Tennessee Ernie Ford's 100th Birthday Celebration - The Birthplace of Country Music
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Tennessee Ernie Ford’s 100th Birthday Celebration

Image from the collection of Tennessee Ernie Ford Enterprises LLC

Bristol to Honor Its Favorite Son

Bristol, Tenn./Va. (January 29, 2019) – February 13, 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s birthday, and his hometown – Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia – has come together to celebrate that milestone with a variety of events and activities, including a musical performance, a conversation with Ford’s son Buck, a special church service, show screenings, a commemorative stamp, a musical performance, and birthday cake!

“Tennessee Ernie Ford  played a truly significant role in entertainment history, impacting the industry but also other performers and the audiences who loved him,” says Birthplace of Country Music Museum Head Curator Dr. Rene Rodgers. “The Tennessee Ernie Ford Centennial Celebration Committee, led by Don Ashley, has come together to bring a host of celebratory events and activities to Bristol to mark his 100th birthday, and we hope the community will come out to celebrate with us!”

Born in Bristol, Ernest Jennings Ford was known by many names throughout his life: “Ernest” by his mother, “Ernie” by his relatives, friends, and neighbors, and “The Ol’ Pea-Picker” as a public stage name during the 1950s, based on his catchphrase “Bless your pea-pickin’ hearts.” But he was most well known as “Tennessee Ernie Ford” – a tribute to his Tennessee home and heritage.

Ford’s career spanned radio, recording, and television, resulting in three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and numerous other awards and honors, including a Grammy and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His song “Sixteen Tons,” a particular favorite of fans and music historians, was an unexpected hit on the pop charts in 1955 and a defining moment in his career. With Ford snapping his fingers and a unique clarinet-driven pop arrangement by Ford’s music director, Jack Fascinato, “Sixteen Tons” spent ten weeks at number one on the country charts and seven weeks at number one on the pop charts. In an interview in 1990, Ford noted that this record had sold over twenty million copies, and in 1998 his version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2015 it was honored by being included in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

A special website has been set up at ErnieFord100.com where all the events for the birthday celebration are listed, in addition to a link where folks may RSVP to the Buck Ford and Sid Oakley event at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum.

Tennessee Ernie Ford 100th Birthday Celebration Events: 

February 1 – 28
Tennessee Ernie Ford Display of Memorabilia & Artifacts
Birthplace of Country Music Museum
Museum Hours and Admission Prices Apply

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum will have several objects, photographs, and items of memorabilia on loan from Tennessee Ernie Ford Enterprises or the museum’s collection on display during the entire month of February. This display will supplement the section of the permanent exhibit focused on Ford’s life and career, which includes a short film.

Sunday, February 10
Special Tennessee Ernie Ford Church Service
11:00 a.m. – noon
Anderson Street United Methodist Church
954 Anderson Street, Bristol, TN
Free admission

Anderson Street United Methodist Church, which Tennessee Ernie Ford and his parents attended for many years, will conduct a special service, followed by a tour of their historical archives room including their Tennessee Ernie Ford collection.

Sunday, February 10
Tennessee Ernie Ford Birthplace Tours
2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.
1223 Anderson Street, Bristol, TN
Free admission

The Bristol Historical Association’s Tennessee Ernie Ford Birthplace on Anderson Street will be open for visitor tours.

Tuesday, February 12
A Conversation with Buck Ford and Sid Oakley
7:00 p.m.
Birthplace of Country Music Museum
Free admission, but must RSVP at ErnieFord100.com

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the Bristol Historical Association will co-host an informal conversation in the museum’s Performance Theater between Ernie’s older son, Buck, and long-time Ford family friend Sid Oakley. Ford family home movies will also be screened.

Wednesday, February 13
Tennessee Ernie Ford Commemorative Stamp
Bristol Post Office
111 6th Street, Bristol, TN

On Wednesday, February 13, the Tennessee Ernie Ford Commemorative Stamps can be taken to the Post Office on 6th Street in Bristol, TN for a special cancellation. Stamps can be purchased from Don Ashley. Each sheet has 20 stamps with .50 cent denomination; starting January 27th the postal rate goes to .55 cents for a letter and thus an additional .05 cent stamp will be needed. Don has plenty of .05 cent American Music stamps that will go with the .50 cent Ernie stamp to make up the new rate. Sheets are $21.00 per sheet; these can be purchased by contacting Don on 276-669-3245 or 423-914-0489 or by emailing him at dwa7@bvu.net.

Wednesday, February 13
Tennessee Ernie Ford 100th Birthday Celebration
2:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.
Paramount Bristol
518 State Street, Bristol, TN
Free Event

The Paramount will host an afternoon of Tennessee Ernie Ford music and film screenings prior to serving birthday cake; Ford’s son Buck will be there to introduce the screenings and talk to the audience about his dad’s life and legacy. Cake is courtesy of Food City.

Thursday, February 14
Radio Bristol’s Farm & Fun Time ft. Rachel Baiman, Beth Snapp
7:00 p.m.
Performance Theater, Birthplace of Country Music Museum
Tickets: $30

During Radio Bristol’s Farm and Fun Time on Thursday, February 14,the “Heirloom Recipe” segment will be presented by Buck Ford, based on a Tennessee Ernie Ford favorite. Farm and Fun Time house band Bill and the Belles will also perform a few Tennessee Ernie Ford numbers during the show. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the Events page.

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