Country Music Hall of Famer and Nashville broadcast legend, Ralph Emery, passed away January 14th at 88 years old, according to his family.
He was known for hosting the TNN primetime talk show Nashville Now, and did it his own way with an extremely unique and relaxed hosting style that allowed him to get candid with some of the biggest country stars on the planet, like Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn and Willie Nelson, just to name a few.
He did so much to bring country into the mainstream over his 50-year career, and was affectionately known as the “Dean of Country Music Broadcasters”.
After starting his radio career at WTPR in Paris, Tennessee, he took over the graveyard shift at Nashville’s WSM in 1957 when he was 24 years old. From 1961 to 1964, he was the voice of the Grand Ole Opry, too.
His family says he died peacefully of natural causes on Saturday morning at TriStar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, and is survived by his wife Joy, three sons, five grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements have yet to be announced.
He told The Tennessean a few years back that he credits much of his success to the freedom he had to play the music that spoke to him:
“I could play any record I wanted to play; nobody sat me down and told me what to play.”
Country Music Hall of Fame CEO, Kyle Young, released a statement about just how important Ralph’s contributions to country music over his decades-long career have been:
“Ralph Emery allowed fans to get to know the people behind the songs. His conversations revealed the humor and humanity of countless country music stars.
Above all, he believed in music and in the people who make it.”
In his Country Music Hall of Fame biography, Ralph says he just wanted to bring respect to the genre:
“I’ll be very content if people can look on me and say, ‘He brought dignity to his craft,’ or, ‘He brought class to the business.'”
I think it’s safe to say he accomplished that goal and a whole lot more.
Several country stars took to social media to speak about how much Ralph meant to them both professionally and personally, including Loretta Lynn, Tanya Tucker and Charlie Daniels, Jr. on behalf of his father:
On Ralph Emery On The Record back in 1995, he got a great story out of Waylon Jennings about his early days in Nashville living with Johnny Cash: