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Country Music Hall Of Fame® And Museum Reissues Definitive Biography On Deford Bailey

May 12, 2023

The newly expanded book is now available exclusively
on the
museum’s website or in its store

 The title will be widely available in bookstores and other outlets beginning June 13 through a distribution partnership with the University of Illinois Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – May 12 – The Country Music Hall of Fame® and Museum has reissued the long-out-of-print biography DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music by David C. Morton with Charles K. Wolfe. Published by the museum’s CMF Press and distributed in partnership with the University of Illinois Press, the updated and expanded book details the life and career of the Country Music Hall of Fame member, drawing upon numerous interviews conducted with Bailey by principal author David Morton.

Originally published in 1991, the reissued edition includes a new foreword by singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Dom Flemons, founding member of the Carolina Chocolate Drops. The new edition also includes 45 illustrations (several of which are new additions), and a complete recording session discography.

The book is now available for purchase in the museum store and on its website. Beginning June 13, the reissued edition will be distributed nationwide in bookstores and online outlets through a partnership with University of Illinois Press. The recently announced partnership involves releasing and distributing titles published under the museum’s longstanding publishing arm, CMF Press, including out of print historical books, as well as collaborating to co-publish new works on country music and related music styles.

DeFord Bailey
Known as the “Harmonica Wizard” for his virtuosity on the instrument, DeFord Bailey (1899-1982) was a founding member of the Grand Ole Opry and among its most popular early performers, touring with such well-known Opry acts as Roy Acuff, the Delmore Brothers and Bill Monroe. The meticulously researched biography chronicles Bailey’s triumphs and challenges, from his innovative musical contributions to the injustices he endured while touring under Jim Crow segregation. In the decades following his abrupt dismissal from the Opry, Bailey never stopped playing music, though he no longer made his living as a musician. Nevertheless, his influence endured, and his renditions of “Fox Chase,” “Pan American Blues” and other tunes are still considered harmonica classics. Whether onstage or off, his life was, as the book’s co-author Wolfe noted, “a parable of integrity and survival.”

Bailey was posthumously inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Acknowledgment of his contributions continues to this day; Nashville’s Metropolitan Council recently approved an ordinance to rename a local street “DeFord Bailey Avenue” in the Edgehill neighborhood where he lived. A public ceremony to mark the renaming will take place in Nashville on May 20.

Book talk
David Morton, principal author of DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music, will give a book talk on Friday, July 28, at 11 a.m. in the museum’s Ford Theater. The talk is included with museum admission.

More resources
To learn more about Bailey, visit the museum’s award-winning Discover DeFord Bailey educational webpage and project, which includes videos, recordings, photos and more from his life and career, as well as beginning harmonica tutorials and other activities for families. More information on Bailey is also available on his Country Music Hall of Fame member page.

About the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum’s CMF Press
Since the 1980s, CMF Press — the book publishing arm of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum — has published some of the most significant titles about the art, business and culture of country music. Topics have ranged from biographies and memoirs of famous singers and songwriters to in-depth examinations of the history of women in country music, the development of independent record labels in Nashville from 1945 to 1955 and the pioneering work of early record producers (A&R men) in roots music. Among the best-selling works previously issued by CMF Press are Douglas B. Green’s Singing in the Saddle: The History of the Singing Cowboy, Charles K. Wolfe’s A Good-Natured Riot: The Birth of the Grand Ole Opry and David Cantwell and Bill Friskics-Warren’s Heartaches by the Number: Country Music’s 500 Greatest Singles. More information about the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum and its educational mission is available at

About the University of Illinois Press
The University of Illinois Press publishes timely and transformative scholarship that empowers local and global readers to understand and engage with the changing world. Established in 1918, the Press publishes 80 new books annually and 45 journal titles in the humanities and social sciences, with particular strengths in music, Black history, women’s studies, labor history, film, sport, and media history. Its keystone Music in American Life series, celebrating 50 years in 2022, and its American Music journal, celebrating 40 years in 2023, richly document the intersections of American music and culture across the broadest range of musical forms and genres. The Press’s many country music, bluegrass, and roots music titles include Unlikely Angel: The Songs of Dolly Parton by Lydia R. Hamessley; Bill Monroe: The Life and Music of a Bluegrass Man by Tom Ewing; Dixie Dewdrop: The Uncle Dave Macon Story by Michael D. Doubler; Queer Country by Shana Goldin-Perschbacher; Stringbean: The Life and Murder of A Country Music Legend by Taylor Hagood; and Buddy Emmons: Steel Guitar Icon by Steve Fishell.

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