Nashville, Tenn. â€“February 23, 2011â€”Pat Bullard, a LifeWorks Foundation trustee and founder of the Nashville Music Garden, recently presented The Fontanel Mansion & Farm a priceless piece of Nashvilleâ€™s music history, a rare, original 78 recording of DeFord Baileyâ€™s â€œIce Water Blues/Davidson County Bluesâ€ accompanied by photos of Bailey with the original members of the Grand Ole Opry cast, circa 1920.
Noted DeFord Bailey biographer David Morton gifted the record to the Nashville Music Garden and feels its place at The Fontanel Mansion is fitting. â€œI gave this record to the Nashville Music Garden, because of their dedication to making people aware of DeFord Bailey and his most significant role in the early development of the country music industry in Nashville,” said Morton. “The record is one of my favorites with ‘Ice Water Blues,’ DeFordâ€™s classic rendition of a fiddle tune he learned from his grandfather, and ‘Davidson County Blues,’ a version of his popular ‘Cow Cow Blues.’ I am amazed and pleased with what the Nashville Music Garden has done with the record.â€
Dubbed â€œThe Harmonica Wizardâ€ and breaking ground as the first African-American performer on the Grand Ole Opry, Bailey has been called â€œthe most influential harmonica player in the first half of the 20th century.â€Â In fact, longtime Opry announcer, â€œJudgeâ€ George D. Hay, consistently credited Bailey as the inspiration for the naming of the Opry. On October 2, 1928, Judge Hay arranged for Victor Records to make the first known recordings in Nashville and specially requested that Bailey be part of the history-making session held in the cityâ€™s YMCA building. Bailey recorded eight tunes in this session, two of which are on the record now displayed at Fontanel.
Marc Oswald, co-owner of Fontanel, says the one-of-a-kind memorabilia is a valuable part of Fontanelâ€™s collection. â€œOur original intention for Fontanel was not only to give Barbara Mandrellâ€™s fans the opportunity to tour the home she and her husband, Ken Dudney, built, but also to see and touch music history dating back many decades. This DeFord Bailey recording is a noteworthy piece of history we are very proud to display.â€
Bailey was controversially ousted from the Grand Ole Opry in 1941 with sources at the time citing licensing issues. While he continued to play his harmonica every day of his life while operating a shoe shine shop, he once lamented that he often played to â€œfour walls and to God.â€ After years of faithful lobbying by friends and fans, DeFord Bailey was inducted into The Country Music Hall of Fame in November 2005, and he is now recognized as a critical part of Nashvilleâ€™s music history.
â€œIt is a wonderful idea to display and recognize my father’s music, since he was one of the first stars of the Grand Ole Opry, along with Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, Bill Monroe and Uncle Dave Macon,â€ said Baileyâ€™s daughter, Christine Bailey Craig.