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Ernie Ashworth was at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama, when his single “Each Moment (’Spent With You)” started shooting up the charts like the guided missiles he was working on. With his sights set on a country music career, Ernie headed back to Music City.
Ernie, who was playing and singing on Huntsville radio station WBHP by the time he was 20, found success in Nashville as a songwriter during the early ’50s. Signed as a writer for Acuff-Rose, Nashville’s first music publishing company, he wrote for such country greats as Little Jimmy Dickens, Carl Smith, Johnny Horton, and Wilma Lee Cooper. Even pop idol Paul Anka had recorded one of his songs, called “I Wish.”
Though music publisher Wesley Rose arranged a record contract for Ernie in 1955, recording success eluded him, and he eventually returned to his hometown of Huntsville. In 1960, Rose called him to record again. This second attempt turned out better. “Each Moment” became a Top 10 country hit. So did Ernie’s next record, “You Can’t Pick a Rose in December.”
Three years later, Ernie found the smash he’d been waiting for. “Talk Back Trembling Lips,” a bouncy number about a man paralyzed by heartbreak, went to No. 1 and stayed on the national country charts for 36 weeks. It crossed over to pop radio and led to an invitation to join the Opry. The song also inspired another of Ernie’s big hits—his trademark stage suit with big red lips outlined in gold studs.
Ernie earned Most Promising Male Artist accolades from Billboard, Cashbox, and Record World magazines. In 1965, he gave the movie business a try, appearing in The Farmer’s Other Daughter.
Ernie received the Major Independent Record Label Awards Show’s Living Legend Award in 1991. That same year, Curb Records released a retrospective of his Top 10 hits. He was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1992.
Ernie still brings the house down with his hits and his trembling-lips suit, but he’s also a businessman who owns AM radio stations in Ardmore and Gallatin, Tennessee. He remains an active Opry member and continues to play road dates. He recorded a 35th Grand Ole Opry Anniversary CD in 1999; two singles from that album, “Lonely’s Only Bar” and “She Don’t Smoke, She Don’t Drink But She Lies,” became popular independent country hits in Europe.
It’s a long way from the cotton fields of Alabama to the world-famous Opry stage. But as Ernie is fond of saying, “It’s a lot more fun than the cotton field.”