James R. "Jim" Denny
Jim Denny, music publisher, booking agent, longtime manager of the Grand Ole Opry, and promoter of Nashville's music industry, was born in Buffalo Valley, Putnam County. As a young man, Denny found work as a mail clerk with the National Life and Accident Insurance Company, parent organization to WSM and the Grand Ole Opry. With a growing interest in country music, Denny was running the WSM Artists Service Bureau by 1946, booking Opry talent and other WSM acts. Denny eventually managed the Grand Ole Opry itself.
Denny, along with his predecessor, Jack Stapp, is responsible for updating the face of the Opry. As promoters and developers of talent, they helped to transform the Opry from a popular barn dance to a showcase of country superstars, ensuring its growth and long-term success. During their tenure the cast grew enormously, most major stars became Opry members, and an Opry appearance became a sine qua non for many performers.
In 1954 Denny and Opry star Webb Pierce formed Cedarwood Publishing Company, for a time the most important publishing house in Nashville. Driftwood Music, a companion firm, was a partnership between Denny and Carl Smith, another Opry star. These business interests led to conflict of interest allegations by WSM and eventually to Denny's dismissal.
With his knowledge of WSM operations, Denny achieved immediate success as a booking agent. The Jim Denny Bureau served most of the artists Denny had signed while at the Opry. Billboard magazine estimated that by 1961 the bureau was handling over 3,300 personal appearances worldwide.
Denny died on August 27, 1963, in Nashville, leaving his sons to take over his company. He was elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1966.