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His talent wasn't dormant during this period, and he was able to participate in various special services entertainment programs.

After the war, Ford -- who had married while serving in the military -- moved his family to San Bernardino, CA, and took a DJ job on a local radio station.

Ford joined the ranks of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1990, at age 71.

By that time, he was a beloved and somewhat enigmatic elder statesman in the field, having willingly stepped out of the limelight apart from the occasional gospel recording.

The latter was officially a women's college but admitted a limited number of male students to its daytime study program, and it was with the help of one of his teachers and her husband that Ford, with his deep and resonant voice, broke into radio, as an announcer on WOPI in northeast Tennessee.

By 1939, he'd moved to Cincinnati, OH, and was studying at that city's Conservatory of Music.

His first gospel album, Hymns (1956), became the first religious album to go gold, while his second gospel album, Great Gospel Songs, earned him a Grammy.

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In 1947 he also made the acquaintance of Cliffie Stone, a musician, announcer, and producer who was rapidly becoming one of the most influential figures in country music on the West Coast.

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.

Early in 1951, "Shotgun Boogie" became his second number one, spending 14 weeks at the top of the country charts.

By the beginning of 1953, although Ford wasn't having as many hits, he remained popular in America and also in England.

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