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George Dewey Hay (November 9, 1895, Attica, Indiana - May 8, 1968, Virginia Beach, Virginia) was an American radio personality. He is the founder of the original Grand Ole Opry radio program on WSM (AM) in Nashville, Tennessee, from which today's country music stage show of the same name evolved.

Career

In Memphis, Tennessee, after World War I, Hay was a reporter for the Commercial Appeal, and when the newspaper launched its own radio station, WMC, in January 1923, he became a late-night announcer at the station. His popularity increased and in May 1924 he left for WLS in Chicago, where he served as the announcer on a program that became National Barn Dance.

On November 9, 1925 he moved on to WSM in Nashville. Getting a strong listener reaction to 78-year-old fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson that November, Hay announced the following month that WSM would feature "an hour or two" of old-time music every Saturday night. He promoted the music and formed a booking agency.

The show was originally named WSM Barn Dance, and Hay billed himself as "The Solemn Old Judge." The Barn Dance was broadcast after NBC's Music Appreciation Hour, a program featuring classical music and grand opera. One day in December 1927, the final music piece on the Music Appreciation Hour depicted the sound of a rushing locomotive. After the show ended, "Judge Hay" opened the WSM Barn Dance with this announcement:

Friends, the program which just came to a close was devoted to the classics. Doctor Damrosch [host of the program] told us that there is no place in the classics for realism. However, from here on out for the next three hours, we will present nothing but realism. It will be down to earth for the 'earthy'.

Hay then introduced the man he dubbed "The Harmonica Wizard," DeFord Bailey, who played his classic train song, "The Pan American Blues," named for the crack Louisville and Nashville Railroad passenger train The Pan-American. After Bailey's performance, Hay commented, "For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on we will present the Grand Ole Opry."

During the 1930s, he was involved with Rural Radio, one of the first magazines about country music, developing the Opry for NBC and working on the movie Grand Ole Opry (1940). He was an announcer with the radio show during the 1940s and toured with Opry acts, including the September 1947 Opry show at Carnegie Hall.

In 1945 Hay wrote A Story of the Grand Ole Opry, and he became an editor of Nashville's Pickin’ and Singin’ News in 1953. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966.

Hay moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he died in 1968.

External links

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