All About Jelly Roll's Parents, Donna and Horace "Buddy" DeFord

Donna and Horace “Buddy” DeFord raised their now-famous son, Jelly Roll, in Tennessee

<p>Jelly Roll Instagram </p> Jelly Roll and his mom Donna DeFord. ; Jelly Roll and his dad Horace

Jelly Roll Instagram

Jelly Roll and his mom Donna DeFord. ; Jelly Roll and his dad Horace 'Buddy' DeFord.

Jelly Roll's parents, Donna and Horace “Buddy” DeFord, influenced his love of music and inspired him.

The Whitsitt Chapel singer-songwriter, whose birth name is Jason Bradley DeFord, was born on Dec. 4, 1984. The family of three lived in Antioch, Tenn., where Buddy worked as a businessman in the meatpacking industry at the time.

However, Donna and Buddy eventually grew apart and divorced when Jelly Roll was 13 years old — the major change contributed to their son’s drug addiction and his decade-long strife with the state’s judicial system.

“Many time the police knocked on my mothers door looking for me, many night she went to sleep worried the phone would ring in the middle of the night and something would’ve happened bad,” he reflected in an emotional tribute to his mom on Facebook.

Related: Jelly Roll's 2 Kids: All About Daughter Bailee Ann and Son Noah

Of his troubled past, he said there were “thousands of times [Donna] accepted collect calls from a son in jail," but since his 2009 prison release, Jelly Roll has changed his ways and embarked on a new chapter in his life.

Donna and Buddy were promoted to grandparents following the birth of Jelly Roll’s daughter, Bailee Ann, in 2008 and with the addition of Noah Buddy in 2016, whose namesake takes after his grandfather’s.

Sadly, Buddy died from cancer in March 2019, and the “Need a Favor” singer often honors his late father on social media, sharing throwback photos of him, Buddy and his kids.

As for Donna, she continues to be a constant presence in the singer's life and career, whether by his side celebrating milestones or cheering him from afar.

Here’s everything to know about Jelly Roll’s parents — Donna and Horace “Buddy” DeFord — and their relationship with the country singer.

They raised Jelly Roll in a small town outside of Nashville

<p>Jelly Roll Instagram</p> Jelly Roll with his family.

Jelly Roll Instagram

Jelly Roll with his family.

Donna and Buddy welcomed their first and only child together, Jason Bradley DeFord, on Dec. 4, 1984. Though he was born in Nashville, Jelly Roll grew up in the small rural town of Antioch in Tennessee.

Buddy, who was already a father of three, worked at a wholesale meat business. Albeit, he also brought in extra cash as a bookie on the side.

Speaking about his dad on Just Being Ernest, Jelly Roll shared that Buddy was a man of faith. The “Son of a Sinner” artist revealed his father often helped with the homeless and volunteered as a church usher.

“Every Monday or Tuesday morning he would do men’s small group Bible study, and he was the guy who brought the coffee and the donuts. That was his thing,” Jelly Roll said on the YouTube show.

Donna came up with his nickname

Jelly Roll has his mom to thank for his unforgettable stage name.

"My mother named me that whenever I was a little, chubby kid," Jelly Roll said on a 2022 episode of The Bobby Bones Show. "Been fat my whole life. I spent the next 30 years trying to grow into the name. I think I've done it. I obviously look the part. It just stuck."

By the time he was in high school, the moniker “Jelly Roll” had stuck, and that’s how his peers came to know him.

Buddy welcomed three other children

<p>Jelly Roll Facebook</p> Jelly Roll with his brothers and dad Horace 'Buddy' DeFord.

Jelly Roll Facebook

Jelly Roll with his brothers and dad Horace 'Buddy' DeFord.

Buddy was a father to four children, including Jelly Roll, who is the youngest. He welcomed sons Roger and Scott as well as a daughter named Shelby while in previous relationships.

While the other DeFord kids prefer to steer clear of the spotlight, they do make appearances on Jelly Roll’s social media occasionally.

At the time of Buddy’s death in 2019, Jelly Roll posted a throwback photo of him and Buddy, along with Roger and Scott, on Facebook. A year later, the trio reunited again on Father’s Day weekend in honor of their late dad.

