Ralph Emery, the country music disc jockey and television host who came to prominence on Nashville’s WSM, died on Saturday of natural causes, while surrounded by family at Nashville’s Tristar Centennial Medical Center, his son Michael told AP. He was 88.
Among those paying tribute to Emery today was “American Pie” singer-songwriter Don McLean. “Ralph Emery was my friend. I did his show many times and he was kind enough to send me a Christmas card every year. He had that special country music knowledge and that voice,” McLean said in a statement provided by his publicist. “Ralph was to country music what Mel Allen was to the Yankees.”
Born on March 10, 1933 in McEwen, Tennessee, Emery was an inductee of both the Country Music Hall of Fame and the National Radio Hall of Fame who served as WSM’s all-night disc jockey from 1957 to 1972, there hosting live performances by, and interviews with country music notables including Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Willie Nelson and Marty Robbins. Throughout his 50-plus year career, he also hosted syndicated music programs including Pop! Goes The Country, Nashville Now, Ralph Emery Live and Ralph Emery’s Memories, among others.
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Emery studied in broadcasting school under the legendary Nashville radio personality John R (born John Richbourg) and found his first broadcasting job at Paris, Tennessee’s WTPR. Later on, he would be tapped for roles at stations including WNAH, WAGG, WLCS, WMAK and WSIX, finding at the latter his first full-time radio gig and his first affiliation with a network (ABC), as well as his first experience in television, as a wrestling announcer for WSIX-TV.
Emery was also an author who published the autobiography Memories in 1991, as well as such titles as More Memories (1993) and The View From Nashville: On the Record with Country Music’s Greatest Stars (1998).
Plans for a memorial have not yet been disclosed.
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