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The first serious reissues of his music began appearing on CD in 1990, starting with Rhino Records' 16 Tons of Boogie: The Best of Tennessee Ernie Ford, which covered material going back to his early honky tonk sound, and collections of his gospel recordings began appearing from Capitol during this same period.
At the time of his death from liver failure in the fall of 1991, he remained a much-loved figure far beyond the boundaries of the country music audience.
Initially, Ford appeared on Stone's Hometown Jamboree, which started on radio and moved to television later in the 1940s, and in 1948 Stone brought him to Capitol Records, the beginning of a relationship that would last for 40 years, covering the rest of the singer's life.
Five singles had been released by late 1949, including "Tennessee Border" and "Smokey Mountain Boogie" (both Top Ten) and his first number one single, "Mule Train." His Western songs and boogie-flavored numbers offered an energy level and sexual suggestiveness that made them rock & roll in all but name, and his recordings featured the fabulous instrumental talents of Merle Travis on guitar and Speedy West on pedal steel.
He also had his own daily show and continued recording.From 1956 to 1965 he was a primetime network television host, making "Bless your little pea-pickin' hearts" a household catch phrase and providing powerful exposure for Ford's increasingly middle-of-the-road music.