Roy Claxton Acuff emerged as a star during the early 1940s. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1962 as its first living member.
Acuff turned down a scholarship to nearby Carson-Newman College and worked temporarily at a variety of jobs, including that of railroad "call boy," the one responsible for rounding up other workers as the need arose. He also played semi-professional baseball and boxed informally. Early in 1929, major-league baseball scouts recruited Acuff for training camp, but his collapse during a game—an after-effect of an earlier sunstroke—prompted a nervous breakdown and sidelined him for most of 1930.
Acuff began to practice his fiddle, and in 1932 he worked a medicine show tour of the Tennessee-Virginia mountains. Radio broadcasts on Knoxville’s WROL and WNOX broadened his experience. His radio fame caught the attention of American Record Corporation (ARC) producer W. R. Calaway, who brought the band to Chicago to cut their first twenty numbers in 1936.
The Grand Ole Opry's George D. Hay repeatedly refused his services until promoter J. L. Frank intervened in Acuff’s behalf. Early in the 1940s, Acuff zoomed to the top of his field with help from WSM’s 50,000-watt transmitter,
Although he left the Opry during 1946–1947 in a salary dispute, he returned to host the Royal Crown Cola Show segment. He also opened a recreational park near Clarksville, Tennessee; ran—unsuccessfully—for the governorship of Tennessee on the Republican ticket in 1948; and made his first international tour with an Opry troupe.
Recording for Capitol, Decca, MGM, and after 1957, Hickory Records, a label he formed with Fred Rose and Wesley Rose in 1953. After he suffered serious injuries in a July 1965 car wreck that also nearly killed band member Shot Jackson, he began to speak of retiring from the road, though he would continue to make personal appearances for some time to come.
In 1971 Acuff received a substantial boost by participating in the famous Will the Circle Be Unbroken album project, which featured the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and a number of country artists.