Emery’s passing was first reported on Saturday (Nov. 15) by the Tennessean, with a statement from his family that said he “passed away peacefully” that morning at Tristar Centennial Medical Center in Nashville. His cause of death has not been revealed.
Emery, born in 1933 in McEwen, Tenn., had a successful career in the country music industry for more than 50 years, working in radio before shifting to television. Known as the dean of country music broadcasters, he was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Country Music Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 1989.
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He notably interviewed a number of country music stars as the host of the Nashville Network talk show Nashville Now over the course of a decade, from 1983 to 1993.
Throughout the years, Emery also hosted the syndicated TV series Pop Goes the Country (1974 to 1980) and the live show Nashville Alive on WTBS (1981 to 1983). From 2007 to 2015, he hosted the weekly program Ralph Emery Live on satellite and cable television channel RFD-TV.
In 1961, he charted with a song that he recorded. “Hello Fool” peaked at No. 4 on Billboard‘s Hot Country Songs chart. It was an answer song to Faron Young’s country classic “Hello Walls” (an early hit for songwriter Willie Nelson).
On Saturday, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young said, “Ralph Emery’s impact in expanding country music’s audience is incalculable. On radio and on television, he allowed fans to get to know the people behind the songs. Ralph was more a grand conversationalist than a calculated interviewer, and it was his conversations that revealed the humor and humanity of Tom T. Hall, Barbara Mandrell, Tex Ritter, Marty Robbins and many more. Above all, he believed in music and in the people who make it.”
“Ralph Emery was often better known than the stars he introduced to larger and larger audiences over the years as country music’s foremost ambassador,” Country Music Association CEO Sarah Trahern said in a statement. “Our format had no better voice over the years than Ralph, who treated country music and its stars — many of whom went on to become his friend — with the kind of dignity and respect they deserved for decades. As a Country Music Hall of Famer, he will be remembered among so many of the artists he supported throughout his career. On a personal note, I worked with Ralph for many years, and I always looked forward to his lively stories when we sat down for lunch. My thoughts are with his family today.”
Country music artists also paid tribute to Emery throughout the day, expressing their sadness over his death and sharing memories and photos.
“It breaks my heart to learn of Ralph Emery’s passing,” Loretta Lynn said on Twitter. “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. From WSM to Nashville Now, he was one of the best. He became a dear friend to me and Doo through the years and I’m gonna miss him. I wish we could sit down together for a talk just one more time. I’m sending all my love to Joy and his family.”
“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,” noted T. Graham Brown.
“Legendary @countrymusichof broadcaster, personality and dear long time friend RALPH EMERY has left us … rest easy Ralph,” the Oak Ridge Boys tweeted.
“Very sad to hear of the passing of our friend Ralph Emery,” wrote the Bellamy Brothers, seen posing in a snapshot with Emery.
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.
— Loretta Lynn (@LorettaLynn) January 15, 2022
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. pic.twitter.com/H378VslC86
— T. Graham Brown (@TGrahamBrown) January 15, 2022
— The Oak Ridge Boys (@oakridgeboys) January 15, 2022
Very sad to hear of the passing of our friend Ralph Emery pic.twitter.com/Yw5k9ekasP
— Bellamy Brothers (@BellamyBrothers) January 15, 2022