This was called the Ford show because its sponsor was the Ford Motor Company, but most viewers called it the Ford show because of their fondness for the humor, warmth, and singing of the star Tennessee Ernie Ford. Tennessee Ernie was a man of great humility as well as being one of the most talented performers of his generation. He could have been a much bigger star than he was had he been vainglorious and hungered for fame and fortune, but Tennessee Ernie was at heart a down home body who did not enjoy the limelight all that much. He retired young from show business at the height of his popularity, though he did cut a gospel album from time to time. Like another great entertainer from a later time Flip Wilson, he simply packed up and went home, seldom to be seen in the public eye again.
Tennessee Ernie's music was special. He recorded many rockabilly songs such as "Shotgun Boogie" in the early 50's before anyone had ever heard of Elvis. He had one of the biggest hits of all times "Sixteen Tons," written by the guitar genius Merle Travis. Yet gospel was in his heart and soul. He always ended the Ford Show with a hymn, his deep melodious voice calling the angels from heaven. After retirement he only recorded gospel music, no secular songs of any kind.
Ernie was also a gifted comedian. One sketch from the Ford Show stays in my mind. This sketch was possibly the most popular one ever presented on his show. It was about a "jackass-a-gator" on the loose. Ernie piled joke on top of joke about the mythical creature, much of it ad libbed. At times his humor could be very racy for 1950's television. He always wore a mustache on the show. One time he attempted to steal a kiss from a pretty guest who said she had never kissed a man with a mustache before. Ernie's reply was, "A woman don't mind wading through a little brush when she's going to a picnic."
As Ernie always told his audience, "Bless your li'l pea pickin' hearts."
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