Tennessee Ernie FordMarch 06, 2012
Tennessee Ernie Ford
(Singer, Songwriter, Guitar, Deejay)
Tennessee Ernie Ford (Bristol, Tenn.) began his career right out of high school as an announcer for station WOPI in Bristol, Tenn., but left in 1939 to study voice at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. After serving in Army Air Corps during W.W.II, Ford settled in KFXM in San Bernardino, Calif., where he picked up the nickname "Tennessee Ernie." An employee of station KXLA in Pasadena heard Ford, recognized his potential as a vocalist and became Ford's manger. Ford signed to Capitol records in 1949 and the following year performed on the Grand Ole Opry. But Ford was not only a singer; his engaging personality made him a great entertainer and host. He made appearances on such popular shows as I Love Lucy, and he hosted College of Musical Knowledge and his own program, The Ford Show, throughout the late 1950s and 60s. Among other honors, Ford was awarded the Medal of Freedom in 1984 and was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990. He died of liver disease the following year. The most popular of Ford's songs undoubtedly remains "Sixteen Tons."
Written by Becky Buller and Thomas Sneed
Special Thanks to: The Archives of Appalachia and the Center for Appalachian Studies and Services, East Tennessee State University, Johnson City, Tenn.; Bluegrass Unlimited; Charles K. Wolfe; www.allmusic.com; Richard Blaustein; Jack Tottle; Ed Speer; Ned Irwin; Ted Olson; Roy Andrade; the Kiser Family; Dave Winship; Bryant Label Co.
Given Name: Ernest Jennings Ford Date of Birth: February 13, 1919 Place of Birth: Fordtown, Tennessee Married: 1. Betty Hemminger (decíd.), 2. Beverly Children: Buck, Brion Date of Death: October 17, 1991The "Old Pea Picker," Tennessee Ernie Ford, is best known for his huge hit Sixteen Tons, but he was a regular on the charts years before that hit.
Ernie Ford was raised in Bristol, Tennessee and after graduating from high school began a radio career at Bristolís WOPI radio before enrolling in the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music to study voice in 1939. Ernie served as a bombardier instructor in the Army Air Corps during WWII and after his discharge moved to the West Coast with his first wife. He worked at KFXM in San Bernardino, California and there adopted the nickname "Tennessee Ernie." He was heard by entrepreneur Cliffie Stone while employed by KXLA in Pasadena. Stone recognized his potential as a vocalist and became his manager.
Ernie was featured on two of Stoneís radio shows and in 1949 was signed by Capitol Records. That year Tennessee Ernie had five sides on the Country chart, and in 1950 made his first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. The following year Ernie played Las Vegas and in 1953, became the first Country star to headline at the London Palladium.
In 1954, he began hosting NBCís game show, College of Musical Knowledge, where he debuted Sixteen Tons, a hit that sold 2 million copies in eight weeks. From 1956 to 1961 he starred on the prime-time TV show The Ford Show, where his phrase "Bless your little pea-pickiní hearts" became nationally known. He was a fixture on TV shows throughout the 1960ís, including his daytime series on ABC and memorable appearances on I Love Lucy.
Ford recorded over 100 albums of Country, Gospel and other types of music during his career. He received a Grammy Award in 1964 for his album Great Gospel Songs, and won the Medal of Freedom, Americaís civilian honor in 1984. In 1990, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Ernie died in 1991 of advanced liver disease in Reston, Virginia, following a visit to the White House.
Tennessee Border Country Junction Mountain Boogie Mule Train Cry of the Wild Goose Ainít Nobodyís Business But My Own Ballad of Davy Crockett Sixteen Tons Hymns (album)