“My Big Brothers and myself are hanging with all our kids and honoring our late Father (Buddy DeFord) this weekend,” Jelly Roll wrote on Facebook alongside pictures of the brothers at Hilton Head Island, S.C.

They divorced in 1997

<p>Jelly Roll Instagram</p> Jelly Roll and his mom Donna DeFord pose for a photo during the holiday season.

Jelly Roll Instagram

Jelly Roll and his mom Donna DeFord pose for a photo during the holiday season.

In the late '90s, the pair went their separate ways, and Buddy moved out of their family home. In a Billboard interview, the “Save Me” singer-songwriter said his parents’ marriage was Buddy’s “fifth or sixth.”

Jelly Roll became the man of the house at 13 years old and quickly took on the responsibility of caring for his mother, who was suffering from mental health issues and substance abuse.

“I felt this need to take care of my mother back then,” he recalled to the outlet. “When [Buddy] left, I was like, ‘Somebody’s got to do what he was doing, at least trying to figure out some money.' "

Looking back, Jelly Roll said he sometimes thought about what his life would have been like had he moved away and lived with Buddy full-time.

“I told my dad before he died [in 2019], ‘I wonder, if I’d have moved in with you when you divorced, if I’d have went to Vanderbilt [University] or something,’ ” he admitted.

Related: Who Is Jelly Roll's Wife? All About Bunnie XO

Donna inspired Jelly Roll to get into music

<p>Jason Kempin/Getty</p> Jelly Roll performs at Bridgestone Arena on December 09, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Jason Kempin/Getty

Jelly Roll performs at Bridgestone Arena on December 09, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee.

Jelly Roll’s relationship with music stems from his childhood when his mom would play her favorite records on repeat and come up with stories about how the songs were made. In fact, some of his fondest memories with Donna center around music.

“What got me into music was my mother,” Jelly Roll said on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. “She would come downstairs and throw a record on, and she’d light a cigarette at the table, and dude, I would watch the house change.”

It wasn’t unusual for neighbors to come over and for their kitchen to “turn into a nightclub” either, he shared.

With his career taking off, Jelly Roll has remained open about his mother’s mental health history and has used his platform to raise awareness. On the podcast, he recalled Donna rarely leaving her room unless music was involved.

“Something changed in her when the record came on is how I looked at it,” he explained, adding, “I spent my whole life writing songs for her.”

Buddy died in 2019

<p>Jelly Roll Instagram</p> Jelly Roll with his late father, Buddy, and kids, Bailee Ann and Noah.

Jelly Roll Instagram

Jelly Roll with his late father, Buddy, and kids, Bailee Ann and Noah.

Buddy died at the age of 75 from cancer on March 20, 2019. Jelly Roll shared the sad news with his fans in an emotional tribute to his father on Facebook.

“Today my best friend of 34 years took his last breath. My father,  Buddy DeFord taught me how to wake up , get dressed and go to work. No matter how you feel, you get up get dressed and get your a-- to work,” he penned.

Jelly Roll stated that Buddy “taught me to hate racism” and that “all men were created equal in the eyes of God.”

“He taught me how to carry myself as a man, how to shake a mans hand and look him in he eyes. He taught me how to TREAT people - how to interact with people . How to talk with confidence,” he continued. “Because of you Pops I’m the man that I am. He taught me more Lessons than I could fit in a post. Maybe I’ll write a book one day.”

Donna enjoys supporting Jelly Roll

<p>Jelly Roll Facebook</p> Jelly Roll and his mom Donna DeFord.

Jelly Roll Facebook

Jelly Roll and his mom Donna DeFord.

More recently, in October 2023, Donna had the opportunity to watch her son grace the stage at the legendary Rupp Arena in Lexington, Ky.

Shortly after, he reminisced about the momentous milestone on Instagram, alongside a few backstage photos from the special night.

“One of the coolest experiences for me is when my mother makes it out for a show. I started writing songs because I seen how much she loved music and how much it helped her . I am grateful that she is able to see my perform at this level,” he shared.

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