DeFord Bailey life and biography

DeFord Bailey picture, image, poster

DeFord Bailey biography

Date of birth : 1899-12-14
Date of death : 1982-07-02
Birthplace : Carthage, Tennessee
Nationality : American
Category : Famous Figures
Last modified : 2010-12-22
Credited as : Country music singer, ,

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DeFord Bailey was born Dec. 14, 1899, in Carthage, Tenn. He suffered from infantile paralysis and although he recovered, he was left with a deformed back and only grew to 4 feet 10 inches. He learned guitar, fiddle, banjo and harmonica from his father and uncle, who were both noted musicians, and by the age of 14, was making a living from playing the harmonica. He moved to Nashville and, in 1925, he met Dr. Humphrey Bate, a respected harmonica player who brought him to the attention of the Grand Ole Opry. Quite apart from being the Opry's first black artist, Bailey was also its first solo star, although he received only $5 a performance.

It was, however, difficult for him to play his self-termed "black hillbilly" music to white audiences in the South, despite touring with such major artists as Uncle Dave Macon, the Delmore Brothers, Bill Monroe and Roy Acuff. He recorded for the Columbia, Brunswick and Victor labels in 1927 and 1928, taking part in the first studio recordings in Nashville but did not record after that date. His best-known work is "Pan American Blues," remembered for its train imitations. He was also known for his appearance, always smartly dressed in a three-piece suit, matching hat and highly polished shoes.

He was dismissed by the Opry in 1941 allegedly for refusing to learn new tunes after a licensing issue prohibited him from performing his favorite songs on the Opry, but he maintained that the real reason was racial prejudice. He never forgave the Opry for this and was reduced to shining shoes for a living. He made a brief television appearance on a blues show in the '60s but rejected other offers he received. In April of 1982, he made his last appearance at the Opry playing "Pan American Blues" on an old-timers show. He died on July 2, 1982.

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