b. James Rea Denny, 28 February 1911, Buffalo Valley, Tennessee, USA, d. 27 August 1963, Nashville, Tennessee, USA. In 1922, when the family ran into hard times, Denny was sent to live with an aunt in Nashville. He delivered papers and worked as a telegram boy for Western Union until, at the age of 16, he found a job in the mailroom of the National Life and Accident Insurance Company who owned WSM, the station responsible for the Grand Ole Opry. By sheer hard work, Denny worked his way up the company ladder to become a department head. Greatly interested in theOpry, he first worked there at weekends and became involved with various functions. During World War II, he looked afterOpry concessions. By 1946, he had become the head of the WSM Artists’ Service Bureau and booker for theOpry acts; the following year he was theOpry’s manager. In 1953, while still manager, he turned to music publishing. He formed Driftwood with Carl Smith and Troy Martin, Cedarwood with Webb Pierce, and his own Jim Denny Music (he later also owned three Georgia radio stations with Pierce). It was Denny who supposedly told Elvis Presley to go back to driving a truck after the singer’s forgettable debut on the Opry in 1954, a comment that allegedly had Presley crying all the way back to Memphis. Denny could at times be blunt and not everyone appreciated his manner. By 1956, Cedarwood had become an important company and Jack DeWitt, the President of WSM, feeling Denny’s outside interests were detrimental to theOpry, replaced him as manager with Walter D. Kilpatrick. Denny immediately set up the Jim Denny Artists Bureau, which quickly acquired not only theOpry’s members but other artists who, aware of Denny’s abilities, were glad to have him represent them. Denny had become one of the most powerful men in Nashville and is quoted as saying his sacking from theOpry was the best break of his life. In the early 60s, ill health slowed him down but he continued to be an important figure in the music industry until his death, in Nashville, on 27 August 1963. His place as head of Cedarwood was taken by his son, William (b. 25 August 1935, Nashville, Tennessee, USA), who was also an important figure in the industry and the youngest President of the Country Music Association. In 1966, Denny was elected to the Country Music Hall Of Fame for being, as the plaque stated, ‘a leader in the publishing, management and broadcasting fields’.
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