The Acuff-Rose music publishing company was founded by Roy Acuff and Fred Rose and officially incorporated on October 13, 1942. The company's start-up capital included $25,000 from Acuff (which was never touched) and $2,500 from BMI, a performance rights organization. Roy Acuff wanted the company to supplement his income from performances. He had been selling songbooks, and by 1942 this sideline had become so extensive that Acuff approached Rose with a plan to establish a music publishing company.
Fred Rose (1897-1954), a pop music songwriter, had written songs like "Deed I Do" and "Honest and Truly," and played piano for Paul Whiteman's band. In 1938 he gave up a popular show on WSM and moved to Hollywood to write songs for Gene Autry movies. When Autry joined the Army Air Corps as a pilot in 1942, Rose returned to Nashville and quickly landed an afternoon radio show.
Acuff chose his future partner well. Rose was an ASCAP songwriter with connections in New York, Chicago, and Hollywood. A gifted editor and talent scout, Rose willingly offered his expertise to other songwriters. A practicing Christian Scientist, Rose held himself to the highest ethical standards and gained a reputation for honesty and fairness. Fred Rose was in a unique position. He knew the people at WSM and the Opry, he had learned about the huge market for country music–and the money involved–through his work with Autry and the singing cowboys in the movies, and he was a pop songwriter who had come to Nashville as country music was changing from a folk-based music into a major commercial music. Rose would play a major role, introducing the pop song format with country topics to replace the folk song format. This had already been done with western music, most of which was composed by Tin Pan Alley writers who used pop song structures with western themes. Fred Rose would take that same process to Nashville and apply it to southern-based country music.
In September 1946 Acuff-Rose signed songwriter Hank Williams and soon obtained a recording contract for him with the Sterling label. Although Williams later switched to MGM, his songs became the cornerstone for the Acuff-Rose catalog. The company's first major pop hit was "Tennessee Waltz" by Patti Page in 1950. In addition to Hank Williams hits such as "Your Cheatin' Heart," "Jambalaya," "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry," and "Hey, Good Lookin'," Acuff-Rose also published songs by Pee Wee King, Don Gibson, Felice and Boudeleaux Bryant, the Everly Brothers, Roy Orbison, John D. Loudermilk, Marty Robbins, Bob Luman, Leon Payne, Doug Kershaw, and Mickey Newbury. Songs published by Acuff-Rose include: "Bye Bye Love"; "I Can't Stop Loving You"; "Dream, Dream, Dream"; "When Will I Be Loved"; "Oh, Lonesome Me"; "Oh, Pretty Woman"; "I Love You Because"; "Lost Highway"; "Making Believe"; and "Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain."