NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Joe Edwards, who chronicled Tennessee news for more than 40 years as a newsman for The Associated Press and helped “Rocky Top” become a state song, has died. He was 75.
A longtime AP colleague of Edwards, Randall Dickerson, said Edwards’ wife called him to share the news that her husband died Friday in Nashville.
Edwards wrote about country music, sports and a variety of other topics during his AP career, which was spent entirely in Nashville. According to AP, he was known to everyone in the country music industry through his “Nashville Sound” column, including East Tennessee’s own Dolly Parton.
He worked most of the jobs in the Nashville bureau, including sports editor, broadcast editor and day and night supervisor. He wrote the AP’s Nashville Sound country music column from 1975 to 1992.
In 1982, a story Edwards wrote about the popularity of the song “Rocky Top” led the General Assembly to declare it a state song.
“He got the ball rolling,” Boudleaux Bryant, the song’s co-writer, said at the time.
Edwards was among those covering the death of Elvis Presley in 1977. He also reported about or edited stories from more than 20 Country Music Association awards shows.
He was nominated for several AP writing awards in the 1970s and 1980s.
“I just show up on time and do what I’m told,” he once said.
He wrote often about the syndicated TV show “Hee Haw,” and he once appeared on camera with other cast members.
Edwards began his AP career in 1970 after graduating from Eastern Kentucky University. Prior to that, he attended Vincennes (Ind.) University.
While in college, he worked for the Cincinnati Enquirer and the Crawfordsville, Ind.iana, Journal-Review. He was a native of Crawfordsville, and according to family research, was a descendant of English poet Geoffrey Chaucer.
He also did commentary for The Nashville Network cable TV station in the 1980s.
Shortly after taking the job in Nashville, he periodically played basketball with Al Gore, then a reporter for The Nashville Tennessean. Gore later became vice president.
“He was a pretty good rebounder,” Edwards recalled.
During his career, he interviewed many top country music stars, including Dolly Parton, Garth Brooks, Taylor Swift, Willie Nelson, Kenny Rogers, Barbara Mandrell, Loretta Lynn and Reba McEntire. He also interviewed an array of other personalities, including Jay Leno, pool legend Minnesota Fats and mentalist Kreskin.
For several years, Edwards voted on nominees for the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
He also specialized in writing obituaries. Among those he prepared for the AP were Martin Luther King assassin James Earl Ray, Olympic star Wilma Rudolph and music stars such as Johnny Cash, Porter Wagoner, Roy Orbison, Bill Monroe and Carl Perkins.
In 2010, he wrote extensively about the Nashville flooding that left much of the city submerged for several days. But he preferred reporting about more light-hearted topics, such as the taster at the Jack Daniel distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee.
Also, Edwards traditionally wrote a year-end story annually wrapping up Tennessee’s offbeat happenings of the year.
“People call and ask if I’m going to do the weird story again,” he said.
In the early 1970s, as bureau sports editor, Edwards spearheaded an effort to include girls high school basketball scores on the AP wire and to have a girls poll join the one for boys.
Away from work, Edwards was a past president of Nashville’s So What Club, which he once described as “a group of men who get together once a month and do absolutely nothing.”
EDITORS NOTE: This story has been updated with new information.