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TURNER, JESSE GRANDERSON [GRANT]

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TURNER, JESSE GRANDERSON [GRANT] (1912–1991). Grant Turner, disc jockey, was born Jesse Granderson Turner on May 17, 1912, near Abilene, Texas. Turner was a deejay for the Nashville radio station WSM's Grand Ole Opry for the majority of his career. His fascination with radio began in childhood, as he built and listened to his own radio crystal sets. He also developed a love for country music as a child, especially after seeing legendary country singer Jimmie Rodgersqv perform at a local radio station. Turner did his first radio announcing in 1928 on KFYO in Abilene, and he also performed on the program Ike and His Guitar. He attended Hardin–Simmons University in Abilene and studied journalism, worked for local newspapers after graduation, and was later employed by the Dallas Morning News.

After Turner's early interest in radio resurfaced, he was able to work as an announcer for several Texas stations, including KFYO in Abilene, where, for a dollar a day, he hosted and performed songs under the nickname Ukulele Ike. He also worked at KRRV in Sherman and KFRO in Longview. In 1942 he left Texas for a job at WBIR in Knoxville, Tennessee, as an early-morning disc jockey. Soon after, he auditioned with WSM and moved to Nashville.

His new job started on June 6, 1944, D-Day, when the Allies invaded France. He was first assigned to announce one segment of the Grand Ole Opry that was sponsored by Crazy Water Crystals, but he was quickly asked by George D. Hay, Opry master of ceremonies and mentor to Turner, to assist with all segments. Turner's style has been described as easygoing and efficient, one that conveyed the friendly atmosphere of the Opry to all who listened. He was just as well-known for his commercials as he was for his introductions of the cast.

Known as the "Dean of the Opry Announcers," Turner was also thought of as the "Voice of the Grand Ole Opry" by millions of fans. He was inducted into the Country Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 1975 and into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1981. The Opry's rules stated that all employees had to retire at the age of sixty-five. However, Turner was so popular with listeners that the management allowed him to continue well beyond this. He died of heart failure on October 19, 1991, just hours after finishing a Friday evening broadcast, and was buried in Williamson Memorial Gardens, Franklin, Tennessee.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Country Radio Broadcasters, “DJ and Radio Hall of Fame: Grant Turner” (http://www.crb.org/hof/inductee.php?wid=89&orderNum=2), accessed December 3, 2011. Fred Dellar, Allan Cackett, and Roy Thompson, The Harmony Illustrated Encyclopedia of Country Music (London: Salamander Books, 1986). Ron Lackman, The Encyclopedia of American Radio: An A–Z Guide to Radio from Jack Benny to Howard Stern (New York: Facts on File, 2000). Ron Lackman, Same Time, Same Station (New York: Facts on File, 1996). Colin Larkin, ed., Encyclopedia of Popular Music, 3d ed. (New York: Muze, 1998). Abilene Reporter–News, July 4, 1999.

Amy Cockreham

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Amy Cockreham, "TURNER, JESSE GRANDERSON [GRANT]," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ftu34), accessed December 19, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on October 29, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.