Songwriters Friends



Ernest Jennings “Tennessee Ernie” Ford, a resonant-voiced baritone and master of good-natured corn, rose to great popularity during the 1950s and 1960s and is best remembered for his exuberant 1955 cover of Merle Travis’s “Sixteen Tons.”

As a child, Ford was musically inclined, singing in school choirs and playing trombone in the school band. By 1937, working as an announcer at Bristol’s WOAI, he went on to study at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music before joining the air force. Discharged in 1946, and living in San Bernardino, California, Ford soon landed an announcer’s job with Pasadena’s KXLA. His comical Tennessee Ernie character (“bless your pea-pickin’ little heart . . .”) caught the ear of disc jockey-TV host Cliffie Stone, who made Ford a regular cast member of Los Angeles’s Hometown Jamboree country music television and radio shows.

Signed to Capitol Records in 1948 by Lee Gillette, Ford began cutting typically hot California country-boogie and novelty records that were driven as much by his big, warm voice as by the guitar stylings of Merle Travis and the idiosyncratic steel guitar wizardry of Speedy West. Most of Ford’s early releases made the Top Ten. He first guested on the Grand Ole Opry in 1950, and in 1953 he became the first country singer to appear at London’s prestigious Palladium. Soon NBC hired him to MC the television game show the Kollege of Musical Knowledge, and also to host his own weekday program.

But it was “Sixteen Tons,” with sales topping four million copies, that cemented Ford’s place as one of America’s top entertainers. Due partly to this hit, Ford Motor Company recruited Ford to host a prime-time NBC variety program, The Ford Show (1956 - 1961). He also made numerous guest appearances on I Love Lucy and other TV shows and became a fixture on television for the next decade (moving to daytime television by 1961).

Ford’s first spiritual album, Hymns, was certified gold in 1959; by 1963 it was the biggest-selling album in Capitol’s catalogue. Ford ultimately recorded eighty-one sacred LPs.

Ford remained active through the 1970s with numerous television specials and guest appearances. He participated in a 1973 Hometown Jamboree reunion at Los Angeles’s Palladium and recorded for Capitol until 1977. Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990, Ford was hospitalized after falling at a White House dinner in September 1991 and remained hospitalized until his death from liver disease the following month.

Artists

American Quartet
Andrews Sisters
Louis Armstrong (Satchmo)
Fred Astaire
Chet Atkins
Gene Austin (Voice of the Southland)
Gene Autry
Nora Bayes
Brook Benton
Ben Bernie
Connee Boswell
Fanny Brice
Henry Burr
Cab Calloway
Glen Campbell
Albert Campbell
Carter Family (First Family of Country Music)
Enrico Caruso
Ray Charles
Patsy Cline
Larry Clinton
Rosemary Clooney
Nat Cole (King)
Arthur Collins
Perry Como
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Bob Crosby
Frank Crumit
Vic Damone
Sammy Davis Jr.
Doris Day
Tommy Dorsey
Jimmy Dorsey
Cliff Edwards
Ruth Etting
Shep Fields
Eddie Fisher
Ella Fitzgerald
Tennessee Ernie Ford
Connie Francis
Aretha Franklin (Queen of Soul)
Lefty Frizzell
Jan Garber
Judy Garland
George J. Gaskin (The Silver Voice Irish Tenor)
Marvin Gaye
Benny Goodman (King of Swing)
Glen Gray
Byron G. Harlan
Marion Harris
Charles Harrison
Haydn Quartet
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Horace Heidt
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Whitney Houston
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Ink Spots
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Lewis James
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Ada Jones
George Jones
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Hal Kemp
Wayne King (Waltz King)
Pee Wee King
Kay Kyser
Frankie Laine
Brenda Lee
Ted Lewis
Jerry Lee Lewis (The Killer)
Guy Lombardo
Vincent Lopez
Harry MacDonough
Freddy Martin
Dean Martin
Johnny Mathis
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Glenn Miller
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Russ Morgan
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J.W. Myers
Ozzie Nelson
Olivia Newton-John
George Olsen
Original Dixieland Jazz Band
Vess L. Ossman (The King of the Banjo)
Buck Owens
Patti Page
Minnie Pearl
Peerless Quartet
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Ray Price
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Sousa's Band
Len Spencer
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Sophie Tucker
Van & Schenck
Walter Van Brunt
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Ted Weems
Kitty Wells
Paul Whiteman
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Bert Williams
Andy Williams
Teddy Wilson
Tammy Wynette