August 13 – Vernon Dalhart


Texas native singer-songwriter/borrower Vernon Dalhart records ballad Wreck of the Old 97 for Edison. It becomes a runaway hit. (Victor # 19427) Aud

Dalhart moved to NYC in 1910 hoping for an opera career, then began recording in 1916. The song about the Sep 27 1903 derailment of a Southern Railway Fast Mail train near Danville, VA — written, it later turned out, by David Graves George — is country’s first million-seller and the first Southern song to become a national success, selling an unheard-of 7M copies.

In the same year he records The Prisoner’s Song; it spends 12 weeks at US#1 in 1925-26. Both songs will be covered by many later, major stars.

During the ’20s and ’30s, Dalhart uses over 100 pseudonyms to record thousands of 78-rpm singles. In 1981, Dalhart, shut down by The Depression and dead in 1948, is inducted into the Country HoF.

▸ MeFi: The first country star ▸ Dalhart discog

See also: Henry Whitter