UNCLE DAVE MACON
Uncle Dave Macon was the first superstar of the Grand Ole Opry and an immortal in the annals of old time and country music. In a continuously active entertainment career which spanned more than thirty years, the “Dixie Dewdrop” recorded nearly two hundred records and appeared at venues nationwide. In his time, Uncle Dave was the most popular country music star of the day, and his importance within the American entertainment industry cannot be overstated. Uncle Dave’s most significant and enduring legacy is the preservation of a huge collection of traditional and old time music from a bygone era, ever preserved in his many recordings. He was also vital to the development and maturation of the Grand Ole Opry and the country music industry. For all these reasons, Uncle Dave was often called the “Grand Ole Man of the Grand Ole Opry.”
Uncle Dave Macon began his music career in earnest in 1920 at age 50 after operating a freight hauling line for twenty years. He initially entertained at venues throughout Middle Tennessee, northern Alabama and southern Kentucky. Adorned in his plug hat, gates-ajar collar and gold teeth, Dave picked his banjo and sang of the people and country he loved, gathering much of his song material from personal experiences and local lore. His stage name was meant to endear him to fans as though he were a familiar, family member. Appearances at theaters in Nashville soon led to a major contract with Lowe’s Theaters, a national chain. By 1923 Uncle Dave was playing in theaters across the South and in the Northeast. The following year he traveled to New York City for his first recording session, and his increased popularity led to repeated recording sessions throughout the 1920s and 30s. Uncle Dave eventually recorded nearly two hundred songs. Among his most popular were: “Keep My Skillet Good and Greasy All the Time”; “Chewing Gum”; “Eleven Cent Cotton, Forty Cent Meat”; and “How Beautiful Heaven Must Be”.
WSM began broadcasting in the summer of 1925, and before the end of that year, the Grand Ole Opry took to the airwaves. Uncle Dave had played previously on WSM, but his debut on the Grand Ole Opry came in April 1926. For the next fifteen years, he was the undisputed headline act of the Opry and eventually played on the show continuously for twenty-six years. During a Grand Ole Opry gala event in 1950 in honor of the Opry’s twenty-fifth anniversary, Uncle Dave was honored as one of two principle founders of one of America’s most revered and longest running music programs. Uncle Dave died in March 1952 at age 81 and is buried in the historic Coleman Cemetery just east of Murfreesboro, Tennessee. – Mike Doubler