Country Music Hall of Fame member and Nashville broadcast star Ralph Emery dies

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Walter Ralph Emery, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame and host of the TNN television show “Nashville Now,” died Saturday at the age of 88.

Emery “passed away peacefully” surrounded by his family Saturday morning at Tristar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, his family wrote in a statement.

“Ralph had a deep love for his family, friends and fans,” Emery’s family said.

The broadcast star was known nationwide for his informal, relaxed hosting style and candid interviews with country music stars. He is widely credited with extending the reach of country music across the country during his 50-year career.

“Ralph and I are going back,” Loretta Lynn said in a tweet on Saturday. “He was a Nashville original and you can’t underestimate the role he played in the growth and success of country music. He put you at ease and interviewed everyone like a old friend.”

In Nashville, Emery was known as a staple on the local morning show and a member of the community.

“Ralph Emery’s impact on expanding the audience for country music is incalculable,” Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement on Saturday. “On radio and TV, he let fans know the people behind the songs.

Ralph Emery is pictured during an interview November 18, 1998 in Nashville, Tennessee, celebrating his book

“Ralph was more of a great conversationalist than a calculated interviewer, and it was his conversations that revealed the humor and humanity of Tom T. Hall, Barbara Mandrell, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins and many others. above all, he believed in the music and the people who make it.”

Emery’s talent and personality were well recognized by the industry. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007, billed as “country music’s most celebrated television and radio personality”. He was also inducted into the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 1989.

The ‘dean of country music broadcasters’ started small, became a household name

Emery was born in McEwen, Tennessee in 1933 and grew up with a deep love for radio, which served as his sanctuary during his turbulent childhood.

He worked as an usher at a downtown Nashville movie theater and as a Kroger stock boy as a teenager, saving money to attend the Tennessee School of Broadcasting under the Nashville radio legend, John Richbourg.

Ralph Emery's photo at East Nashville High School in 1951.

Known as the “dean of country music broadcasters,” Emery began his career at WTPR in Paris, Tennessee, before taking charge of the WSM cemetery team in Nashville in 1957, when he was 24. .

For 15 years, Emery filled WSM’s late-night hours with records, candid conversations and jam sessions with some of country music’s biggest names and new talent – including Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson and Marty Robbins, according to the Country Music Hall of Notoriety.

In earlier interviews with The Tennessean, Emery attributed his success in part to the “total autonomy” afforded him by the first radio industry.

“I could play any record I wanted to play; nobody sat me down and told me what to play,” he said in 2007.

He first lent his voice to the Grand Ole Opry – one of his favorite radio shows as a child – as an announcer in 1961, continuing in the role until 1964.

Emery scored a Billboard country hit himself in 1961: “Hello Fool” (a version of Faron Young’s “Hello Walls”) reached No. 4 on the Billboard Country Music Singles Chart.

Ralph Emery jokes with Brooks & Dunn at the announcement of the 2019 Country Music Hall of Fame inductees at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Monday, March 18, 2019 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Emery hosted his first local television show, “Opry Almanac,” in 1963 on WSM-TV, kicking off his decades-long television presence.

Perhaps best known as the host of “Nashville Now” from 1983 to 1993, Emery’s career also included:

  • “Sixteenth Avenue” from 1966 to 1969
  • “Ralph Emery Show” from 1972 to 1991
  • “Pop goes to the countryside” from 1974 to 1980
  • “Nashville alive” from 1981 to 1982
  • “Ralph Emery LIVE” (eventually “Ralph Emery’s Memories”) from 2007 to 2015

Emery is also the author of several books chronicling his eventful life in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Emery returned to the airwaves in 2015 at the age of 82 to recreate an episode of “Nashville Now” alongside former show guests Con Hunley, Ray Stevens, Lorrie Morgan, Barbara Mandrell and Steve Hall (known for his puppet “Shotgun Red”).

Emery reportedly said his goal was “to uphold country music” in his Country Music Hall of Fame biography. “I would be very happy if people could look at me and say, ‘He brought dignity to his craft’ or ‘He brought class to the company.'”

Emery leaves behind his wife, Joy Emery, his three sons, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements will be announced.

Contact reporter Cassandra Stephenson at [email protected] or (731) 694-7261. Follow Cassandra on Twitter at @CStephenson731.

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