Acuff, (Claxton) Roy(1903–92) country music singer, fiddler, songwriter; born in Maynardville, Tenn. Forced by poor health to abandon a promising baseball career, he polished his skills as a singer and fiddler and began to play publicly in 1932. He performed on radio in the 1930s with the Tennessee Cracklers, then joined the "Grand Ole Opry" in 1938 with the Smoky Mountain Boys, becoming that radio program's first network broadcasting host. During World War II he was immensely popular and became known as "the King of Country Music." In the 1940s he appeared in several films and toured the United States. His unique moaning singing style influenced such musicians as Hank Williams. Among his most famous songs are "The Great Speckled Bird" and "Wabash Cannon Ball." Although his style of country music was somewhat pushed aside by the late 1950s, he continued to appear on "Grand Ole Opry"; he was a co-owner of Acuff-Rose, a music publishing company, and he remained active in Tennessee Republican politics.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.