(Curly Fox Photo Courtesy of Cunnyngham Studio Archives)
Rhea County Resident Curly Fox Champion Fiddler
Curly Fox was once described as more than just another Grand Ole Opry old-timer; he was probably the most influential fiddler in country music history, and one of the most popular entertainers of his time.
The fiddler, who got his nickname from his long wavy hair, has played in the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, Constitution Hall in Washington D.C., the Opry’s historic Ryman Auditorium and the present-day Grand Ole Opry House.
The most popular Curly Fox tunes have been “Listen to the Mockingbird,” “Black Mountain Rag,” and “Old Gray Mule”.
Famed violinist Fritz Kreisler, after hearing Fox’s fiddling during the “Mockingbird,” said, “What a waste of talent.”
The son of a barber, Armin L. Fox known as Curly Fox was born in Graysville, Tennessee, and with the help of his father he was playing in old time medicine shows by the time he was 13. He played with legendary old time string bands like the Skillet Lickers, The Roane County Ramblers, and the Carolina Tar Heels. During the Depression, Fox led his own band, the Tennessee Firecrackers, on WSB in Atlanta.
Curly met Texas Ruby Owens when he joined the Opry in the late 1930s. In 1939, they married, forming one of the most popular husband and wife teams in country music.
Fox and Texas Ruby had an NBC radio show from 1940 to 1944, which originated from WLW in Cincinnati. It was one of the first country music network shows.
In 1946, at the request of king and queen of Greece, President Harry S. Truman asked Curly and Texas Ruby to give a command performance.
In 1948, Curly and Ruby moved to Houston, Texas, where they remained for over a decade, working in radio and television.
In 1960, the pair returned to work on the Grand Ole Opry, but Ruby often fell ill, and Fox frequently performed solo.
An album was recorded together for Starday Records in 1963, but 72 hours after the recording session ended, while Fox was appearing on the Opry, a fire broke out in the couple’s home and Ruby was killed. It was grim month in Opry history, as Ruby was the fifth Grand Ole Opry star to die that month, following Patsy Cline, Hawkshaw Hawkins, Cowboy Copas, and Jack Anglin.
After her death, Fox played solo for several years, but eventually moved to Chicago to live with family. In his olden age, he sporadically performed live; he returned to Graysville in the mid-1970s, performing with a local bluegrass outfit before retiring.
Curly Fox died in November 1995, at the age of 85, he was laid to rest in the Pleasant View Cemetery in Graysville, Tennessee.
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