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Merle Travis

(1917—1983)


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b. Merle Robert Travis, 29 November 1917, Rosewood, Kentucky, USA, d. 20 October 1983, Tahlequah, Oklahoma, USA. Travis was the son of a tobacco farmer but by the time he was four years old, the family had moved to Ebenezer, Kentucky, and his father was working down the mines. Travis’ father often remarked, ‘Another day older and deeper in debt’, a phrase his son used in ‘Sixteen Tons’. His father played the banjo, but Travis preferred the guitar. He befriended two coal miners, Mose Reger and Ike Everly, the father of the Everly Brothers, who demonstrated how to use the thumb for the bass strings while playing the melody on treble strings. Travis hitched around the country, busking where he could, and in 1935, he joined the Tennessee Tomcats and from there, went to a better-known country group, Clayton McMichen’s Georgia Wildcats. In 1937 he became a member of the Drifting Pioneers, who performed on WLW Cincinnati. In 1943 he recorded for the local King Records label, recording a solo as Bob McCarthy and a duet with Grandpa Jones as the Shepherd Brothers. He and Jones did many radio shows together and many years later, recreated that atmosphere for an album. Travis, Jones and the Delmore Brothers also worked as a gospel quartet, the Browns Ferry Four.

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From Encyclopedia of Popular Music in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Music.


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