Ford, Benjamin Francis [The Duke of Paducah; Whitey]
- Clay Motley
[The Duke of Paducah; Whitey]
(b Desoto, MO, May 12, 1901; d Brentwood, TN, June 20, 1986). American comedian and banjo player. Ford was one of the earliest country comedians to use the emerging medium of radio. Possessing a third-grade education, he joined Otto Gray’s Oklahoma Cowboys after his 1922 discharge from the Navy, which led to tours with Gene Autry and work with Chicago’s WLS Barn Dance. Leaving WLS, he joined NBC’s Plantation Party, writing most of the segments, hosting, and starring as the comedic “Duke of Paducah” for nine years, until leaving in 1942 to be the comedic star of WSM’s Grand Ole Opry. He left the Opry in 1947 to host multiple popular national radio shows, toured in the mid-1950s with the Rock and Roll Revue, and even shared the bill with a young Elvis Presley. The producers of the popular variety show Hee haw (1969–82) purchased Ford’s collection of over half a million country jokes, securing his influence on several later generations of country comedians. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in ...