Country Throwback: Legendary Singer Roy Acuff Died 28 Years Ago Today

by Jennifer Shea
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The King of Country Music died on a Monday 28 years ago today. 

Roy Acuff was a legend among country musicians. His pared-down songs influenced generations of singers. 

He was a strong proponent of traditional country values. And Acuff lived out those values as a musician, a music publisher and as Grand Master of the Grand Ole Opry.

Acuff died of congestive heart failure at St. Thomas Midtown Hospital in Nashville. He was 89.

“Roy Acuff personified the Grand Ole Opry,” country rocker Charlie Daniels told the Tennessean. “And it will be hard to imagine the Opry without Mr. Acuff.”

Acuff first auditioned for the Grand Ole Opry in 1938. He did so well that the Opry took him on full-time. He rose to national fame during the 1940s and remained at the top of country charts through the end of the decade. 

Acuff also released his own songbook. It sold 100,000 copies. When New York publishers tried to acquire the rights, Acuff formed Acuff-Rose Publications with Chicago songwriter Fred Rose instead. Later on, Acuff-Rose would own the songs of such country greats as Hank Williams, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison and John D. Loudermilk.

But as important as music was to Acuff, he also took time to get involved in civic life. Acuff ran for governor of Tennessee as a Republican in 1948, according to the Tennessee Encyclopedia. He made a respectable showing but lost the election.

Acuff was the first artist inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame while still alive. He earned that honor in 1962.

The musician lived out the final years of his life on the grounds of his beloved Grand Ole Opry, performing every weekend.

“I will miss Mr. Acuff tremendously,” country and gospel singer Randy Travis told the Tennessean. “I used to always try and do his segment of the Opry because I loved being with him. For everyone that loves country music…it will never be the same.”

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