Born Ernest Bertram Ashworth, 15 December 1928, Huntsville, Alabama
Died 2 March 2009, Hartsville, Tennessee

Singer - songwriter Ernie Ashworth, who died recently, was not a major country star, but he made some fine recordings and scored a number one which has become a classic. Ashworth claimed that he could write songs long before he could play music. In 1948 he had his first radio job at his hometown station of WBHP in Huntsville. The next year he moved to Nashville where he was signed by Wesley Rose as an Acuff-Rose songwriter. Among the artists who recorded his compositions were Little Jimmy Dickens, Carl Smith, Johnny Horton and a young Paul Anka ("I Wish"). In 1955, Rose placed him with MGM as a singer. Between 1955 and 1957 he had six singles released under the name Billy Worth, but they had no chart impact and in 1957 Ashworth temporarily quit the music business to work for Huntville's Redstone Arsenal missile plan.

Wesley Rose remained determined to promote Ashworth's music career and got him signed to Decca in 1960. Now billed as Ernest Ashworth, his first disc for that label, "Each Moment (Spent With You)" went to # 4 on the country charts, followed by two other Top 20 hits, "You Can't Pick A Rose In December" (# 8) and "Forever Gone" (# 15). Ashworth then signed with Acuff-Rose's subsidiary label Hickory and scored immediately with Dave Burgess composition "Everybody But Me" (# 3). However, it is his third Hickory single for which he is best remembered, though he did not write it himself. (Instead, John D. Loudermilk did.) It was "Talk Back Trembling Lips", which showcased his vulnerable tenor to great effect. On the Billboard country charts it was # 1 for only one week in October 1963, but Ashworth topped the Cashbox country charts for a full five weeks. The song just missed the Billboard Hot 100, bubbling under at # 101.

"Talk Back Trembling Lips" would be even more successful in 1964, when Johnny Tillotson took it to # 7 on the pop charts. Ashworth was voted Most Promising Male Artist by Cashbox and Billboard in 1963. Nevertheless, he hung on to his day job at Redstone Arsenal, commuting from Huntsville to Nashville, until he joined the Grand Ole Opry in March 1964, which meant the fulfilment of a lifelong dream. In 1965 he appeared in the musical comedy film "The Other Farmer's Daughter". From 1966 onwards, he was credited as Ernie Ashworth. Almost every single that he released between 1960 and 1970 made the country charts, though the hits came with decreasing frequency and impact. He did not chart after 1970. After leaving Hickory in 1972, he did some recordings for the American Sound label and later, in the 1980s, for the O'Brien label.

In the mid-eighties he retired to a farm in Lewisburg, Tennessee, though he continued to appear regularly on the Opry and occasionally toured the country. In 1989 he bought a radio station, WSLV in Ardmore, Tennessee. 1992 was a good year for Ashworth. He was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall Of Fame and recorded a new album on Playback Records. This was followed in 1999 by a successful 35th Grand Ole Opry anniversary CD. He died of a heart attack on March 2, 2009, aged 80.

Acknowledgements / more info :
- All Music Guide (James Manheim).
- Paul Kingsbury (ed.), The encyclopedia of country music. New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.

CD : Two CD's are currently in print, both with only 12 tracks and with a large overlap. "The Greatest Hits" on Curb (1991) contains his biggest Hickory hits, "The Best Of Ernie Ashworth" on Gusto (2004) also includes a few Decca hits.

YouTube : Talk Back Trembling Lips :
Everybody But Me :


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