George D. Hay

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George Dewey Hay
George Dewey Hay

(1895-11-09)November 9, 1895
DiedMay 8, 1968(1968-05-08) (aged 72)
Other namesThe Solemn Old Judge
OccupationRadio Personality/announcer/newspaper reporter and writer
Known forGrand Ole Opry founder and member

George Dewey Hay (November 9, 1895 – May 8, 1968) was an American radio personality, announcer and newspaper reporter.[1] He was the founder of the original Grand Ole Opry radio program on WSM-AM in Nashville, Tennessee, from which the country music stage show of the same name evolved.[2]

Early newspaper and radio career[edit]

Hay was born in Attica, Indiana, United States.[1] In Memphis, Tennessee, after World War I, he was a reporter for the Commercial Appeal,[1] and when the newspaper launched its own radio station, WMC-AM, in January 1923, he became a late-night announcer at the station.[1] His popularity increased and in May 1924 he left for WLS-AM in Chicago, where he served as the announcer on a program that became National Barn Dance.[1]

Founding The Grand Ole Opry[edit]

On November 9, 1925, Hay's 30th birthday, he moved on to WSM-AM in Nashville. Getting a strong listener reaction to 78-year-old fiddler Uncle Jimmy Thompson that November, Hay announced the following month that WSM would feature "an hour or two" of old-time music every Saturday night. He promoted the music and formed a booking agency.

The show was originally named WSM Barn Dance, and Hay billed himself as "The Solemn Old Judge."[citation needed] The Barn Dance was broadcast after NBC's Music Appreciation Hour, a program featuring classical music and grand opera. One day in December 1927, the final music piece on the Music Appreciation Hour depicted the sound of a rushing locomotive. After the show ended, "Judge Hay" opened the WSM Barn Dance with this announcement:

Friends, the program which just came to a close was devoted to the classics. Doctor Damrosch [host of the program] told us that there is no place in the classics for realism. However, from here on out for the next three hours, we will present nothing but realism. It will be down to earth for the 'earthy'.

Hay then introduced the man he dubbed "The Harmonica Wizard," DeFord Bailey, who played his classic train song, "The Pan American Blues," named for the crack Louisville and Nashville Railroad passenger train The Pan-American. After Bailey's performance, Hay commented, "For the past hour, we have been listening to music taken largely from Grand Opera. From now on we will present the Grand Ole Opry."[3] [4]

Newspaper, announcing, touring and film appearance[edit]

During the 1930s, he was involved with Rural Radio, one of the first magazines about country music, developing the Opry for NBC and working on the movie Grand Ole Opry (1940). He was an announcer with the radio show during the 1940s and toured with Opry acts, including the September 1947 Opry show at Carnegie Hall.[1] He was featured in Hoosier Holiday, a 1945 film from Republic Pictures, in a cast that also included Dale Evans.

Publication and legacy[edit]

In 1945, Hay wrote A Story of the Grand Ole Opry,[2][5] and he became an editor of Nashville's Pickin’ and Singin’ News in 1953. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966.[2]


Hay moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where he died in 1968.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Colin Larkin, ed. (1997). The Virgin Encyclopedia of Popular Music (Concise ed.). Virgin Books. pp. 584/5. ISBN 1-85227-745-9.
  2. ^ a b c d "George D. Hay". Country Music Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2011-12-14.
  3. ^ Gevinson, Alan. "Broadcasting Longevity.", accessed 8 October 2011.
  4. ^ "GEORGE D. HAY". "Virtual" Country Music Heritage Museum. Archived from the original on 2007-08-19.
  5. ^ Hay, George D. (September 1945). A Story of the Grand Ole Opry. George D. ASIN B007IN2VZO.

External links[edit]