Del Woodfor mr. dante fontana and baikanange
|Born: February 22, 1920|
|Died: October 3, 1989|
|WSM Grand Ole Opry|
In the cold, diffuse light of a mid-afternoon Sunday in Nashville, Tootsies Orchid Lounge sits at the feet of the Grand Old Opry--dull, drab and gray as slate.
Inside the darkness of the cavernous room with its scuffed maple flooring and echoes of laughter, hovers the must of 1951. Dozens glide in circles to the tintinnabulation of her piano's gliss-bliss, unaware of the decay. A palpable sense of history hovers close like saturnine rings of smoke in the surrounding orb of dankness.
Around and around, her fingers continue to dance on the keyboard. She's laughing easily, and furtively eyeing the girls in Poodle skirts. They glance at brilliantined boys with a blush...all seems to work.
Del Wood is recognized as being the most successful female, country,
Her parents gave her a piano for her fifth birthday with the hope that she would become a classical pianist. Her dream-goal was the Grand Ole Opry, something she would eventually realize in her early 30s. She developed a thumping ragtime style that, in 1951, saw her record her version of the old minstrel show tune, Down Yonder...
Down Yonder soon became a national hit in both the Country and Pop categories in Billboard, and is considered to be the first million-selling record by a female artist...
her version on the Tennessee label reached # 5 in the US country charts and # 4 on the pop charts and sold an estimated three million copies. She was the first female instrumentalist to chalk up a million seller.
Shortening her married name (Adelaide-Hazelwood) to something easier to remember (and intentionally non-gender specific), Del started banging around in bars and honky-tonk joints in her 20s. After guesting on the Opry in 1952 and refusing the chance of playing with Bob Crosby, she joined the roster in November 1953. Her playing proved so popular that she toured with Opry shows, even to Japan. She recorded more than sixty singles and twenty-five albums, mostly for major labels: RCA, Decca, Mercury and Columbia--earning her the sobriquet Queen of Ragtime Piano.
In 1973 Jerry Lee Lewis made his first and only appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. He interrupted his performance and called Del Wood, whom he
cited as a primary influence. Together they performed Wood's hit DownYonder
which he had listened to in Ferriday by Del's earlier group, Hugh 'Baby' Jarrett and his Dixieliners on the Tennessee Records label in 1951.
She made a cameo appearance in Dolly Parton's 1984 film Rhinestone.
Wood remained a member of the Opry until the end of her life.