Ernest Jennings Ford, known professionally as Tennessee Ernie Ford, was an American recording artist and television host who enjoyed success in the country and Western, pop, and gospel musical genres. Noted for his rich voice and down-home humor, he is remembered for his hit recordings of The Shotgun Boogie. Born in Bristol, Tennessee to Maud and Clarence Thomas Ford, Ford began his radio career as an announcer at WOPI-AM in Bristol. In 1939, the young left the station to study classical singing at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music in Ohio. As First Lieutenant, he served in the United States Army Air Corps in World War II as the bombardier on a B-29 Superfortress flying missions over Japan and he was also a bombing instructor at George Air Force Base, located in Victorville, California. After the war, Ford worked at stations in San Bernardino and Pasadena. At KFXM in San Bernardino, Ford was hired as a radio announcer and he was assigned to host an early morning country music disc jockey program, Bar Nothin Ranch Time. To differentiate himself, he created the personality of Tennessee Ernie and he became popular in the area and was soon hired away by Pasadenas KXLA radio. At KXLA, Ford continued doing the show and also joined the cast of Cliffie Stones popular live KXLA country show Dinner Bell Roundup as a vocalist while still doing the early morning broadcast. Cliffie Stone, a talent scout for Capitol Records, brought him to the attention of the label. In 1949, while doing his morning show, he signed a contract with Capitol. He became a local TV star as the star of Stones popular Southern California Hometown Jamboree show, radiOzark produced 260 15-minute episodes of The Tennessee Ernie Show on transcription disks for national radio syndication. He released almost 50 country singles through the early 1950s, several of which made the charts, ill Never Be Free, a duet pairing Ford with Capitol Records pop singer Kay Starr, became a huge country and pop crossover hit in 1950. A duet with Ella Mae Morse, False Hearted Girl was a top seller for the Capitol Country and Hillbilly division, Ford eventually ended his KXLA morning show and in the early 1950s, moved on from Hometown Jamboree. He took over from band-leader Kay Kyser as host of the TV version of NBC quiz show Kollege of Musical Knowledge when it returned briefly in 1954 after a four-year hiatus. He became a name in the U. S. largely as a result of his portrayal in 1954 of the country bumpkin, Cousin Ernie on three episodes of I Love Lucy. In 1955, Ford recorded Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier with Farewell to the Mountains on side B. The songs authorship has been claimed by both Travis and George S. Davis, although Travis is recognized as the author on the recording itself, by BMI
Image: Tennessee Ernie Ford 1957
Ford's appearance as "Cousin Ernie" in three episodes of I Love Lucy made him a household name.