Ralph Emery, the disc jockey and television host who was among the most prominent and influential broadcasters in the country music industry, passed away at age of 88.
Rise To Prominence: Born on March 10, 1933, in McEwen, Tennessee, Emery first gained prominence in 1957 as the overnight disc jockey on Nashville's 50,000-watt WSM, the radio home of the Grand Ole Opry. WSM's transmission was strong enough to be heard across the Southern and Eastern states, and Emery's easy-going style made him the DJ of choice for many cross-country truckers who listened to his show while transporting their hauls across the twilight highways.
As Emery's audience grew, country music stars including Marty Robbins, Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and Loretta Lynn began to show up unannounced for extended appearances on his overnight program. Emery also took on the role of the announcer at the Grand Ole Opry, owned by Ryman Hospitality Properties Inc. RHP, and later went on WSMV-TV with a daily morning talk show featuring the day's top country music stars.
A National Presence: Emery found himself in the center of the 1960s culture wars after a less-than-cordial conversation with Roger McGuinn and Gram Parsons of The Byrds, whose 1968 country rock performance at the Grand Ole Opry was poorly received by an audience that preferred traditional country sounds.
Emery launched a daily nationally syndicated radio show that expanded his presence to country stations across the country. Audiences put a face to Emery's voice through three television series: the syndicated "Pop! Goes the Country" from 1974 to 1980, the nightly "Nashville Now" on cable's The Nashville Network from 1983 to 1993 and the weekly "Ralph Emery Live" from 2007 to 2015 on RFD-TV, a satellite and cable television channel.
Emery was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007 and the National Radio Hall of Fame in 2010.
Photo: Dolly Parton and Ralph Emery in a mid-1980s episode of "Nashville Now," courtesy of The Nashville Network.
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