The broadcaster often called “The Johnny Carson of Country” died Saturday in Nashville.
Throughout the weekend, Ralph Emery, the influential TV and radio host who became as famous as many of the country music stars he interviewed, was celebrated by artists whose lives he touched.
The Country Music Hall of Famer was 88 when he passed away Saturday in Nashville. Among those paying respects to the beloved broadcaster:
Loretta Lynn: “It breaks my heart to learn of Ralph Emery’s passing. Ralph and I go way back. He was a Nashville original and you cannot underestimate the role he played in the growth and success of country music. He made you feel at ease and interviewed everyone just like an old friend.”
Tanya Tucker: “I’m heartbroken about losing Mr. Country Music & good friend Ralph Emery… He was so good to me throughout my career and a big part of it… we're losing so many warriors that really held our music together… such a sad day. My thoughts, my prayers, my Love goes out to his family.”
Joe Bonsall of The Oak Ridge Boys: “We are saddened this week at the losses of Dallas Frazier, Jerry Crutchfield, and now, Ralph Emery. Ralph was not only a legendary personality but a dear friend who meant so much to The Oak Ridge Boys’ career. If Ralph liked you … EVERYONE liked you! it would seem a lot of folks are going home these days so CELEBRATE LIFE FRIENDS. Life is God’s greatest gift this side of salvation. Goodbye Ralph, Jerry, and Dallas. See you at the House.”
Ricky Skaggs: “I was very saddened to hear of Ralph Emery’s passing. He did more to promote country music than anyone I know. First of all, his late night radio show on WSM was heard from coast-to-coast and border-to-border, but his Nashville Now television show on TNN was the biggest boost country music ever had. People were buying satellite dishes all across North America just so they could watch Ralph’s TV show. All of us wanted to be on his show, and if you were lucky enough to be asked to host the show, which I did quite a few times, that was a big deal. He was my friend, he loved my family, and we all loved him. Gone but never forgotten. Thanks Ralph.”
Ray Stevens: “One of the great men in the Nashville music business has passed away. Rest in peace, Ralph Emery. My good friend!”
Larry Gatlin: “My old friend, and he was a friend, Ralph Emery, was a real piece of work, as we’d say in Texas. Not long after I left Texas and hit Nashville, Ralph took Dottie West’s advice/hint/order to put this upstart Gatlin boy on his TV show. Well, old Ralph did just that and that Gatlin boy's life was forever changed. A couple of days ago, Ralph found out just how much he meant to me and a jillion other upstarts like me. Thanks Ralph. See ya when I do. And my condolences to you, Joy. You were and still are the 'JOY' of Ralph’s life. Keep the faith."
Jeff Cook, Teddy Gentry and Randy Owen of Alabama: “We admired Ralph Emery, the voice and face of country music for the last five decades. He was always a gentleman to us with great respect. We salute a true legend. We will miss you.”
Ronnie Milsap: “Ralph Emery understood artists as human beings, and if Ralph liked you, chances are you were gonna make it in Nashville. I loved him on WSM, and every TV show he ever had on the air.”
John Anderson: “Ralph was one of the best friends country music ever had. He loved the music but also brought to life the stories surrounding the singers and the songs through his interviews and TV programs. He really helped take our format into people’s living rooms and broaden the fan base with integrity for the art and humor.”
Doug Gray of The Marshall Tucker Band: “We always loved appearing on Ralph’s TV show. One of my favorite memories of him was interviewing Toy Caldwell. He always wanted him to sing ‘This Ole Cowboy.’ The lyrics say, ‘This won’t be the first time this ole cowboy spent the night alone.’ Now, Ralph will never be alone. Today and for eternity. May God bless you!”
Mike McGuire of Shenandoah: “Sad to hear the news of the passing of country music legend Ralph Emery today. Ralph was kind enough to let Shenandoah play on not only his Nashville Now show on TNN but also his early morning show on WSM TV. He was always kind to us and was a big supporter of our career. He was that way with a lot of new country music acts. We are sad to see him go. RIP Ralph. We will miss you.”
Lorre Morgan: “Ralph was like a father to me. When my dad died, he took me under his wing. He was hard on me when he needed to be and very praising of me when he thought I deserved it. He was a great friend and a lover of real artistry of any genre of music. If Ralph approved you, you were in and respected. I will miss my good friend and all the laughs. I love you, Ralph.”
Collin Raye: “The country music world has suffered a great loss today with the news of Ralph Emery’s passing. No one ever in our history promoted our music and country music artists as faithfully and generously for as long as Ralph. He made a huge difference in my career throughout the ‘90s, as well as every single artist who came on the scene. He truly crossed over country music into television and we all benefited greatly. People trusted Ralph’s opinion. Viewers were drawn to him and comfortable with him. He will remain an icon in our business. And even more importantly, he was a very nice, kind man. There will never be another. I’m quite confident he is with the greats from the past as we speak. He’s laughing and telling road stories. We will miss you, my friend.”
