cover image Deford Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music

Deford Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music

David C. Morton. University of Tennessee Press, $27.95 (199pp) ISBN 978-0-87049-698-1

In 1973, while writing a feature story for a newsletter for residents of public housing in Nashville, Morton realized that his subject, an elderly black man, was the legendary ``harmonica wizard'' of the early days of Grand Ole Opry. During the next decade Morton, now executive director of the Reno (Nev.) Housing Authority, tape-recorded conversations with Bailey, collected letters and documents, and, assisted by Wolfe, a country music historian at Middle Tennessee State University, wrote this biography of the reclusive musician who had virtually disappeared from public view for 40 years. Quoting Bailey's colorful speech wherever possible, the authors chronicle his career and tell the story of Grand Ole Opry and the people who promoted it in the 1920s and '30s. They also set the record straight on how Bailey, who died in 1982 at the age of 83, was, through no fault of his own, fired from the show in 1941. Photos not seen by PW. (Nov.)