Ever since country music came into its own, he figure of DeFord Bailey (1899 - 1982) has fascinated and puzzled historians. A harmonica virtuoso, blues singer, guitarist, banjoist, and composer, Bailey was a founding member of the "Grand Ole Opry." One of the show's most popular performers from 1925 to 1941, this extraordinary musician was a pioneer recording artists and toured widely with such Opry Hall of Fame members such as Uncle Dave Macon, Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff.
"David Morton's book is a story about this wonderful little man, who stood less than five feet tall, and his gift to this world. It is beautifully illustrated, and is worth reading both to know about the musical contributions of DeFord Bailey, but also for a deeper understanding of the early days of radio, the Grand Ole Opry, the South of that era, and to see how this music came to be, and what still makes it so wonderful.
DeFord Bailey's role...in the early Grand Ole Opry was highly significant, but his well-known reticence to grant interviews—coupled with the touchy question of a black man on the Opry—long made the prospect of learning his full story remote. To our great good fortune, Morton was able to gain Bailey's confidence and tape him extensively; this biography fills a large gap in our knowledge of the early Opry history."
"This is a book of great significance, and it will help fill a long-standing need for scholarly attention to black musicians in early country music. Morton and Wolfe know DeFord's career and early country music like no one else, and they have given us a stud that includes not only Bailey's life and career, but important tangenial social and cultural issues as well. A first-rate piece of work.
The Author: David C. Morton holds a B.A. in history from Auburn University and has completed the coursework required for a Ph.D. in history at Vanderbilt University. He is executive director of the Reno (Nevada) Housing Authority.
Charles K. Wolfe is professor of English and folklore at Middle Tennessee State University.
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