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T. Tommy Cutrer

T. Tommy Cutrer - Osyka

Raised in Osyka, the versatile T. Tommy Cutrer succeeded as a country and gospel singer and instrumentalist and also as a businessman and politician, but his greatest fame came as a radio/television personality from the 1940s through the 1990s. As an announcer on the Grand Ole Opry and country music television shows, and as the host of nationally syndicated radio broadcasts, he became one of the best-known entertainers in country music.

Born just across the state line in Kentwood, Louisiana, on June 29, 1924, and raised and schooled here in Osyka, Thomas Clinton Cutrer was the son of logger Thomas J. Cutrer and wife Zellie. He was playing football for Osyka High School at age 14 when he was sidelined by osteomyelitis. After being bed-ridden for a year, he resumed school at St. Mary of the Pines in Chatawa, where the sisters stressed elocution. Clear diction would stick with him; by his senior year he was working as emcee of a radio variety show in McComb.

Cutrer took on increasingly prominent disc jockey and emcee jobs at KARK, Little Rock (1943); WREC, Memphis (1944); WSLI, Jackson (1946); NUZ, Houston (1949); and KCIJ, Shreveport (1951-‘54). The programs he hosted were most often dedicated to country music, sometimes to pop. It was the manager of the Houston station who, finding the pronunciation “cut-Trair” difficult, dubbed him simply “T. Tommy,” and the on-air name stuck. In Shreveport, Cutrer was the first disc jockey to play Johnny Cash records, and the first outside of Memphis to play Elvis Presley records. He also furthered his secondary career as a singer of country and gospel music and a drum-playing band leader. Such legendary instrumentalists as Floyd Cramer and Jimmy Day would be Cutrer band members, and he’d record dozens of singles for such labels as Abbott, Capitol, Mercury, Columbia and Dot, most of them in the 1950s. When T. Tommy lost his left leg in a car crash en route to Nashville, his ability to play music was severely limited, but the country music capital proved the site of his greatest country music success. At the widely-heard WSM radio, between 1954 and 1964 he achieved national fame as a disc jockey, the voice of the Grand Ole Opry, and, after a stint as owner-operator of WJQS radio in Jackson, as the emcee on the Flatt & Scrugg, Pet Milk Opry and Johnny Cash television shows. He was named the nation’s top D.J. in 1957. As emcee of the broadcast Country Music Worldwide, he was heard across Europe, South America, and Africa.

Cutrer turned to politics in 1976, in an attempted run for Congress in Tennessee, and was successfully elected a state senator there in 1979; he followed that four years in office with a stand as spokesman for the Teamsters union, as an operator of restaurants, and a return to radio. Music City USA, his nationally syndicated country music interview show, was heard on over 130 stations in the 1970s. T. Tommy Cutrer was elected to the Disc Jockey Hall of Fame in 1980. T. Tommy Cutrer was the father of three sons and two daughters; he married twice, first to Lucille Lang in the 1940s, then to Vicki Martin. He died on October 11, 1998.

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