Virtuoso harp player DeFord Bailey made a living playing for dances and parties around his home town, displaying a range of riffs and trills that any modern Blues harp player would envy. His live performances always had a comedy element, as he used his harp to imitate a railway engine, a wheezing jalopy, or any of a dozen farmyard animals, but he could blow the Blues too. His ‘Pan-American Blues’ is a classic and his version of ‘John Henry’ may be the best ever recorded.
DeFord’s outstanding version of ‘Stone Fox Chase’;
A dispute with BMI/ASCAP in 1941 saw DeFord sacked from his radio job, and he retired from music. For the rest of is life, DeFord made a living shining shoes and renting rooms in his house in Nashville, and was not inclined to participate in the Folk/Blues revival of the late 50s. He made a single appearance at a ‘Grand Ole Opry’ old-timers event in 1974 (see video) but still was not interested in a performing career. He passed away in Nashville in 1982.