FLASHBACK: JUNE 19, 1926
The "Wizard" Of Opry
On June 19, 1926, the WSM Barn Dance -- the radio show later known as the Grand Ole Opry -- introduced a new performer who would break barriers and make history: African-American musician DeFord Bailey. The diminutive young harmonica player became an instant favorite.
Bailey would also become linked with Opry history. When Barn Dance host George D. Hay introduced the new Grand Ole Opry name on a 1927 broadcast, Bailey's harmonica was the first music heard on the program. According to some accounts, Hay had reported that Bailey's rendition of the train song "Pan American Blues" inspired the actual naming of the Opry.
Bailey, dubbed the "Harmonica Wizard" by Hay, joined the Opry as its first African-American cast member and performed on virtually every Saturday night show. He also toured with such artists as Roy Acuff, Uncle Dave Macon and the Delmore Brothers.
Bailey, who died in 1982, was easily the most significant black star of the Opry. Today, there is a strong push to elect him to the Country Music Hall of Fame.