Blacks in Country Music

What was DeFord Bailey Sr.’s contribution to country music?

DeFord Bailey Sr. (1899–1982), a harmonica player, became the first black musician to perform on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tennessee, on December 26, 1924. Originally called “The Barn Dance,” the show’s name was changed to “The Grand Ole Opry” in the autumn of 1927. Bailey was perhaps the first black heard on nationwide radio. The next year, he was the first black to have a recording session in Nashville, Tennessee. Bailey recorded eight sides for RCA. Known for his train sounds, he was one of the most influential harmonica players in blues and country music and one of the most popular performers in the first fifteen years of the Opry, the longest-running radio show in the country. Bailey was fired in 1941 as a result of the dispute between ASCAP and the newly formed BMI over payment for music played on the radio. In 1991, a memorial marker was erected near his birth site in Wilson County, Tennessee.


This is a web preview of the "The Handy African American History Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App