Cliffie Stone Family Photos
Cliffie chatting and hanging out backstage at the Grand Ole Opry with Roy Acuff in 1989. Roy Claxton Acuff was known as “The King of Country Music.” He was a singer, fiddler, songwriter, music publisher, promoter and a tireless ambassador of country music. He was born in Maynardville, Tennessee, to Ida and Simon Acuff on September 15, 1903. At one time, his father had been a lawyer and later, he became an ordained Baptist minister as well as an excellent amateur fiddler; he inspired and taught Roy how to play the fiddle. His mother enjoyed playing the piano and their home was often a gathering place for social parties, which was Roy’s first introduction to entertaining people; and he also sang in Baptist choirs. In 1919, his family relocated to Fountain City, a suburb of Knoxville, where he attended Fountain City Central High School; while there, he was encouraged by his teacher to sing in the school’s chapel choir and to perform in their stage plays. He also loved sports, and became an outstanding athlete in Central High Bobcats’ football, basketball and baseball teams. Roy had a passion for baseball and after he graduated, he worked at odd jobs to support himself while playing in several small baseball clubs around Knoxville. In 1929, he tried out for a minor-league baseball team, which was affiliated with the New York Giants. In this timeline, he ended up having a severe sunstroke that confined him to indoor living for two years, which ended his dream of becoming a pro baseball player. He then refocused and became dedicated to improving his voice, his fiddle skills and his song repertoire. In the early 1930s, he began his musical career in earnest when he was hired by “Dr. Hauer’s Medicine Show” as one of its performers. It’s here where he learned the ins and outs of entertaining and he honed all aspects of his stage performance, especially his voice. Since the show didn’t have microphones, Roy learned how to project his voice above the band and any crowd noise, which became an asset for him from then onward. Several years later, Roy quit the Appalachian medicine show circuit and began playing at local clubs in Knoxville with a group that he formed called the “Tennessee Crackerjacks,” wherein he sang and played the fiddle. The group performed regularly on radio stations WROL and WNOX in Knoxville and during this time frame, he changed his groups’ name to the “Crazy Tennesseans.” The voice projection skill that Roy had learned during his medicine show days paid off because he was told countless times how distinctly his voice could be heard over his musicians that came through clearly to his listening audience, which includes the radio show executives. Roy’s distinctive voice and his interpretations of traditional songs such as “The Great Speckled Bird” garnered Roy and his band a recording contract with American Record Company that had National Distribution; and during their time with ARC, they recorded over twenty tunes including “Wabash Cannonball,” which became a hit as well as one of his signature songs in his repertoire. In 1938, Roy and his band went to Nashville to audition for the Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Auditorium. At the wise urgings of Opry’s founder, George Hay, and Harry Stone (producer), Roy renamed his band, the “Smoky Mountain Boys,” which was a catchy name that depicted the area they were born in; Roy sang “The Great Speckled Bird,” which the Opry audience loved and Roy and his Smoky Mountain Boys became Grand Ole Opry members. Since the Opry was broadcast every Saturday night on a 50,000 watt radio station, WSM, they received huge exposure. Shortly thereafter, one of Roy’s band members left and was replaced by Dobro resonating guitar player and tenor singer, Pete Kirby (aka ‘Bashful Brother Oswald’). Consequently, with Roy’s distinctive lead vocals and Bashful Brother Oswald’s resonating guitar riffs as well as his high-pitched backup vocals, the Smoky Mountain Boys now had their own unique sound, which made them one of Opry’s most popular acts. Roy and his band would also start recording and some of their most popular songs included “Wabash Cannonball,” “Back in the Country,” “Night Train to Memphis,” “Pins and Needles” and, of course, “The Great Speckled Bird.” In the World War 2 time frame, Roy’s Smoky Mountain Boys toured with other Opry acts to entertain the troops stationed throughout the Southeast. (For years thereafter, Roy and his band patriotically toured with the USO to entertain the soldiers overseas; some of Roy’s family participated in their local county politics (Union County) such as his paternal grandfather, Coram Acuff, who had once been a Tennessee State Senator). In 1940, Roy and other Opry artists had starring roles in a Hollywood movie called “Grand Ole Opry.” And this was the foundation of Roy’s multi-faceted and interesting musical career. Roy was one of the Grand Ole Opry’s central promoters throughout his long career and life. He even had his own office (see above photo with Cliffie) where other Opry members and guests would greet, meet and talk with him. Now let’s focus on Roy’s historic music publishing company: in October 1942, Roy Acuff and Fred Rose foresaw the goldmine that could be made through song publishing and they wisely co-founded the first major Nashville-based country music publishing company, “Acuff-Rose Publications,” using Roy’s countless self-penned and co-written songs as its base (songs such as “Write Me, Sweetheart,” “This World Can’t Stand Long,” “Jole Blon,” “Life’s Railway to Heaven” by R. Acuff, W. S. Stevenson; and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” by R. Acuff, A.P. Carter, M. Christian.) Fred Rose was a great songwriter too (Grammy award-winning “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain”) as well as a promoter and through his connections with ASCAP and his ear for talented songwriters, Acuff-Rose became a multi-million dollar powerhouse in the publishing industry over the next few decades. They signed talented songwriters and performers such as: Hank Williams, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, the Louvin Brothers, Boudleaux & Felice Bryant, Don Gibson, Redd Stewart and Pee Wee King. Their first major published hit song was Pee Wee King’s “Tennessee Waltz” performed by pop singer, Patti Page in 1950. (Later, this dynamic duo also founded “Hickory Records.”) Roy’s prestigious awards include: Country Music Association’s “Hall of Fame” in 1962; The Academy of Country Music’s “Pioneer Award” in 1984; Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; Grammy Award for “Lifetime Achievement” in 1987. In 1991, Roy was awarded the National Medal of Arts. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts gave him a “Lifetime Achievement Award.” There are other websites that will give more detailed info on his life, career and discography.

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