Dolly Parton’s ‘A Country Christmas Story’ Honors First African American Female Country Singer
Dolly Parton’s ‘A Country Christmas Story’ made it’s premiere with a little Country Music history lesson. The predicable sentimental Lifetime television movie tells the story of a bi-racial girl’s dream of becoming a Country Music star while honoring two long lost music legends.
Along the way, one of the lessons we learn is that Country Music had two very important, and often over-looked, African-American musicians that made important contributions to the white dominated Country Music genre. DeFord Bailey was a regular performer on the Grand Ole Opry. Starting just a few months after the radio show went on the air in 1925, he became Country Music’s first African-American star. Representing the ladies, Linda Martell became the first African-American woman to play the stage of the Grand Ole Opry in 1969.
Most everyone is aware that Charley Pride and Darius Rucker conquered the mainstream Country Radio charts and awards shows, but Bailey and Martell are less known by the Country Music Audience. Thanks to his contributions in the early days of the Opry, Bailey was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Meanwhile, Martell charted 3 Billboard Chart hits including ‘Color Him Father’ (No. 22) ‘Before The Next Teardrop Falls’ (No. 33) and ‘Bad Case of the Blues’ (No. 58). In addition, she appeared on the popular TV shows Hee Haw and The Bill Anderson Show.
Thanks to Dolly Parton and the writers/producers of ‘A Country Christmas Story’ for recognizing these outstanding musicians and acknowledging a topic in Country Music that’s been long over looked. By the way, the movie also stars Mary Kay Place, an actress/singer who hit the Country charts in 1976 with the Top 5 hit ‘Baby Boy,’ and pop R&B singer Brian McKnight.