Roy Acuff. Elvis Presley. Bob Wills. George Strait. That’s pretty good company. All four of these men have, rightfully, earned the nickname “The King.” And then there’s that other guy.
You can compare numbers, records, weeks spent at the top of the chart-but it’s really the things you can’t measure that make these artists kings. Consider the cultural impact that they have had on music, America and the world. From Atlanta to Austin and beyond, country music is at the heart of what makes this nation great, and these men are what makes country music great. What would Las Vegas be like without Elvis? What would Texas be like without Bob Wills? These are the questions that make these artists legends.
The Case for Roy Acuff
It pretty much all comes down to firsts here. Roy Acuff started playing the Grand Ole Opry in 1938 and was invited back on a near-weekly basis. But up until then, the Opry was primarily an instrumental deal; vocals were often drowned out and overlooked. Enter Acuff.
He reared back and belted it out. He himself claimed that he liked to think he brought voice to the Opry, and thus country music. By then he had recorded various hit songs and had already earned himself the nickname “The King of Country Music.”
Then he went on to found Acuff-Rose Publishing Company in Nashville in 1942. Acuff and partner Fred Rose published a young man named Hank Williams, which would forever change the direction of country music. Meanwhile, the success of their company would forever ensure that Nashville remained the home of country music.
In 1962, Acuff was the first living member inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. He had sold 25 million records by this point, including more than any other country artist in both the ’30s and ’40s.