b. Connie Barriot Gay, 22 August 1914, Lizard Lick, North Carolina, USA, d. 3 December 1989. After local education, Gay attended the State University and graduated in 1935. He first worked as a salesman in Washington DC, but in the early 40s, his interest in radio led to his joining the Department of Agriculture and becoming involved with itsNational Farm And Home Hour. In 1946, he became the presenter ofTown And Country, a one-hour country music show on WARL Arlington, Virginia, working only for a percentage of the advertising monies, but he was shrewd enough to register ‘Town And Country’ as a trademark. Listener reaction soon saw the show increased to three hours and renamedGay Time. In 1947, after promoting two major sell-out country shows starring Eddy Arnold, Gay moved more towards promotional work. His friendship with Jim Denny, a fellow promoter but also the manager of the Grand Ole Opry, led to Gay promotingOpry acts and quickly establishing himself as a major promoter. His shows gained network coverage on radio and television and he was never short of promotional gimmicks. He arranged train tours to Nashville, river cruises on the Potomac, country concerts starring the major acts at many prestigious ‘intown’ venues and even Special Service Road Shows, which toured to US bases overseas. In the late 50s, an alcohol problem ended his marriage and saw him disappear for a time when he entered Alcoholics Anonymous.
In 1961, he remarried and with his wife’s financial help, he relaunched his promotional activities. He promoted major radio and television shows, includingTown And Country Jamboree, Town And Country Time andCountry Style. His investments, at one time, made him the owner of nine radio stations. He was involved in the discovery of Patsy Cline and promoting Roy Clark and Jimmy Dean to major stardom. In 1960, after failing to become the Governor of the Virgin Islands, he relocated to McLean, Virginia. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall Of Fame in 1980. His plaque notes that he was an advisor to five Presidents and states: ‘His pioneer use of the term country music and registered trademark ‘Town And Country’ were instrumental in bringing country music ‘uptown’’. He has served as founding President of the Country Music Association and President of the Country Music Foundation’. Gay died of cancer, at his home in McLean, in 1989.