The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum has reissued the long-out-of-print biography DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music by David C. Morton with Charles K. Wolfe.
Published by the museum’s CMF Press, the updated and expanded book details the life and career of the Country Music Hall of Fame member, drawing upon numerous interviews conducted with Bailey by Morton. Originally published in 1991, the reissued edition includes a new foreword by singer, songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons, founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The new edition also includes 45 illustrations and a complete recording session discography.
Known as the “Harmonica Wizard” for his virtuosity on the instrument, Bailey (1899-1982) was a founding member of the Grand Ole Opry and among its most popular early performers, touring with such Opry acts as Roy Acuff, the Delmore Brothers and Bill Monroe. The biography chronicles Bailey’s triumphs and challenges, from his innovative musical contributions to the injustices he endured while touring under Jim Crow segregation. In the decades following his abrupt dismissal from the Opry, Bailey never stopped playing music, though he no longer made his living as a musician. Nevertheless, his influence endured, and his renditions of “Fox Chase,” “Pan American Blues” and other tunes are still considered harmonica classics.
Bailey was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Acknowledgment of his contributions continues to this day, as Nashville’s Metropolitan Council recently approved an ordinance to rename a local street “DeFord Bailey Avenue” in the Edgehill neighborhood where he lived. A public ceremony to mark the renaming will take place in Nashville on May 20.
DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music is now available for purchase in the museum store and on its website. Beginning June 13, the reissued edition will be distributed nationwide in bookstores and online outlets through a partnership with University of Illinois Press.
Morton will give a book talk on Friday, July 28 in the museum’s Ford Theater on the book he authored, which is included with museum admission.
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