The song listed by some sources as the first million-selling country disc was recorded on November 7, 1949, by a 39-year-old Kentuckian called Clyde Julian Foley. He was a household name among country and western fans by his stage first name, Red, with a catalog of hits dating back to the last days of World War II. Foley’s career that had started some 20 years before this new landmark, “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy.”
Red Foley had first come to prominence way back in 1930 on the show National Barn Dance, then on another leading into wartime called the Renfro Valley Show. He was a member of the Grand Ole Opry for eight years from 1946, by which time he’d already scored his first country chart-toppers with “Smoke On The Water” (positively no relation to the Deep Purple song) and “Shame On You.”
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Another No.1, “Tennessee Saturday Night,” with the Cumberland Valley Boys, followed in 1947. Foley had many other popular releases on Decca for years to come, with the group, solo and collaborators such as Ernest Tubb, Evelyn Knight, and the Jordanaires.
He went into the studio on that early November day in 1949 with Owen Bradley, already one of the touchstone producers on the country scene, and guitarist Grady Martin to record “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy.” Written by Harry Stone and Jack Stapp, it was also recorded by Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra and many others.
The single entered the Billboard country listings in January 1950 at No.1, where it stayed for a mighty 13 weeks. Foley remained a country kingpin through the first half of the 1950s, with four more chart-toppers as a solo artist and another with “One By One,” among his many collaborations with another country trailblazer, Kitty Wells.
Buy or stream “Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy” on the compilation True Country.