Who was/is Red Foley ? - CDs, Vinyl LPs, DVD and more

Red Foley

In his day, Marty Robbins was country's most versatile vocalist, with a mastery of varied genres few if any singers of succeeding generations have equaled.

He came through a door that Red Foley opened.

Shamefully overlooked in recent decades, Foley was the first country singer to explore his versatility in depth. Whatever the genre, he made it all seem simple. His skills were breathtaking for both their audacity and his comfort within each style. Nothing, it seemed, was beyond Foley's grasp, including the 30 boogies, blues, R&B, swing, Dixieland and even rockers that make up this collection, including a significant duet issued here for the first time.

Music always seemed easy for Foley; life was another matter. At his career peak, he ensnared himself in a morass of self-inflicted scandals and substance abuse. His friend Hank Williams rose fast and shined bright before his final flameout at 29. While Foley's rise was slower and he lived twice as long, as his troubles multiplied he became a tragic, even pitiful figure in later years.

Nicknamed for his full head of red hair, Clyde Julian Foley, born June 17, 1910 in Blue Lick, Kentucky, was the son of Ben and Kate Foley, who opened a general store in nearby Berea. He first played harmonica, augmented by a guitar Ben Foley took in on trade. Middle class by the day's standards, Ben was a fiddler; Kate was so taken with her son's singing she had him taking formal voice lessons. A track and basketball star at Berea High School, Red seemed almost destined to achieve. A scholarship to study voice at Kentucky's Georgetown College followed.

In 1931, during his second year of college, a talent scout from Chicago's WLS arrived in town. WLS was home to the 'National Barn Dance,' the first such live rural music radio show regularly broadcast in America. Before the 'Grand Ole Opry' became predominant, the 'Barn Dance' ruled. Offered $60 a week, Foley accepted and headed north. At WLS, Kentucky-born John Lair, the station musical director, placed Foley in the Cumberland Ridge Runners, working both the Saturday Night Barn Dance and weekly shows. In 1933 Foley recorded with them for the American Recording Company (ARC).

That same year, Red's wife Pauline died after giving birth to the couple's daughter Betty. He soon married fellow WLS performer Eva Overstake, vocalist with the popular 'Barn Dance' act The Three Little Maids. In 1933, he recorded for ARC as 'Rambling Red Foley.' Foley left in 1937 with Lair, who wanted to create an earthier type of program. The pair and comic Whitey Ford (the Duke of Paducah) created what became the 'Renfro Valley Barn Dance.' Its first local broadcast outlet was Cincinnati's 50,000 watt WLW, whose signal covered much of the continent. Foley worked on shows like 'Avalon Time' and with the Duke, 'Plantation Party,' broadcast nationally over NBC Radio.

In 1940 Red returned to Chicago, now the 'Barn Dance's'  undisputed star. Signed to Decca in 1941, at his first session he recorded Old Shep, his original ballad of a boy and his dog. It became a sentimental classic that touched many listeners, among them an impoverished ten year old Elvis Presley, who sang it at the 1945 Mississippi-Alabama State Fair and Dairy Show and in 1956, featured it on his second RCA Victor album.

Since the nationwide Recording Ban kept unionized musicians out of the studios, Foley didn't record again until 1944 but his first session produced a hit for the times: Smoke On The Water was a flagwaving fist-shaker predicting dire events for Germany and Japan and was #1 for 13 weeks. A 1945 cover of Bob Wills's Hang Your Head In Shame broke the Top Five. His second #1 covered Spade Cooley's hit Shame On You with the barely listenable Lawrence Welk orchestra.

Red Foley Sugarfoot Rag - Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight
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More information about Red Foley on
Red Foley: Old Shep, Recordgs. 1933-50 (6-CD)
Art-Nr.: BCD16759

Item in stock

6-CD box (LP-size) with 96-page hardcover book, 164 tracks. Playing time approx. 470 mns. The set contains the complete Country Recordings (1933 – 1950) 18 previously unissued performances The hardcover book contains many rare and previously unpublished...

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Red Foley: Sugarfoot Rag - Gonna Shake This Shack Tonight
Art-Nr.: BCD16578

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1-CD with 32-page booklet, 30 tracks, playing time 79:33 minutes. Marty Robbins , country's most versatile vocalist, came through the door that Red Foley opened.  From singing raw hillbilly on the WLS National Barn Dance he broadened into gospel, western...

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Red Foley: Stay A Little Longer (CD)
Art-Nr.: CDJAS3523

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​(2000/Jasmine) 26 tracks

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