Red Foley (1910–1968)

Updated: March 01, 2011

Country singer.

Born in Blue Lick, Kentucky, on June 17, 1910, Clyde Julian “Red” Foley grew up in the nearby town of Berea. He was essentially a self-taught harmonica and guitar player, but for a brief time he took singing lessons. Winning a 1927 statewide talent contest helped him get a voice scholarship to Georgetown College in Kentucky, where he received formal training in singing. In 1930 a talent scout from radio station WLS Chicago heard Foley and recruited him for the WLS Barn Dance, renamed the National Barn Dance in 1933 when it was picked up by NBC.

During his more than three decades in country music, Foley achieved many important accomplishments. Helping to found the Renfro Valley Barn Dance, he became the first country musician to have a network radio show, Avalon Time, and he hosted the first successful network country music television show, Ozark Jubilee, USA. Additionally, Foley helped expand Nashville’s nascent recording industry.

Foley’s recording career lasted from 1933 to 1968, during which time he had sixty-five chart entries, nine of which reached the number one position. His rendition of Thomas A. Dorsey’s “Peace in the Valley” was the first million-selling recording of a gospel song. Foley also scored with pop songs, bluesy numbers, boogies, and novelties. This diversity easily made him one of the most versatile of all country singers. His best remembered songs include “Old Shep” and “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy,” the latter a crossover hit topping both country and pop charts. Elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1967, Foley died while touring on September 19, 1968.

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Red Foley