Get Today in Masonic History into your Inbox. Sign up today for one of our email lists!
Need an article for your Trestleboard/Newsletter see our Use Policy

TODAY in Masonic History:

Facebook Twitter Google

Roy Claxton Acuff is Born

Today in Masonic History Roy Claxton Acuff is born in 1903.

Roy Claxton Acuff was an American singer.

Acuff was born on September 15th, 1903 in Maynardville, Tennessee. He came from a prominent family and the Acuff house was a frequent meeting place for people in community. At the gatherings Acuff entertained friends and neighbors by balancing farm implements on his chin. Coming from a musical family, Acuff picked up various instruments including the harmonica and the mouth harp. In 1919, the Acuff family relocated to Fountain City which is now a suburb of Knoxville. There Acuff graduated from Central High School where he excelled at sports. He was even offered an athletic scholarship which he turned down.

After high school in 1929, Acuff tried out for various local baseball teams. During spring training for the Knoxville Smokies, a minor league affiliate of the then New York Giants, Acuff suffered severe sunstroke which ended his baseball career. The sunstroke was so bad, Acuff suffered a nervous breakdown. He later stated he could not tolerate any sun during the time.

In 1932, Acuff joined a medicine show. The shows often hired entertainers to bring in the crowds to sell their suspect quality medicines. While working the medicine shows Acuff learned to project his voice which became a critical skill for his later radio career.

In 1934, Acuff left the medicine shows and formed a band. Initially they were called the Tennessee Crackerjacks until a local radio announcer called them the Crazy Tennesseans while introducing the band. The group liked the name and changed the name of the band. They ended up singing with the recording label ARC and worked to complete a 20 song commitment with the label before parting ways in 1937 over a contract dispute.

In 1938, Acuff and the band moved to Nashville to try out for the Grand Ole Opry. Their first audition did not go well. Their second audition impressed Opry founder George D. Hay and producer Harry Stone. On the suggestion of Hay and Stone, Acuff changed the name of the band to the Smoky Mountain Boys. Despite changes in the band and the band eventually splitting up, Acuff continued to play, with some breaks, at the Grand Ole Opry for the rest of his life.

In 1940, Acuff and the band traveled to Hollywood where they appeared in the motion picture Grand Ole Opry. Acuff appeared in other films as well. In 1942, Acuff met songwriter Fred Rose. The two men formed Acuff-Rose music and became a force in the country music industry. They worked with young artists who had been cheated by other labels. Rose, who had experience as a talent scout, brought other new talent to the label as well. They singed Hank Williams and in 1950 had their first big hit with Patti Page's rendition of the Tennessee Waltz.

In 1948, Acuff invited Tennessee Governor Prentice Cooper to the Grand Ole Opry. Cooper refused blaming Acuff for turning Nashville into the "hillbilly capital of the United States." A reporter informed Acuff of Cooper's response and told Acuff he should run for Governor. Acuff didn't take it seriously until he received the Republican nomination. This frightened long time political boss E. H. Crump. Acuff was defeated in the election by Gordon Browning.

Through the 1950's and the 1960's Acuff's popularity waned. It wasn't until the Grand Ole Opry moved to it's new home in the Grand Ole Opry House in 1972 Acuff experienced a resurgence in his career. On the opening night in the new Grand Ole Opry House, Acuff taught President Richard Nixon to use a yo-yo and convinced the president to play a few tunes on the piano.

Through the 1980's Acuff lived in a house on the Opry grounds and continued to perform on the stage. He showed up early and performed odd jobs like stocking soda in refrigerators. On November 23rd, 1992, Acuff suffered congestive heart failure and passed away.

Acuff was a member of East Nashville Lodge No. 560. He also joined the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, was a member of Al Menah Shrine Temple and joined York Rite. He was member of Edward G. Corbitt Chapter No. 147, Royal Arch Masons. A member of Nashville Council No. 1 Royal and Select Masters and Nashville Commandery No. 1, Knights Templar.