Although he started out as a secular "hillbilly boogie" singer, recording secular novelty songs Tennessee Ernie Ford devoted the lion's share of his career to religious material, tirelessly recording album after album of spirituals, hymns and Christmas music. Indeed, this discography page exists almost exclusively because of my Country Gospel and Hillbilly Holiday guides... It was just taking up too much space to list all of Ford's albums on those pages! A lot of Ford's goofball charm was lost in the more dour, serious confines of his gospel work... And yet, there had to have been something there, 'cause he sure stuck with it for a long, long time!

CD Discography

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Portrait Of An American Singer: 1949-1960" (Bear Family, 2015)
Old Ernie Ford finally gets the super-deluxe Bear Family box set treatment, with a 5-CD, 154-track supercollection that covers Ford's most country, most twangilicious years. Although his endless pop-country crooning and gospel albums of the '60s and '70s may be overly familiar to dollar-bin crate diggers, Ford was also a pioneering "hillbilly boogie" star, and his bouncy, twangy hits and singles from the early 1950s are gathered here, as are several of his classic late 'Fifties hit albums. The bluesy twang of his early years may be a surprise to some -- also included are rarities such as PSAs and spoken word children's records he recorded in the '50s, and a bunch of old stuff that's never been out on CD before. So give your old 78s a rest and enjoy some of these cool old Ernie Ford recordings, fun stuff from back when he was still really country.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "The Ultimate Collection" (Razor & Tie, 1997)
The title's probably right on this one -- a better collection of Ford's work may come out some day, but this 2-CD set is pretty much as good as we've any right to expect for now. It doesn't skew too far in any direction -- his early true country material is given its due, along with his subsequent interminable forays into cheesoid pop crooning and syrupy white gospel. But no matter which phase of his career you like best, it must be said this is a remarkably well-balanced, honest portrait of his career. It also has several interesting performances from his days as a TV show host, including some glitzy, bombastic duets with jazz/pop vocals divas Kay Starr, Helen O'Connell and even film comedienne Betty Hutton. A nice balance of styles and eras, which reflects Ford's diverse tastes... Recommended!

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Sweet Hour Of Prayer" (Capitol, 1970)
Apparently this is a straight reissue of one of his religious albums from 1970... The vocal backing is by the San Quentin prison choir...

Tennessee Ernie Ford "22 Favorite Hymns" (Ranwood, 1983)
A generous sampling ofreligious material from his Capitol years...

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Sixteen Tons" (Bear Family, 1990)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Sixteen Tons Of Boogie" (Rhino, 1990)
One of Rhino's early entries in the country reissues market, this focussed pretty strictly on Ford's raucous, uptempo "hillbilly boogie" material of the early 1950s. Fans of 'Fifties rock'n'roll should dig it: this style is a big part of where rock music came from. And Ford was pretty funny and fun, too, back in the early days.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "All-Time Greatest Hymns" (Curb, 1990)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Greatest Hits -- The Original Capitol Recordings" (Curb, 1993)
A budget-line best-of that covers his secular material, and apparently is drawn from the original versions. Includes biggies like "Sixteen Tons," "Mule Train" and "Shotgun Boogie," which is all very well and fine, except that there are only ten tracks on this disc. It's affordable, but kind of skimpy and potentially unsatisfying... You might want to try a more generously programmed collection to really get a flavor of Ford's work...

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Masters: 1949-1976" (Capitol, 1994)
A 3-CD box set, one of the more comprehensive overviews of his career to come out in America, albeit, all the songs are secular, while his copious catalog of spiritual material is omitted.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "My Christmas Favorites" (EMI-CEMA, 1992)
A mix of material from his various Chrismas albums on the Capitol label.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Vintage Collections" (Capitol, 1996)
An excellent single-disc collection that focusses on Ford's bluesier, more robust early work. Fun stuff, and pleasantly corny. Recommended!

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Amazing Grace: 40 Treasured Hymns" (Chordant, 1998)
A 2-CD religious set that spans Ford's career from the mid-'Fifties to his later years

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Absolutely The Best" (Varese Sarabande, 2002)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Spirituals" (Spring House, 2003)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Songs Of The Civil War" (Bear Family, 2004)
This double-length release combines the music from two of Ford's classic albums, Civil War Songs Of The North and Civil War Songs Of The South, both from 1961. Anybody up for a rebel yell? No? How about the Gettysburg Address, then?

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Tennessee Ernie Ford Shows: 1953" (Country Routes, 2005)
Live radio transcriptions from 1953, back when Ford was still a hillbilly singer. I really admire this label, and have enjoyed just about everything I've ever gotten that they've put out -- I bet this one is no different!

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Howdy Pea-Pickers!" (ASV Living Era, 2005)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "This Lusty Land" (Jasmine, 2006)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Back Where I Belong" (Applause, 2006)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "On The Air, Volume One" (New West, 2011)
Live, on-the-air performances with the Billy Liebert band... Too bad this is a digital-only release.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "On The Air, Volume Two" (New West, 2011)

LP Discography

Tennessee Ernie Ford "This Lusty Land" (Capitol, 1956) (LP)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Hymns" (Capitol, 1956) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Spirituals" (Capitol, 1957) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Ford Favorites" (Capitol, 1957) (LP)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Ol' Rockin' Ern" (Capitol, 1956) (LP)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Nearer The Cross" (Capitol, 1958) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "The Star Carol" (Capitol, 1958)
A Christmas album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Gather 'Round" (Capitol, 1959) (LP)

Tennessee Ernie Ford & The Jordanaires "What A Friend We Have" (Capitol, 1959) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Sing A Hymn With Me" (Capitol, 1960) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Sing A Spiritual With Me" (Capitol, 1960) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Sixteen Tons" (Capitol, 1960)
(Produced by Lee Gillette)

Slick, popped-up remakes of several oldies such as "Catfish Boogie" and "Shotgun Boogie," as well as "Sixteen Tons," which was originally a hit in 1955. I think this was meant to be a big back to basics album for Ford, to reassert himself into the traditional country market, so it's not as syrupy or overproduced as it might otherwise have been. Still, these versions are definitely less exciting than the early '50s originals -- if you're looking for Ford's hillbilly roots, it's worth it to track down a CD-era reissue instead. (By the way, have you ever heard Noriel Vilela's Brazilian samba-soul version of "Sixteen Tons," called "16 Toneladas?" It's pretty groovy!

