Tennessee Ernie Ford

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Tennessee Ernie Ford (* 13. February 1919 in Bristol , Tennessee as Ernest Jennings Ford ; † 17th October 1991 in Reston , Virginia ) was an American country- and gospel singer.



Ford studied classical music and singing at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music . After serving as a B-29 bomber in the US Air Force during World War II , he and his family moved to California. Here he worked for various radio stations before he got a recording contract with the Capitol Records label in 1949 through the mediation of his manager Cliffie Stone .


In the 1950s, he released nearly 50 country singles, several of which made it into the charts. His first hit was Mule Train in 1950 , which peaked at number 1 on the country charts and number 10 on the pop charts. In the spring of 1952 he managed to push The Shot Gun Boogie to the top of the country charts again. All of his songs were stylistically part of the hillbilly boogie . Ford was one of the most successful artists in these directions. In 1952 he sang the title I'm Hog Tied Over You in a duet with the rhythm and blues singer Ella Mae Morse . In 1954 he hosted the television quiz show College of Musical Knowledge ; In 1955 he recorded an album with the singer Kay Starr .

1955 was Ford's most successful year, with his title Ballad Of Davy Crockett reaching number 6 on the pop charts in the spring and staying in the charts for 17 weeks. The song became known through the Disneyland TV series , which featured three Davy Crockett episodes between December 1954 and February 1955.

In the same year, Ford had his biggest hit with the title Sixteen Tons , which was first recorded in 1946 by Merle Travis . The socially critical play is about the complaint of a miner who cannot free himself from the stranglehold of the mining society:

You load sixteen tons and what do you get
Another day older and deeper in debt
St. Peter don't you call me 'cause I can't go
I owe my soul to the company store.

Sixteen Tons was number 1 on the country charts for 10 weeks and number 1 on the pop hit parade for 8 weeks. The single stayed in the charts for 22 weeks. Because of its new popularity, Ford got its own television show, The Tennessee Ernie Ford Show , which ran from 1956 to 1961. In the following years he concentrated mainly on religious music. In 1956 he released his first gospel album, Hymns , which stayed in the Billboard "Top Album" charts for 277 (!) Weeks and was awarded gold. His album Great Gospel Songs won a Grammy in 1965 .

Ford received three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for service in radio, television, and music . In 1984 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom . In 1990 he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame .

Ford fell ill in 1991 after dinner with President George HW Bush at the White House . He died of liver failure on October 17, 1991, exactly 36 years after Sixteen Tons was published .

Discography (albums)

Tennessee Ernie Ford released over a hundred albums in his career. A complete discography does not exist.

  • 1953 - Backwoods, Boogie & Blues
  • 1955 - Tennessee Ernie Ford & Kay Starr
  • 1956 - This Lusty Land
  • 1956 - Tales Of Davy Crockett
  • 1956 - Hymns
  • 1957 - Spirituals
  • 1957 - Ol 'Rockin' Ern
  • 1957 - Nearer The Cross
  • 1958 - The Star Carol
  • 1959 - Gather 'Round
  • 1959 - A Friend We Have
  • 1960 - Sing A Hymn With Me
  • 1960 - Sing A Spiritual With Me
  • 1960 - Come To The Fair
  • 1961 - Tennessee Ernie Ford Sings Civil War
  • 1961 - Ernie Looks At Love
  • 1961 - Hymns At Home
  • 1962 - I Love To Tell The Story
  • 1963 - Long, Long Ago
  • 1963 - We Gather Together
  • 1964 - Great Gospel Songs
  • 1964 - Tennessee Ernie Ford Sings The World's Best Loved Hymns
  • 1965 - Let Me Walk With Thee
  • 1966 - Wonderful Peace
  • 1966 - God Lives
  • 1967 - Faith Of Our Fathers
  • 1968 - O Come All Ye Faithful
  • 1969 - Holy, Holy, Holy
  • 1970 America The Beautiful
  • 1972 - Mr. Words And Music

Individual evidence

  1. US catalog number: Capitol 40258; Whitburn, Joel: Top Pop Records 1940-1955 . Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research, 1973, p. 22
  2. The single reached number 21 on the pop charts; US catalog number: Capitol 1295
  3. US catalog number: Capitol 3058
  4. More information on this title in: Bronson, Fred: The Billboard Book of Number One Hits . 3rd revised and expanded edition. New York City, New York: Billboard Publications, 1992, p. 5
  5. ^ Whitburn, Joel: Top Pop Singles 1955-1993 . Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin: Record Research Ltd., 1994, p. 219


  • Shestack, Melvin: The Country Music Encyclopaedia . London: Omnibus Press, 1977, pp. 76f
  • Stambler, Irwin / Landon, Grelun: Encyclopedia Of Folk, Country And Western Music . New York / London: St. Martin's Press, 1969, pp. 98-100
  • Dellar, Fred / Thompson, Roy: The Illustrated Encyclopedia Of Country Music . Foreword by Roy Acuff. London: Salamander Books, 1977, p. 90

Web links

Commons : Tennessee Ernie Ford  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files