Feb 13, 1919
Ernest Jennings Ford is born in Bristol, TN.

Begins his radio career at WOPI-AM in Bristol

Becomes an announcer at KXLA in Pasadena, CA

Signs on with Capitol Records

Performs at the Grand Ole Opry

Becomes the first country singer to perform at London’s Palladium

Early 1955
Ernie first performs “Sixteen Tons.”

Sept 21, 1955
“Sixteen Tons” is recorded at Capitol’s studios in Hollywood.

Oct 17, 1955
“Sixteen Tons” is released. Within a few months, it sold around four million copies.

Oct 4, 1956
NBC’s The Ford Show premieres.

The Ford Show airs its final episode.

Wins a Grammy for his album Great Gospel Songs

Ford toured the Soviet Union with a stage show of Opryland USA performers, including Roy Clark.

Awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom

Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame

Oct 17, 1991
Tennessee Ernie Ford passes away in Reston, Virginia.

February 13, 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of Tennessee Ernie Ford’s birthday, and his hometown has come together to celebrate that milestone with a variety of events and activities, including a musical performance, a conversation with Ford's son Buck, a special church service, show screenings, a commemorative stamp, and birthday cake!

Born in Bristol, Ernest Jennings Ford was known by many names throughout his life: “Ernest” by his mother, “Ernie” by his relatives, friends, and neighbors, and “The Ol’ Pea-Picker” as a public stage name during the 1950s, based on his catchphrase “Bless your little pea-pickin’ hearts.” But he was most well known as “Tennessee Ernie Ford” – a tribute to his Tennessee home and heritage.

Ford’s career spanned radio, recording, and television, resulting in three stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and numerous other awards and honors, including a Grammy and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His song “Sixteen Tons” – a particular favorite of fans and music historians – was an unexpected hit on the pop charts in 1955 and a defining moment in his career. With Ford snapping his fingers and a unique clarinet-driven pop arrangement by Ford's music director, Jack Fascinato, "Sixteen Tons" spent ten weeks at number one on the country charts and seven weeks at number one on the pop charts. In an interview in 1990, Ford noted that this record had sold over twenty million copies, and in 1998 his version of the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and in 2015 it was honored by being included in the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.

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Tennessee Ernie Ford
Upcoming Events
Tennessee Ernie Ford - Isolated


Birthplace of Country Music Museum, upstairs atrium

The Birthplace of Country Music Museum will have several objects, photographs, and items of memorabilia on loan from Tennessee [...]


Anderson Street United Methodist Church

Anderson Street United Methodist Church, which Tennessee Ernie Ford and his parents attended for many years, will conduct a [...]


Tennessee Ernie Ford Birthplace

The Bristol Historical Association’s Tennessee Ernie Ford Birthplace on Anderson Street will be open for tours Sunday afternoon from [...]


Performance Theater, Birthplace of Country Music Museum

On Tuesday, February 12 at 7:00 p.m., the Birthplace of Country Music Museum and the Bristol Historical Association will co-host [...]


Post Office

On Wednesday, February 13, the Tennessee Ernie Ford Commemorative Stamps can be taken to the Post Office on 6th [...]


Paramount Bristol

On Ernie’s actual 100th birthday, Wednesday, February 13, the Paramount Bristol will host an afternoon of Tennessee Ernie Ford [...]


Performance Theater, Birthplace of Country Music Museum

During Radio Bristol’s Farm and Fun Time on Thursday, February 14, the “Heirloom Recipe” segment will be based on a Tennessee Ernie [...]