The Duke of Paducah
Radio personality, Film actor
1901 – 1986
Who was The Duke of Paducah?
Ford was born in De Soto, Missouri, and was raised in Little Rock, Arkansas. He had only a third-grade education, so he joked that he came from the "university of hard knocks." He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1918. During his Navy service he learned to play the banjo and earned his nickname Whitey Ford because of his blonde hair. After his discharge in 1922, he joined McGinty's Oklahoma Cowboy Band, a Dixieland jazz group, as a banjo player. The group later changed its name to Otto Gray and his Oklahoma Cowboys and appeared in a few Hollywood film shorts. In 1929, Ford made his debut on WLS-AM in Chicago, Illinois.
In the early 1930s, while working at KWK in St. Louis, Ford took the stage name The Duke of Paducah. In 1937, he founded the Renfro Valley Barn Dance with Red Foley and John Lair. More radio work followed when he became a regular on Plantation Party, an NBC Radio show in Cincinnati and Chicago. From 1942–1959, Ford was a regular on the Grand Ole Opry where he became a member. He also hosted several popular radio shows broadcast nationally. In the mid-1950s, Ford toured with a troupe he called the Rock and Roll Revue. On several occasions, he shared a bill with Elvis Presley. In 1958, he began hosting a television show, Country Junction, on WLAC-TV in Nashville which ran for a few years.
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