When the first loaf of sliced bread was sold — the summer of 1928 — Mac Wiseman was already 3 years old.
He was born in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, where his school bus was a mule-drawn wagon, and died Sunday at the age of 93. In between, Wiseman did just about everything a person could do in the music business: worked as a disc jockey, promoter and record executive; recorded more than 65 albums; helped found the Country Music Association and served as its first treasurer; received a National Endowment for the Arts Heritage Fellowship; and influenced greats like Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard and Alison Krauss.
"Mac is one of the heroes," Kristofferson, whose song "Me and Bobby McGee" was among Wiseman's favorites to sing, told The Tennessean in 2012. "Having Mac cut 'Bobby McGee' was one of the highlights of my life."
Dubbed "The Voice with a Heart" decades ago by a disc jockey, Wiseman had a light and limber voice that belied his large frame. The affable singer was one of the most beloved entertainers in Nashville; his cellphone, which he kept in a Crown Royal bag tied to his motorized scooter, rang constantly, and at Reunion of Professional Entertainers (R.O.P.E.) gatherings, he was always at the center of a crowd.
At the time of his death, Wiseman was the last surviving original member of Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs' Foggy Mountain Boys.
Yet, until his last days, he remained active in Nashville's music scene. "Mac Wiseman recorded splendid and often groundbreaking music for more than seventy years, remaining relevant and productive even in his nineties," said Kyle Young, chief executive of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. "He was a titan of bluegrass music's first generation, though bluegrass never defined him."