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Local man earns spotlight at the Grand Ole Opry
A.O. “Red” Healan, left, is honored by country music legend “Whispering” Bill Anderson Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.


Listen as A.C. Marshall talks about fellow Gainesvillian Red Healan, who was recognized Saturday night at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn.

Longtime Gainesville broadcaster A.O. “Red” Healan was featured on country music’s biggest stage Saturday night.

Country music legend “Whispering” Bill Anderson recognized the 82-year-old man at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, Tenn., for helping launch his career by being the first person to play one of his earliest recordings.

“Bill expressed, in quite an emotional fashion, how important it was ... that people like (Healan) aided his ascent (in
country music),” said A.C. Marshall, a Gainesville businessman and longtime friend of Healan and Anderson, on Sunday.

Healan “took great pleasure in reminding Bill that he helped make him rich,” said Marshall, who helped organize the Grand Ole Opry meeting, with a laugh.

Healan was the general manager of WGGA in Gainesville for 18 years, but he was working as a disc jockey at an Athens radio station in the early 1960s when he met Anderson, who, along with Marshall, was a journalism major at the University of Georgia.

“It’s important to know that at the time ... AM radio was the only way an artist could get their music heard,” Marshall said.

Anderson carried the one copy of his recording of “City Lights” to the radio station on Lumpkin Street, asking Healan “if he would be gracious enough to play the record.”

“And he did again and again, and it helped launch (Anderson’s) career,” Marshall said.

Anderson first visited Nashville thanks to Healan, who was traveling to the Country Music Disc Jockey Association’s annual convention. Healan was a founding member of the group.

“Red has excelled in every way and been a man of unusual character,” said Marshall, who has lived in Gainesville since 1983.

Healan, who arrived home late Sunday tired from the trip, said he has been to the Grand Ole Opry 30 to 40 times over the years, but this was the first time he had been called onto the stage for such a recognition.

“They gave me a tremendous hand,” he said.

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