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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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Confined to the indoors for most of the next two years by his health problems, Acuff dedicated himself to learning to play the fiddle and improving his singing voice, inspired by the music of John Carson, Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers. When he finally regained full health in 1932, Acuff joined Doc Hauer's Medicine Show as part of a traveling musical act to sell "Moc-a-Tan Elixir."
Acuff married his longtime wife, Mildred Douglas Acuff,
in 1936. They remained married for 45 years until her death in 1981.
Upon his return to Knoxville later that year, Acuff started a country music band called the Tennessee Crackerjacks; within a few years, they had gained an impressive local following and become fixtures on local radio programs. Changing their name to the Crazy Tennesseans, in 1936 Acuff and his band recorded several songs for the American Record Company, including their first big hit, "The Great Speckled Bird." But Acuff's big break came in 1938 when he and the Crazy Tennesseans were invited to perform on Grand Ole Opry, a weekly Nashville stage show that was broadcast live over the radio on Saturday nights&emdash;by far the country's most popular and prestigious country music program. The performance was so well received that Acuff was immediately asked to become a regular performer and soon became the show's most popular act. Renaming themselves once again as the Smokey Mountain Boys, Acuff's band recorded many of their most enduring country music hits during the late 1930s early 1940s, including "Wasbash Cannonball," "Wreck on the Highway," "Pins and Needles" and "Night Train to Memphis." In 1940, Acuff played the starring role in the film Grand Ole Opry, which featured many of the show's performers.
During World War II, Acuff spent several years traveling the globe to perform for American troops overseas. Upon his return to Tennessee, Acuff, who came from a political family and had always maintained an interest in politics, decided to run for governor. He received the Republican nomination in 1948 and waged a campaign in which he promised to govern based on the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments. Although he lost by a two-to-one margin in the general election, the result was actually rather impressive for a Republican candidate in the then-heavily Democratic state. While continuing to perform nearly every weekend on Grand Ole' Opry, Acuff also recorded at a prolific rate throughout the late 1940s and 1950s. His biggest hits from this period included "Lonely Mound of Clay," "It Won't Be Long," "I Called and Nobody Answered," "Tennessee Waltz," "I'll Always Care" and "Black Mountain Rag."
In 1962, Roy Acuff became the first living member inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. When the Vietnam War escalated several years later, Acuff once again dedicated the better part of several years to performing in USO shows for American troops overseas. Although his recording output slowed significantly during the 1960s and 1970s, Acuff nevertheless scored several hit singles, such as "Freight Train Blues," "Just a Friend" and "Back in the Country."
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