NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Ralph Emery, who became known as the doyen of country music broadcasters for more than half a century on both radio and television, died Saturday, his family said. He was 88 years old.
Emery died peacefully of natural causes, surrounded by his family, at Tristar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville, his son, Michael, told The Associated Press. He had been hospitalized for a week.
Beginning his career at small radio stations, then moving to television as well, Emery was probably best known for his work on the cable channel Nashville Network. From 1983 to 1993, he hosted the channel’s live variety show “Nashville Now”, earning him the title “Cable TV’s Johnny Carson” for his interview style. From 2007 to 2015, Emery hosted a weekly show on RFD-TV, a satellite and cable television channel.
He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
“Ralph Emery’s impact on expanding the audience for country music is incalculable,” Kyle Young, CEO of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, said in a statement on Saturday. “On radio and TV, he let fans know the people behind the songs. Ralph was more of a great conversationalist than a calculated interviewer, and it was his conversations that revealed the humor and humanity of Tom T. Hall, Barbara Mandrell, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins and many others. Above all, he believed in the music and the people who make it.
Born March 10, 1933, in McEwen, Tennessee, Emery attended Nashville Broadcasting School and got his first radio job at WTPR in Paris, Tennessee. He then worked at radio stations in Louisiana and the Nashville area before signing to WSM of Nashville in 1957.
His autobiography, “Memories,” was released in 1991, followed by “More Memories” in 1993, and “The View From Nashville: On the Record with Country Music’s Greatest Stars” in 1998.
Emery hosted “Pop Goes the Country,” a syndicated television show, from 1974 to 1980. From 1981 to 1983, he was the host of “Nashville Alive,” on cable station WTBS.
On the variety show “Nashville Now,” Emery sat at a desk, interviewing country music stars and others, much like Carson chatted with celebrities on NBC’s “Tonight.” .
Emery also briefly had his own recording career in the early 1960s. “I’m not a singer and that was one of the major problems”, he confessed in a 1990 interview.
Emery’s death was first reported by The Tennessean.
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