Legendary country music broadcaster, Ralph Emery, passed away from natural causes on Saturday, January 15th, at the age of 88.
Emery was born in McEwen, Tennessee, in 1933 and after attending broadcasting school, got his first job in radio at the WTPR station in Paris, Tennessee. He worked at various jobs in Louisiana and Tennessee before signing on at WSM in Nashville in 1957, home of the Grand Ole Opry. After WSM, he hosted a syndicated television show called “Pop Goes the Country” until 1980, followed by several other shows, including “Nashville Now,” where he interviewed the top country music stars of the day while sitting behind a desk.
There will forever be a connection between Emery and the Historic Gatlinburg Inn because he first introduced the world to the classic song, Rocky Top, written here by Boudleaux and Felice Bryant in 1967. The song appeared as a B-side on a record by the Osbourne Brothers. Emery was the first DJ to play the song, and his listeners loved it. It went into regular rotation on WSM and became an anthem recorded by countless artists, a Tennessee state song, and the fight song of the University of Tennessee.
Emery also introduced the Judds to the world, calling them “the Soap Sisters” on a morning television show. Emery had an outstanding ear for emerging talent and great songs. What made him great, however, was his ability to engage his audience with his conversational style. It was like he was talking to a member of his own family.
The world, and certainly the world of country music, is better for Emery having been a part of it, and we are grateful for the connection that will always exist between Emery and that famous songwriting couple that checked into the Historic Gatlinburg Inn all those years ago.