Smithville, Mississippi native Rodney Leon Brasfield (Aug. 22, 1910- Sept. 12, 1958) started his career with Brisbee's Dramatic Shows as a straight man to his older brother Lawrence "Boob" Brasfield. The punchlines he and others delivered on pre-World War II country radio and through string band skits issued on 78s--exemplified by the comedy routines of the Skillet Lickers and the Stoneman Family--paved the way for Nashville game-changer George D. Hay to book comedians for the early Grand Ole Opry stage and radio shows.
Beginning in 1944, Brasfield's trademark baggy suit, floppy hat, scrawny build and rubbery face would have audiences in stitches before he uttered a single line. His popularity made him a regular of the Opry's NBC radio broadcast, The Prince Albert Show. On that program, he was the comedy sidekick of show host Red Foley.
Life Beyond the Opry
In 1948, Brasfield began a comedic duo with an even bigger legend: Minnie Pearl. He was an ally to both of country comedy's first ladies, as he'd also collaborate over time with June Carter.
Brasfield helped put his chosen hometown of Hohenwald, Tennessee on the map by referring to himself as the Hohenwald Flash. More notably, he performed sometimes with a ventriloquist dummy named Bocephus -- the inspiration for Hank Williams' nickname for his son Hank Jr.
Aside from network shows, Brasfield put together a modest filmography in Hollywood. For example, he played Andy Griffith's sidekick Beanie in A Face in the Crowd (1957).
Brasfield died from heart failure at the age of 48. The Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum inducted him into its rotunda in 1987. His presence there, along with the Duke of Paducah and other comedians, demonstrates how country's deepest roots are intertwined with good humor and backwoods charm.
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This story was originally published on Aug. 22, 2018.