Born in Maynardville, Tennessee, on September
15, 1903, Roy Claxton Acuff was a gifted athlete who played
semiprofessional baseball before a series of sunstrokes ended
his career. During his nearly two year recuperation, he was
prompted to practice and master the fiddle.
He performed in a medicine show before forming his own string
band, the Tennessee Crackerjacks, (who were later renamed the
Crazy Tennesseans and finally the
Smoky Mountain Boys). Singer, fiddler and songwriter who reigned as the "King
of Country Music" at Nashville's Grand Ole Opry (1938-92), Acuff's booming
country tenor voice regaled listeners with such all-time favorite songs as
`The Great Speckled Bird', his first and one of his biggest hits, and `Wabash
Cannonball ', featuring his train-whistle imitation. Acuff's emotive, white-gospel
singing style helped brand him a "hillbilly music" traditionalist.
He was a cofounder in 1942 with Fred Rose of the Acuff-Rose Publishing Co.,
the world's leading country-music publisher. In 1962, after selling more
than 25 million records, Acuff was elected as the first living member of
the Country Music Hall of Fame. He was also the recipient of a Lifetime Achievement
award in 1987 from the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences and
of a National Medal of Art in 1991. He died in Nashville, Tennessee, on November.