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Subject: Archive: Tennessee Ernie Ford, Oct. 17, 1991

Singer, TV host
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Date Posted: Thursday, October 17, 03:38:36pm

RESTON, Va. - Tennessee Ernie Ford, whose bass voice boomed out on the multimillion-selling record "Sixteen Tons" and on his TV variety show spanning two decades, died today after a long illness. He was 72.

Claudia Smith, spokeswoman for HCA Reston Hospital, said Ford had suffered from a lengthy liver disease but did not disclose the nature of the ailment.

Ford became ill Sept. 28 at Washington Dulles International Airport as he was about to fly home to San Francisco after attending a White House dinner.

Ford was host of a nighttime variety show on NBC from 1956 to 1961, then had a daytime program on ABC from 1962 to 1965.

He recorded more than 80 albums during a singing career of more than 40 years. He was especially known for his gospel music.

The mustachioed performer with a mischievous grin and homespun humor said in a 1990 interview that he believes he came across to the TV audience as a loving member of the family. "They felt like when the time came for my show, they didn't have to change clothes or put sterling on the table," Ford said.

He said "Sixteen Tons" had sold 20 million copies worldwide. It was a tribute to blue-collar workers, especially coal miners, with lines like "I owe my soul to the company store" and "another day older and deeper in debt."

"Every artist dreams of a song like this," Ford said. "It's an everlasting hit. . . . It caught on to every working man in the world, I guess."

Ford sold more than 24 million gospel music albums.
He was married for almost 50 years to Betty Heminger, who died in the late 1980s. They had two sons. Ford later remarried.

He was born Ernest Jennings Ford in Bristol, Tenn. He worked as a radio announcer and also studied voice at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music.

In World War II, he flew bombers for the Army Air Corps. He was signed by Capitol Records in 1949 and recorded for the label for 28 years.

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"Sixteen Tons"Tennessee Ernie FordThursday, October 17, 03:40:12pm

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