In 1990, The Nashville Network aired an All-Star Tribute to Ralph Emery hosted by Johnny Cash and Barbara Mandrell. Up until the opening minutes, Emery thought the program would be an All-Star Tribute to Country Music. He had no idea he would be honored by such notables as Randy Travis, Alabama, Glen Campbell, Roy Clark, Anne Murray, Ricky Skaggs, The Oak Ridge Boys, June Carter Cash, Larry Gatlin and the Gatlin Brothers, Ricky Van Shelton, Tanya Tucker, Lee Greenwood, Chet Atkins, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Lorrie Morgan, Charlie Daniels, Minnie Pearl, Roy Acuff, Marie Osmond — and President George H.W. Bush.
Leroy Van Dyke: “Ralph Emery was, for decades, an encyclopedia of country music and an authentic voice for country music. He will be missed.”
Don McLean: “Ralph Emery was my friend. I did his show many times and he was kind enough to send me a Christmas card every year. He had that special country music knowledge and that voice. Ralph was to country music what Mel Allen was to the Yankees.”
Sam Moore: “I am heartbroken to learn that the man who believed in me when I wasn’t even sure I believed in myself after my partner and I had parted company and I found myself a solo artist has been called home by the Lord. Ralph Emery was so good to me I adored him and I know that it was mutual. He brought me to Nashville to appear on Nashville Now so many times long before and of course after I’d recorded ‘Rainy Night In Georgia’ with Conway Twitty. Ralph believed in me, he believed in my talent, and he presented me always in the best light, giving me the opportunity to shine. Gratitude, honor, and love Ralph, forever and always.”
T.G. Sheppard: “The passing of my long-time friend Ralph Emery is devastating. His friendship to me and his contribution to country music will never be surpassed. It’s going to be tough not having him to turn to for advice. He was so kind to help guide me throughout my career as a friend and artist. Just knowing him made me a better person. My prayers go out to Joy and the family during this very sad time. R.I.P. my dear friend.”
Janie Fricke: “It was great leaders like Ralph Emery who helped build careers for so many of us performers. May God Rest his soul.”
T. Graham Brown: “Ralph Emery just crossed over the river Jordan. If it were not for his generosity, I wouldn't have had a career. He had me on his hugely popular show, Nashville Now, 56 times. The importance of that exposure to millions of country music fans cannot be overstated. He was a dear friend and we shared many good times together. He helped countless artists and was a giant figure in country music history. Sheila and I loved him very, very much and will miss him deeply. What a guy!!”
Rhonda Vincent: “For many years, Ralph Emery was the heartbeat of country music. He hosted Nashville Now on The Nashville Network. That’s where I came to know him best. He featured the best of the best on his show. Also hosted a morning show in Nashville. His passing is a great loss to the country music community, and he will long be remembered as the host of Nashville for many, many years.”
Jeff Carson: “I remember when I first got signed to Curb Records, I did The Ralph Emery Show. He was filming it at the Opryland Hotel where I had played prior to getting the deal. I’ll never forget it. I sat between Ralph Emery and Ray Price. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather. I have missed hearing his voice on a regular basis for years. He will be sorely missed.”
Kelly Lang: “I am heartbroken to hear about the passing of my dear friend and father figure Ralph Emery. I will miss him so very much, but I know in my heart he is in a better place. Thank you Ralph for believing in me and playing such an important role in my life. Rest in peace.”
Tim Atwood: “Ralph Emery was a big part of my life. I played the Ralph Emery morning show for 14 years, and I later played piano on TNN's Nashville Now as a regular sub for Jerry Whitehurst. Ralph broke records and made stars on WSM radio; then he introduced those same stars to a television audience and in the process became a household name himself. Ralph Emery was country music! I send my condolences and prayers to his wife Joy and the rest of his family and friends.”
Johnny Lee: “Ralph Emery was truly a one of a kind and legend in country music. Many artists owe their start to him, myself included. I will never forget his kindness and prayers to his family.”
Lulu Roman of Hee Haw: “Talk about someone who makes a profound effect on your life, not only by his words but by his actions as well. He was sneaky. He would sneak up and be there for you when you least expected it. He was a friend and will forever be missed.”
Shane Owens: “Ralph Emery was a Country music Hall of Famer and broadcast star. I had the opportunity to meet him and I’m saddened by his passing. We lost another true legend!”
JD Shelburne: “Prayers to the family of the legendary Ralph Emery. One of the most iconic voices on the national airwaves. Sad to hear the news this morning from Nashville. Remember watching Ralph with my grandmother growing up. What a great life and career. He will be missed.”
Jason Byrd: “Ralph was such a great guy. I remember when we first met. It was my first time appearing on Nashville Now. He was extremely kind to me and made me feel right at home. Ralph loved traditional country music and you could tell that he really enjoyed what he did. He will truly be missed but, he’s getting one heck of a show in heaven by all of his friends who went before him.”
Moe Bandy: “I am so devastated. He was such an important figure in our music. I am so blessed that I got to be one of his many friends. Rest in peace, my friend.”