b. Walter Ralph Emery, 10 March 1933, McEwen, Tennessee, USA. Emery became one of America’s most recognizable television celebrities owing to the 11 years that he spent as the host of the networkedNashville Now chat show. However, he had been involved with country music for many years before 1982, when he first appeared on that show. When aged four, he went to live with his grandparents, owing to his mother’s breakdown caused seemingly by his alcoholic father. He grew up a shy boy, preferring to be alone and found his greatest happiness in listening to the radio, especially the Grand Ole Opry broadcasts. He first worked as a cinema usher but eventually attended a special academy to learn broadcasting techniques. His first work was as a disc jockey at WTPR Paris, Tennessee, before moving to Nashville. He worked briefly at WMAK, prior to moving to WSM, where he presented an all-night show. Emery quickly established his programme by encouraging local artists to appear live and listeners to phone in. His show could be heard across almost 40 states and it ran for 15 years. In 1961, he achieved success as a recording artist when his Liberty Records recording of ‘Hello Fool’ (an answer song to Faron Young’s hit ‘Hello Walls’) reached number 4 in the US country charts. Between 1966 and 1969, Emery also presented an afternoon show called Sixteenth Avenue. When he had the Byrds on his radio show in 1968, he denounced them as hippies and in-between denouncing them and playing their records, he read out truck commercials. As a result of this the Byrds developed ‘Drug Store Truck Driving Man’, with the line ‘this one’s for you Ralph’, and further suggestions in the song of involvement in the Ku-Klux Klan. The song appeared on their pioneering country rock album Sweetheart Of The Rodeo in 1968. In 1972, he relinquished his all-night show to move to television, although he began a weekly country music radio show he calledTake Five For Country Music. HisRalph Emery Show soon established him as a major television host and led to his subsequent hosting of theNashville Now show. Other programmes that he presented includedPop Goes Country (a syndicated programme, 1974-80) andNashville Alive (a live country music series on WTBS television, 1981-82). At times, he added a comedy touch in his television programmes with the use of a hand puppet that he called Shotgun Red. Over the years, he has collected numerous awards, including in 1988, one by SESAC as Ambassador Of Country Music, and has made appearances in four country music films, Country Music On Broadway (1964), The Road To Nashville (1966), Nashville (1975) andThe Girl From Tobacco Row. In 1990, his popularity with country music artists for his services to their music saw 70 of them appear in a television special, Salute To Ralph Emery. He left his early morning television programme in 1991 and worked with writer Tom Clark in producing his autobiography. This proved so popular that a follow-up volume appeared in 1993. Between 1960 and 1964, he was married to country singer Skeeter Davis but the marriage ended in acrimony. This was later reactivated by comments made by Emery in his books and also by Davis in her autobiographyBus Fare To Kentucky.
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