- NAME: DeFord Bailey
- OCCUPATION: Songwriter, Guitarist
- BIRTH DATE: December 14, 1899
- DEATH DATE: July 02, 1982
- Did You Know?: DeFord Bailey has been credited as the first African-American star of the Grand Ole Opry as well as one of the first black stars of country music.
- Did You Know?: DeFord Bailey was a wizard at playing the harmonica and was most notable for mimicking the sound of locomotives.
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Smith County, Tennessee
- PLACE OF DEATH: Nashville, Tennessee
- Full Name: DeFord Bailey
- Nickname: Harmonica Wizard
Best Known For
DeFord Bailey was a mesmerizing harmonica player known as one of country music's first African-American icons and linked to the naming of the Grand Ole Opry.
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Upon leaving the Opry, Bailey set up a successful shoe shine business, eventually getting a space with several chairs and employees. Despite being approached on multiple occasions, Bailey opted not to return to the world of performance for concern of being exploited. His son DeFord Bailey Jr. did get involved in Nashville's soul music scene however, and a young musician whom he worked with, Jimi Hendrix,
also befriended the family.
Beginning in 1967, Bailey would be moved multiple times by the Nashville Housing Authority, as it acquired the property where he was living as well as where his business was located. In 1973, he met and befriended David Morton, a graduate student and public housing staff member who chronicled Bailey's life and made important recordings of him playing. Morton, along with Charles K. Wolfe, later published the 1991 book—DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music.
As part of the Old Timers' Show, Bailey returned to the Opry to perform in February 1974; on December 14 of that year, he appeared again in celebration of his 75th birthday. He performed for the last time at the Opry in April 1982, drawing a huge ovation. Bailey died on July 2, 1982, in Nashville, Tennessee.
The Tennessee Folklore Society released a 1998 album of Bailey's work, The Legendary DeFord Bailey: Country Music's First Black Star. And after notable controversy, Bailey was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.
Remembered today as one of the first black stars of country music, DeFord Bailey has also been credited as the first African-American star of the Grand Ole Opry.
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