given credit due to how he transformed country’s early style of string bands and hoedown format to a style that involved the star singer-based format. His transition led to the international success of the said genre. Aside from that, Roy Acuff was also widely known by country listeners and critics as a “hillbilly music” traditionalist.
Aside from his musical talent, Acuff also had a strong natural charisma that drew crowds of people wherever he performed. It was such a convenient and befitting gift especially for someone who was at the height of building his career. He first gained regional attention when he performed as both the singer and fiddler for his group, the Smoky Mountain Boys. Shortly after, he joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1938 and remained as one of the chief promoters and brightest stars of the Opry House despite the decline in his fame during the late 1940’s. Due to his immense talent and contribution to country music, he was even Country Music Hall of Fame’s first-ever living inductee.
Acuff released over 40 albums, 36 singles, and 2 guest singles. His most famous hits include Freight Train Blues, Great Speckled Bird, The House of the Rising Sun, Life’s Highway to Heaven, Back in the Country, Meeting in the Air, That Glory Bound Train, When I Lay My Burden Down, Tennessee Waltz, and Wabash Cannonball. Most of his songs are deeply rooted in his religious influence.
In 1942, Acuff became co-founder of the first major publishing company for country music based in Nashville. The company was named Acuff-Rose Music. Among the artists that were signed under Acuff-Rose were Hank Williams, the Everly Brothers, and Roy Orbison.
He was 98 years old when he passed away due to congestive heart failure. To honor his legacy, Opryland put up a theatre named after him in 1979. Sadly, the theater was demolished due to the extensive damages it received during the Tennessee floods in 2010.
This year marks the 25th death anniversary of the legendary Roy Acuff. He may have passed long ago, but his noteworthy presence in the world of music will forever be deemed a huge stepping stone into how successful country music has become today.
Enjoy Roy Acuff’s version of Tenessee Waltz here.
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