Keith Bilbrey

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Keith Bilbrey
Born(1952-08-14) August 14, 1952 (age 62)
Cookeville, Tennessee
ShowLarry's Country Diner
Station(s)RFD-TV
Time slotThursday 8pm ET, Friday 9am ET, Saturday 11pm ET
ShowMusic City Roots
Station(s)WHPY-FM and streamed live on the internet www.musiccityroots.com
Time slot7-9pm CT Wednesday
Previous show(s)WSM and the Grand Ole Opry
WebsiteMusic City Roots Larrys Country Diner Classic Country Today Nashville Country Cookin'
 
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Keith Bilbrey
Born(1952-08-14) August 14, 1952 (age 62)
Cookeville, Tennessee
ShowLarry's Country Diner
Station(s)RFD-TV
Time slotThursday 8pm ET, Friday 9am ET, Saturday 11pm ET
ShowMusic City Roots
Station(s)WHPY-FM and streamed live on the internet www.musiccityroots.com
Time slot7-9pm CT Wednesday
Previous show(s)WSM and the Grand Ole Opry
WebsiteMusic City Roots Larrys Country Diner Classic Country Today Nashville Country Cookin'

Keith Bilbrey (born August 14, 1952) is an American country music disc jockey and television host in Nashville, Tennessee. He served as a disc jockey at Nashville's WSM, as an announcer on the Grand Ole Opry, and as the host of TNN’s Grand Ole Opry Live.

Early career[edit]

Keith Bilbrey was born in Cookeville, Tennessee to Leo and Ethel Bilbrey, the youngest of three children.[1] His love affair with radio began in 4th grade and he got his broadcast license at the age of 14.[2] In 1968, Bilbrey went to work at Cookeville’s WHUB, soon after his 16th birthday.[3] He remained at WHUB for six years.[4]

WSM and the Grand Ole Opry (1974–2009)[edit]

In 1974, Bilbrey moved to Nashville to begin working for WSM, first as a substitute announcer for WSM-FM and then as a full-time disc jockey on WSM’s FM and AM stations.[5] Throughout his career, Bilbrey worked every single time slot at WSM and became an iconic voice in the modern history of the station and fan favorite.[6]

In 1982, Bilbrey began announcing on the Grand Ole Opry, joining a long tradition of legendary Opry announcers, including George D. Hay, Grant Turner, Ralph Emery, and Hairl Hensley.[7] When The Nashville Network (TNN) began televising a thirty minute portion of the show in 1985, the young announcer became the first host of Grand Ole Opry Live.[8] Bilbrey hosted Opry Live, along with the Opry warm-up show, Backstage Live, until TNN stopped airing the show in 2000.

Bilbrey’s affiliation with the Opry earned him additional opportunities in the world of country music television and radio. Starting in 1982, Bilbrey was the announcer for Ernest Tubb's Midnight Jamboree, a post that Bilbrey held until Tubb's death in 1984.[9] Bilbrey was the announcer for CBS’s telecast of the Country Music Association (CMA) Award Show for three years, as well as the CMA’s 35th Anniversary Special. Bilbrey continues to announce the non-televised portion of the CMA Award Show. He also served as emcee for a variety of television specials, including the TNN/Music City News Awards, An Evening of Country Greats, Honky-Tonkin’ at the Wildhorse, which featured Aaron Tippin and Marty Stuart, and the American Federation of Musicians’ 100th Anniversary Show. Bilbrey also played the role of historian for the A&E biographies of Buck Owens and Ronnie Milsap. In 2006, Bilbrey received the prestigious March of Dimes Air Awards Lifetime Achievement Award.

WSMV-TV and the Ralph Emery Show (1976–2000)[edit]

In addition to his career in country music, Bilbrey spent twenty-four years as an air personality for WSM-TV, NBC’s Nashville affiliate.[10][11] Bilbrey served the majority of this period as the weatherman on the nation’s top-rated local morning show, The Ralph Emery Show, which featured live music and skits in addition to the traditional news, weather, and sports.[12]

Leaving WSM[edit]

In March 2009, Bilbrey was unexpectedly let go from WSM and the Grand Ole Opry.[13][14] The news drew a great deal of local coverage, including numerous articles in The Tennessean and daily stories on the local news affiliates, as well as anger from many fans, who circulated a petition that collected over 4,000 signatures. According to The Tennessean, the decision to release Bilbrey was simply a matter of cutting costs with advertising revenue slumping.[15] At Bilbrey’s last Opry show, many performers dedicated songs to him, and Marty Stuart brought Bilbrey to the front of the stage for a final word and a standing ovation.[16]

Present career[edit]

Bilbrey is also the announcer on "Music City Roots", a live weekly radio and TV show live from The Factory in Nashville on Wednesday nights (www.musiccityroots.com). He is also currently the announcer and Larry's sidekick on the highly rated "Larry's Country Diner" TV series on RFD-TV (www.larryscountrydiner.com) and co-hosts "Nashville Country Cookin'" (www.nashvillecountrycookin'.tv) with his wife, Emy Joe, on the Rural TV network. Keith currently has a syndicated radio show, Classic Country Today.[17] The weekly, two-hour program can be heard on approximately 175 stations nationwide. Bilbrey is now pursuing a variety of business opportunities and writing his memoir.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Sarah W. Holloway, Cookeville Voices, 2007, 18.
  2. ^ Holloway, 18.
  3. ^ Melissa Webb, “Keith Bilbrey, Keeper of Country Music Legend,” Franklin Life, July 2008, 1.
  4. ^ Webb, 1.
  5. ^ Holloway, 18.
  6. ^ Webb, 5.
  7. ^ Webb, 5.
  8. ^ Webb, 5.
  9. ^ Webb, 5.
  10. ^ Holloway, 18.
  11. ^ Eagleville Times.
  12. ^ Webb, 5.
  13. ^ Peter Cooper, “Longtime Announcer Keith Bilbrey Exits WSM,” The Tennessean, March 12, 2009, <http://www.tennessean.com/article/20090312/TUNEIN/903120359/1005/ENTERTAINMENT> (accessed May 4, 2009).
  14. ^ “Longtime Opry Voice Let Go By Opry: Keith Bilbrey Served 34 Years On WSM Radio,” WSMV.com, March 11, 2009, <http://www.wsmv.com/news/18910016/detail.html> (accessed May 4, 2009).
  15. ^ Gail Kerr, “WSM Loses a Treasure With Ouster of Bilbrey,” The Tennessean, March 14, 2009, <http://tennessean.com/article/20090314/COLUMNIST0101/903140329> (accessed May 4, 2009).
  16. ^ “Country Music Legend Replaced By Cyber Disc Jockey,” Eagleville Times, Volume 7, Issue 7, April 1–15, 2009).
  17. ^ “Classic Country Today,” The Marketing Group, <http://www.themarketinggroup.com/aaa/NewEdition/OnePagers/Country/classicCountryToday.htm> (accessed May 4, 2009.