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Tennessee Ernie Ford

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Bristol TN, United States (1919 – 1991)

Ernest Jennings Ford (February 13, 1919 – October 17, 1991) known professionally as Tennessee Ernie Ford, was an American country and gospel singer and radio and television host. Today, he is best remembered for his hit recording of “Sixteen Tons”.

Born in Bristol, Tennessee, to Clarence Thomas Ford and Maud Long, Ford began his radio career as an announcer at station WOPI in Bristol, leaving in 1939 to study classical music and voice at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. 1st Lieut. Ford served in World War II as the bombardier on a B-29 Superfortress flying missions over Japan. After the war, Ford worked at radio stations in San Bernardino and Pasadena, Calif. In San Bernardino, hired as a radio announcer, Ernest J. Ford did the news and general announcing. He was assigned the job of hosting an early morning country music disc jockey programme titled “Bar Nothin’ Ranch.” To differentiate himself, he created the personality of “Tennessee Ernie,” a wild, madcap exaggerated hillbilly. He became popular in the area and was soon hired away by Pasadena’s KXLA radio.

At KXLA he continued doing the same show and also joined the cast of Cliffie Stone’s popular live KXLA country show “Dinner Bell Roundup” as a vocalist while still doing the early morning broadcast. Stone, a part-time talent scout for Capitol Records, brought him to the attention of the label. In 1949, while still doing his morning show, he signed a contract with Capitol. He also became a local television star as the star of Stone’s popular Southern California “Hometown Jamboree” television show. He released almost fifty country singles through the early 1950s, several of which made the charts.

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