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Did Red Foley Record Country’s First Country Million-Seller?

‘Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy’ is listed by some sources as the first country disc to sell a million.

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Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy

The song listed by some sources as the first million-selling country disc was recorded on 7 November 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 catalogue of hits dating back to the last days of World War II and a 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.’

Red Foley Chattanoogie Shoe Shine Boy

Another No. 1, ‘Tennessee Saturday Night,’ with the Cumberland Valley Boys, followed in 1947, as did several more Foley popular releases on Decca. 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 and 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.

‘Chattanooga Shoe Shine Boy’ is on the compilation True Country, can be bought here.which

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Lonnie L. Krause

    November 7, 2015 at 6:53 pm

    I remember the song well and Red Foley and The Ozark Jubilee!

  2. Gail

    November 7, 2015 at 9:54 pm

    Great music

  3. Don Erickson

    November 8, 2015 at 12:18 am

    From my understanding, the first million selling Country recording was Vernon Dalhart’s recording of “Wreck of Old 97” and “Prisoner’s Song” in 1924 for Victor. It sold several million copies.

  4. Darren Mullins

    December 19, 2018 at 3:21 pm

    Vernon Dalhart had the first million seller in country and Jimmie Rodgers scored a million seller with T For Texas, also known as Blue Yodel #1. Both of these happened more than 20 years before Red Foley sold a million.

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