Hairl Hensley, Veteran Grand Ole Opry Announcer, Dead at 81

Disc jockey and former Grand Ole Opry announcer Hairl Hensley died Sunday (Dec. 31) in Mt. Juliet, TN at the age of 81. His 35-year tenure was the second longest among a parade of storied Opry announcers and was eclipsed only by Grant Turner’s 47-year run on that job.

Born in East Tennessee on Dec. 31, 1936, Hensley initially aspired to be a musician. His first job in radio was playing in a country band on station WDEH in Sweetwater, TN. Soon after, he was asked to be the station’s morning DJ.

Moving on to WNOX in Knoxville, Hensley eventually became the host of the Tennessee Barn Dance, a show that featured such future stars as Jim & Jesse, Don Gibson and Archie Campbell.

He migrated to WKDA in Nashville during the late 1950s and then worked as program director at WLAC before switching to WSM, the Grand Ole Opry’s home station, in 1972. Among his other posts during this period was serving as announcer for Porter Wagoner’s syndicated television show. His other WSM credits included hosting “The Early Bird Gets the Bluegrass” and “Orange Possum Special.”

In 1975, the Country Music Association proclaimed Hensley its disc jockey of the year. He was inducted into the Country Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 1995 and into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame in 2014.

After leaving WSM, Hensley hosted a daily show on the Sirius Roadhouse Channel until ill health forced his retirement in 2007.

No funeral arrangements have been announced.

Edward Morris is a veteran of country music journalism. He lives in Nashville, Tennessee, and is a frequent contributor to CMT.com.