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Liner Notes

Fundraiser Established After Keith Bilbrey’s Home Burns

Anthony Scarlati
Keith Bilbrey, right, with co-host Jim Lauderdale on Music City Roots in 2013.

Veteran broadcaster and WMOT associate Keith Bilbrey, along with his wife Emy Joe, lost their historic home in Williamson County to fire on Tuesday. The 19th century house in College Grove went up in flames after a grill fire got out of control. The couple was unharmed but narrowly escaped the burning structure with their dogs. Only a few personal effects could be recovered on Wednesday.

A fundraiser for the Bilbreys is underway at Gofundme.com

Bilbrey is a native of Cookeville, TN whose dreams of being a country music host were realized when he was hired by WSM in the mid 1970s. He became a Grand Ole Opry host in 1982, where he worked until about 2010, when he became the emcee for latter-day variety show Music City Roots. During his long career, Bilbrey has hosted numerous specials and events, including the Opry television broadcast on TNN and the CMA Awards telecast on CBS. 

In his work for Music City Roots, which broadcasts on WMOT, Bilbrey re-established his command of classic live radio in a contemporary setting. The show ran from late 2009 until 2018. It is scheduled to return with Bilbrey at the podium in February 2022 in a new bespoke venue in Madison.


In 2015, Bilbrey was inducted into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame. The following year,  he was honored by the Tennessee State Legislature as “an accomplished member of his profession and a respected leader in his community. Mr. Bilbrey is a Tennessean of whom all Tennesseans can be proud.”


On Wednesday, WKRN reported on the fire, quoting Emy Joe’s daughter Stephanie Warner on the calamity. “Unfortunately, the main home is just gone. There’s just nothing left,” Warner told . “It was an absolute gorgeous home with five fireplaces, 19-foot ceilings, 18-foot windows that you could walk in and out of. So many memories here.”