Best Known For
Country musician Roy Acuff performed hits suchs as "It Won't Be Long" and "Tennessee Waltz" nearly every weekend on the Grand Ole' Opry during the 1930, 40s and 50s.
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Born September 15, 1903 in Maynardville, Tennessee, the King of Country Music was best known for his weekly performances on the Grand Ole Opry with his band the Smoky Mountain Boys, and for the classic country songs "The Great Speckled Bird," "Wabash Cannonball," and "Back in the Country."
Roy Claxton Acuff was born September 15, 1903, in Maynardville, Tennessee. The Acuffs are an old and proud family that traces its roots back to French soldiers who accompanied William the Conqueror of Normandy on his 1066 invasion of England and then participated in the Crusades of the 12th and 13th centuries. Roy Acuff's parental grandfather, Corum Acuff, was a Union soldier during the Civil War who later had a distinguished career in the Tennessee General Assembly. Roy's father, Neil Acuff, was a lawyer and postmaster who was ordained as a minister and became the pastor of the local Maynardville Baptist Church; Roy's mother, Ida Carr, was a homemaker.
Acuff's father was a skilled fiddle player, and as a child Roy Acuff played the mouth harp and the harmonica and sang in the church choir. Although he was not an especially talented or passionate musician as a boy, Acuff nevertheless insisted that music–his father's fiddle playing in particular–made a lasting impression on him. "Those tones in the wee hours of the morning just before daylight, before we went out to feed, it was something," he recalled. "It built something in me that I have never forgotten."
For grammar school, Acuff attended Maynardville's local two-room schoolhouse, where he was a self-described "terror" of a student, often suffering beatings, sometimes quite vicious, at the hands of his teachers. After taking several years off from school to work on the family's farm and at a local rock quarry, a 16-year-old Acuff and his family moved from Maynardville to Fountain City, a Knoxville suburb, where he attended Fountain City Central High, eventually graduating in 1924, around the time he turned 21 years old. At the behest of one of his teachers, a Miss Gresham, Acuff sang regularly at chapel and acted in nearly all of the school plays. "She has meant more and more to me as the years have passed," Acuff said of his teacher. "She forced me to do things. She knew I could do them, but I was shy."
Still, young Acuff's greatest passion was sports. He earned 13 varsity letters as a star football, basketball and baseball player for the Central High Bobcats. During the years after he graduated, Acuff worked several part-time jobs—as a levelman for a surveying team, as a railroad callboy and as shoe-shiner—while playing semi-professional baseball and attempting to work his way up to the majors. Although he showed star potential as pitcher and attracted the notice of some Major League scouts, in the summer of 1929 Acuff suffered a severe sunstroke in the middle of a game; after fainting again on several other occasions, he was forced to give up his dreams of a baseball career. Acuff recalled, "I reckon the good Man up above said, 'Roy, you're not gonna play baseball—you're gonna do something else,' so He knocked me down with a sunstroke."
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