Produced on December 14, 1899, in Smith County, Tennessee, DeFord Bailey became an astounding harmonica musician who earned a position on radio’s The Barn Dance. He was linked to the show being renamed the Grand Ole Opry and became among its top stars, though he left the show following a dispute in 1941. Bailey expired on July 2, 1982, and was inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame over 20 years after. Bedridden, Bailey suffered badly from polio as a kid, which left him with a curved back and changed his development. Yet while immobilized, he paid really careful attention to the natural sounds of his surroundings, which will profoundly shape his artistry.
Bailey came from a very musical family and became skillful in the harmonica, frequently called the mouth harp, along with the guitar and banjo. He performed professionally during his teens and went to Nashville, working various occupations during his early maturity. In the mid-1920s, he met fellow harmonica musician Dr. Humphrey Bate, a real life doctor who requested Bailey to perform with him on radio station WSM’s The Barn Dance. Awed by Bailey’s ability, the show’s announcer George “Judge” Hay promptly invited the harpist becoming a frequent performer on the show and also would dub him the Harmonica Wizard. By 1928, Bailey had made records of melodies like “Fox Chase,” “John Henry,” “Ice Water Blues” and “Up Country Blues.” Bailey additionally wed Ida Lee Jones in 1929, using the couple happening to have three kids. (The two divorced in 1951.)
A tremendous hit on the Grand Ole Opry, Bailey went to tour using several other show icons by 1933. There was initial concern from direction that white audiences would respond once learning that Bailey was black, but being onstage was not an issue. What was a difficulty were dehumanizing Jim Crow laws, where Bailey had not been permitted to eat or sleep in exactly the same places as his fellow musicians on account of race, and so was frequently made to dine alone or sleep outside in an automobile.
Following a 1941 decree ban radio artists from playing ASCAP melodies, Bailey was supposedly requested to improve his repertoire to new songs, yet would not do thus and was let go. Disputes were had over this characterization of occasions between Hay and Bailey, as Bailey has said that he was usually requested during his history together with the Opry to not play new tunes, and believed that he was fired over having to one day be paid more fairly.
Upon leaving the Opry, Bailey set up an effective shoe shine company, eventually finding a space with several seats and workers. Despite being approached on multiple occasions, Bailey elected to not go back to the entire world of performance for anxiety of being used. Starting in 1967, Bailey would be transferred multiple times from the Nashville Housing Authority, as it obtained the property where he was residing at the same time as where his company was found. Morton, alongside Charles K. Wolfe, afterwards printed the 1991 publication DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music.
He performed for the final time in the Opry in April 1982, drawing an enormous ovation. Bailey expired on July 2, 1982, in Nashville, Tennessee. The Tennessee Folklore Society released a 1998 record of Bailey’s work, The Legendary DeFord Bailey: Country Music’s First Black Star. And after famous controversy, Bailey was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Recalled now as one among the initial black stars of country music, DeFord Bailey has additionally been credited as the very first African American star of the Grand Ole Opry.