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Come To The Fair" (Capitol, 1960) (LP)
(Produced by Lee Gillette)

So which kind of country record do you like better, prison concerts or county fair recordings? They're both weird venues with captive audiences, but I guess I'm partial to county fair albums just because they are such a genuinely bizarre genre. Ol' Ernie makes his fifth appearance at the Indiana State Fair and he lays it on pretty thick with his interminable, drawling monologues and aw-shucks backwoods-iness and the big band-y brass arrangements are an odd match to the corny old cracker barrel jokes... But he was a big TV star at the time, and I guess you have to expect a little bit of glitz and pizazz from those Hollywood types. Not a lot of music here, but definitely a lot of novelty. My only regret is that they never identified the emcee, although he does give Ford a rousing welcome. PS - don't forget to stop by the 4H tent!

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Civil War Songs Of The North" (Capitol, 1961)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Civil War Songs Of The South" (Capitol, 1961)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "...Looks At Love" (Capitol, 1961) (LP)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Hymns At Home" (Capitol, 1961) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Here Comes The Mississippi Showboat" (Capitol, 1961) (LP)
Secular album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "I Love To Tell The Story: Hymns From The Tennessee Ernie Ford ABC Television Show" (Capitol, 1962) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "...Sings From His Book Of Favorite Hymns" (Capitol, 1962) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "We Gather Together" (Capitol, 1963) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford & The Roger Wagner Chorale "The Story Of Christmas" (Capitol, 1963) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford & The Jordanaires "Great Gospel Songs" (Capitol, 1964) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "...Sings The World's Best Loved Hymns" (Capitol, 1964) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Let Me Walk With Thee" (Capitol, 1965) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Sing We Now Of Christmas" (Capitol, 1964) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Wonderful Peace" (Capitol, 1966) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "God Lives" (Capitol, 1966) (LP)
Religious album. (Surprise!)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "The Faith Of Our Fathers" (Capitol, 1967) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Aloha From Tennessee Ernie Ford" (Capitol, 1967) (LP)
(Produced by David Cavanaugh)

Amid a seemingly endless stream of lackluster gospel recordings, Ford took off for the tropics to record this surprisingly genuine aloha album... Oh, to be sure, it's mostly mega-cheesy, but a few tunes are worthy of redemption. What's most remarkable about this album is the wealth of authentic local talent he enlisted -- old Hawaiian music pros that included a singer credited as "the beautiful and talented Lani," steel guitar whiz Barney Isaacs, ukulele player Benny Kalama and the remnants of the Kalamas Quartet, playing some mighty fine Hawaiian-style music, underneath Ford's robustly cheesy baritone and Jack Fascinato's pop-vocals arrangements. The opening track, "Pearly Shells," is actually a nice, uptempo number -- too bad he didn't keep up that pace, since the rest of the record is pretty lethargic and snoozy. A couple of other tracks are okay: there are a few songs where the islander back him on vocals as well as playing in the sweet old-style, and those are nice as well. Worth checking out, but you have to be in the right frame of mind. (By the way, if you're interested in the style, check out my Hawaiian Music section for more info on these old-timers and other classic recordings.)

Tennessee Ernie Ford & Marilyn Horne "Our Garden Of Hymns" (Capitol, 1968) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Best Of The Tennessee Ernie Ford Hymns" (Capitol, 1968) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "O, Come All Ye Faithful" (Capitol, 1968) (LP)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Songs I Like To Sing" (Capitol, 1969) (LP)
A secular album!!! Thank God.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Pop Plus Country Plus Folk" (Capitol, 1969) (LP)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Holy Holy Holy" (Capitol, 1969) (LP)
Religious album. (Duh.)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "America The Beautiful" (Capitol, 1970)
A patriotic album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "The Christmas Album" (Capitol, 1970)
A snowy album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Sweet Hour Of Prayer" (Capitol, 1970)
Religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Everything Is Beautiful" (Capitol, 1970) (LP)
A secular album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Abide With Me" (Capitol, 1971) (LP)
A religious album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Christmas" (Capitol, 1971)
An eggnoggy album.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "The Folk Album" (Capitol, 1971) (LP)
A... well, a folk album. Nice title.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Mr. Words And Music" (Capitol, 1972) (LP)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Country Morning" (Capitol, 1973) (LP)

Tennessee Ernie Ford & Glen Campbell "Ernie Sings And Glen Picks" (Capitol, 1975)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Make A Joyful Noise" (Capitol, 1975) (LP)
Or else.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Precious Memories" (Capitol, 1975)
And... another religious album!

Tennessee Ernie Ford "For The 83rd Time" (Capitol, 1976) (LP)
Seriously. No fooling.

Tennessee Ernie Ford "He Touched Me" (Word, 1977) (LP)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Swing Wide Your Golden Gate" (Word, 1978) (LP)

Tennessee Ernie Ford "Tell Me The Old, Old Story" (Word, 1981) (LP)


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