Admirers thronged into the Texas Troubadour Theatre on Nashville's Music Valley Drive Sunday afternoon (May 23) to praise and congratulate country music and bluegrass eminence Mac Wiseman on his 85th birthday. The two-hour event was broadcast live on WSM-AM, the Grand Ole Opry radio station, and hosted by disc jockey and country music scholar Eddie Stubbs.
Adorned with his trademark hat and vest, Wiseman sat at center stage as well-wishers lined up row by row to shake his hand and share memories.
Dubbed early in his career as "the voice with a heart," the conservatory-trained Wiseman was an original member of Flatt & Scruggs' Foggy Mountain Boys and briefly played in Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys band before establishing himself as a solo artist on the country charts in the 1950s with such folksy Top 10 hits as "The Ballad of Davy Crockett" and "Jimmy Brown, the Newsboy." He recorded with artists ranging from traditional country star Molly O'Day to big-band leader Woody Herman. In 2007, the Virginia native teamed with balladeer John Prine to record Standard Songs for Average People, an album of pop, country and gospel classics.
In 1958, Wiseman became a founding member and first secretary of the Country Music Association. Speaking to Stubbs, Jo Walker-Meador, the first executive director of the CMA and now a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, said Wiseman was her "mentor." She presented him a citation from the CMA that commended him for his "myriad contributions to country music."
Wiseman was elected to the International Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame in 1993.
Among the well-wishers spotted in the audience were Grand Ole Opry stars Jim Ed Brown, Jesse McReynolds (of Jim & Jesse), Jeannie Seely, Jan Howard and Del McCoury and recording artists David Frizzell, Helen Cornelius, Larry Cordle, Doyle Lawson, Roni Stoneman and Roland White. Also present were Grammy-winning producer Carl Jackson, radio personalities Hairl Hensley and Kyle Cantrell, talent manager Don Light and International Bluegrass Music Association executive director Dan Hays.
The invitation-only event was organized by David McCormick, owner of the Ernest Tubb Record Shops.