About The Artist
Clyde Julian Foley, later to be known to the world of music as Red Foley was born in Berea, Kentucky. Or was it somewhere in New Mexico? Ah, but that is part of the fun of doing research on an artist to see how their career evolves over time as you walk through the dusty pages of history. Come along with us as we try to document one of the legends and pioneers of hillbilly music.
Red's musical journey began as a youngster almost by accident when he was at his dad's general store. A 1935 article indicates that it was a common practice for customers to pay their debts with produce instead of cash. But one day, one of his customers tried a different tack. It seems he could not spare any of his crop that fall, corn. But instead, he offered up a guitar. Now Red's dad was wondering what he would do with that, but Red was in the store when that transaction occurred and told his dad to accept it as he wanted to learn to play the guitar.
As you might expect, as he learned to play the guitar, he began to entertain the customers at the store by singing the old songs "...of the southern hill country."
Red's interest in music was not a passing thing. He enrolled in the alma mater of another Kentucky legend, Bradley Kincaid, Berea College. He took up the study of "classical music and voice culture."
His smooth baritone vocal style began to get noticed. He won an Atwater Kent audition that led to a stint with WCKY in Covington, Kentucky. An article infers he may have started singing classical tunes but the listening audience and he were more comfortable when he did the simple old-time songs.
After a few months, Red made the decision to travel to Chicago to get an audition with John Lair and the Cumberland Ridge Runners. Mr. Lair liked what he heard and signed Red to the group.
He was a cowboy in the rodeo, and in "Saddle Pals", he did movies, he hosted one of the first country shows on TV, the popular "Ozark Jubilee" from Springfield, Missouri. He was a Kentucky mountain boy from the '...edge of the hills just beyond the blue grass country.' Red could also do comedy. On the WLS National Barn Dance, he was 'Nep' of "Nep and Lige" (see the accompanying photos). He also did some comedy recordings with Ernest Tubb, such as "Too Old To Cut the Mustard" or "Tennessee Border No. 2".
Around 1940, Red tried to get on the cowboy singing star wagon. This was around the time Gene Autry, another former WLS alumni was making his mark in movies in Hollywood. Those who were promoting Red went so far as to alter history and try to make folks believe he was born in a more 'western' locale. A 1940 Radio Varieties feature on Red tries to tell readers Red was born in Tucumcari, New Mexico and the Foley family then later moved to a farm in Berea, Kentucky. This tale was repeated in a song folio published by the M. M. Cole Publishing Company in 1941. The basic facts of his raising were the same in these stories after the family 'moved' to Berea.
When Red first joined WLS in 1930, he was with Karl and Harty as the Cumberland Ridge Runners.
Along the way, Red was associated with another group that backed him up known as the Cumberland Valley Boys and were heard on the Opry's Prince Albert portion. That group included quite a few names that fans will recognize.
Back about 1942 or 1943, he and his wife bought a farm somewhere in Illinois that was reportedly going to be made into a 'dude ranch.'
Timeline & Trivia Notes
Cumberland Valley Boys Group Members:
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