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George D. Hay
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Radio Personality
    (November 9, 1895-May 8, 1968)
    Born in Attica, Indiana
    Wrote the humor column ‘Howdy, Judge’ for the Nashville Commercial Appeal
    Original announcer and booking agent for the Grand Ole Opry on station WSM in Nashville (1925-36,1938-56)
    Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame (1966)
    His ‘Howdy, Judge’ columns, featuring the interactions of a white judge with black defendants, have been called ‘pure minstrelsy in print.’
    He was dubbed ‘The Solemn Old Judge’ when in his 20s.
    He encouraged Opry performers to dress in straw hats and overalls and generally play up the country bumpkin image.
    He had a nervous breakdown in the 1930s that kept him from the Opry for eighteen months.
    He tried to keep Opry performers from using drums and electric instruments.
    He became so upset at the direction the Opry took after he left that he moved out of Nashville to Virginia Beach.
    While working for WLS in Chicago, he won a Radio Digest poll as most popular announcer (1924).
    He gave the Opry, originally known as ‘The WSM Barn Dance,’ its more famous name when, with the Barn Dance airing after NBC’s classical music program ‘Music Appreciation Hour,’ he told the audience, ‘For the past hour, we have been listening to music largely taken from Grand Opera. From now on, we will present the Grand Ole Opry.’ (1927)
    At the Opry, he tried to recreate the excitement and informal atmosphere he had experienced at hoedowns in the Ozarks.

Credit: C. Fishel


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