Radio trailblazer Tom Perryman — whose life work represented a spectrum of contrasts from remote cotton fields in Rural Shade, Texas, to the star-lined stage of the Grand Ole Opry, striking up friendships along the way with the likes of Elvis, Ray Price and Jim Reeves — died Thursday evening. He was 90.
Perryman was legendary in the national radio and country music scene, in part for helping talented young artists survive and thrive in a tough industry.
Perryman played their music and encouraged his listeners to embrace it, at the jukebox and the record counter.
As a tribute to his longevity, the Texas Association of Broadcasters gave him its 2013 Pioneer of the Year Award.
He was an encyclopedia of music history, having experienced varying trends over the years, from hillbilly to country to rock 'n' roll.
"It’s just a tremendous loss," said Kay Odom, supervisor of the Tyler Senior Center, where Perryman was a regular in recent years. "Mr. Perryman had a place in so many people's hearts. He will be so missed."
She said Friday night's dance at the senior center will be dedicated in his honor.
Perryman and wife, Billie, who was at his side when he died, owned stations in both Texas and Tennessee, including WMTS-AM/FM near Nashville that was a founding member of the Country Music Association.
Most recently, he hosted a two-hour weekday morning radio show on KKUS-FM 104.1, The Ranch, that was a throwback to the good old days of radio.
"Music is a way of life," he said in a 2015 interview with the Tyler Morning Telegraph. "When people hear music they haven't heard in a long time, it brings back a memory. That's why I play so much old music. ... It reminds them of something in the past."
Perryman also was known for his work with charitable causes, backing Meals on Wheels, East Texas Food Bank, The Salvation Army, American Heart Association, American Cancer Society and March of Dimes as well as individual churches, veterans' organizations, schools, rescue missions and blood drives, to name a few.