DeFord Bailey Avenue Unveiled In Nashville
The city of Nashville renamed Horton Avenue to DeFord Bailey Avenue, to honor “harmonica wizard” DeFord Bailey, one of the original stars of the Grand Ole Opry and its first African American performer.
The new street name was officially unveiled on May 20 in a public ceremony, immediately followed by a free outdoor concert. The dedication and celebration was held at the north end of the William Edmondson Homesite Park, which borders on Horton Avenue, and featured country and R&B performances by two of Bailey’s grandsons, Carlos DeFord Bailey and Herchel Bailey, along with guest artist Smokin’ Otis.
DeFord Bailey was one of the most popular performers on WSM’s Grand Ole Opry radio program from its early days in 1926 until 1941, when he was abruptly dismissed by WSM management. Bailey was born in 1899 in rural Smith County, eventually moving to Nashville, where he lived in the Edgehill neighborhood until his death in 1982. In 2005, Bailey was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame.
Invited speakers and special guests at the event included members of the Bailey family, the Mayor’s office, Metro Council sponsors, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, National Museum of African American Music, and the Grand Ole Opry.
DeFord Bailey biographer David C. Morton also also attended. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum recently reissued the long-out-of-print biography DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music, written by Morton with Charles K. Wolfe.
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