I was profoundly disappointed the “Country Music” documentary made no mention of Connie B. Gay. Ken Burns should fire his researchers.
No one did more to urbanize country music. In 1946, Connie took control of WARL Radio in Arlington, Virginia, and it became the first urban station to have a full-time country format.
He acquired 10 radio stations, playing country full time. He named his company “The Town and Country Network.”
Some of Connie’s early radio regulars were Grandpa Jones, Jimmy Dean, Billy Grammer, Clyde Moody and Hank Penny.
In 1947, he booked Eddie Arnold into DAR’s Constitution Hall for two shows. Both sold out, and thousands were turned away. He rented Constitution Hall for six months and had 26 consecutive sell-outs, still a record. NBC televised the shows.
The DAR refused to renew his contract. They didn’t want “hillbillies” using their sainted facility anymore. He used venues such as amusement parks, National Guard Armory, airports, wine arena, drive-in-theaters and the Watergate Concert at Lincoln Memorial.
Connie staged shows at D.C.’s Griffith Stadium featuring Ernest Tubb, Lefty Frizzell, Carl Smith, Hank Snow and Flatt & Scruggs. It set an attendance record. His shows sold out.
Elvis did a show for Connie on the Moonlight Cruise on the Potomac. Hank Williams also worked with him.
He made Jimmy Dean a star. He took Patsy Cline out of the beer joints and made her the featured singer on his TV show. Roy Clark and George Hamilton IV were regulars on the show.
Connie called the genre “country music,” and it stuck. He was the founder and first president of the Country Music Association and co-founder of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and he created the Country Music Foundation.
He was an adviser to at least three president and organized USO tours to entertain our troops overseas.
Connie was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1980, along with Johnny Cash, and snubbed by Ken Burns.