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The Delmore Brothers
Origin Elkmont, Alabama, USA
Genres Country
Years active 1926 - 1952
Labels Columbia
Bluebird
Decca
King
Associated acts The Sacred Aires Quartet

Alton Delmore (December 25, 1908 - June 8, 1964) and Rabon Delmore (December 3, 1916 - December 4, 1952), billed as The Delmore Brothers, were country music pioneers and stars of the Grand Ole Opry in the 1930s. The Delmore Brothers, together with other brother duets such as the Louvin Brothers, the Blue Sky Boys, the Monroe Brothers (Birch, Charlie and Bill Monroe), the McGee Brothers, and The Stanley Brothers, had a profound impact on the history of country music and American popular music.

Contents

Biography

The brothers were born into poverty in Elkmont, Alabama, as the sons of tenant farmers amid a rich tradition of gospel music and Appalachian folk.[1] Their mother, Mollie Delmore, wrote and sang gospel songs for their church. The Delmores blended gospel-style harmonies with the quicker guitar-work of traditional folk music and the blues to help create the still-emerging genre of country. In addition to the regular six-string acoustic guitar, the duo was one of the few to use the rare tenor guitar, a four-string instrument that had primarily been used previously in vaudeville shows.[2]

In 1925 Alton wrote his first song "Bound For the Shore" at the age of 13, (co-written with his mother). It was published by Athens Music Co.[2]

The Brother's did their first recording session for Columbia in 1931, recording "I've Got the Kansas City Blues" and "Alabama Lullaby", which became their theme song.[3] They signed a contract with Victor Record’s budget label Bluebird in 1933 and became regulars on the Grand Ole Opry variety program. Within three years, they had become the most popular act on the show.[4] Disagreements with Opry management led to the brothers leaving the show in 1939. While they continued to play and record music throughout the 1940s, they never achieved the same level of success they had with the Grand Ole Opry.[4]

In 1941, their song "When It's Time For The Whippoorwill To Sing" made the Billboard "Hillbilly" top three and by 1946 they had expanded from their acoustic two-piece arrangements into a full band, with bass, mandolin, steel guitar, fiddle, harmonica, and additional guitars. Some of those additional guitars were supplied by Merle Travis. The most important backup musician on these sides was Wayne Raney,[4] who played a "choke" style of harmonica that was heavily influenced by the blues. The Delmores were also leaning increasingly towards uptempo material that reflected the upsurge in Western swing and boogie-woogie.

By the end of 1947, they were also using electric guitar and drums. Raney (who also sang) in effect acted as a third member of the Delmores in the late '40s and early '50s, when they plunged full-tilt into hillbilly boogie. These are the most widely available and, in some ways, best Delmore Brothers sides. They were also the most successful, and in the late '40s the brothers reached their commercial peak, releasing a series of hard-driving boogies with thumping back beats and bluesy structures.

The Brothers recorded "Hillbilly Boogie," "Steamboat Bill Boogie," "Barnyard Boogie," "Mobile Boogie," "Freight Train Boogie," and even "Pan American Boogie." These were exciting performances featuring extended guitar solos that clearly looked forward to the rock era.

Their best-known song, "Blues Stay Away From Me," is regarded by some as the first rock and roll record. It was covered by Gene Vincent and the Blue Caps.

Rabon died of lung cancer in 1952.[4] Following Rabon's death, Alton suffered a heart attack, the loss of his father and his daughter Susan, all within a three-year period. He moved back in Huntsville, Alabama. He taught some guitar, did odd jobs, and devoted his creative energies to writing prose. He wrote a series of short stories and his autobiography, Truth is Stranger than Publicity, published posthumously in the 1970s.[2]

Over the course of their careers, the Delmores wrote more than one thousand songs. Some of the most popular were Brown’s Ferry Blues, Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar and Fifteen Miles from Birmingham.[4]

Legacy

The Delmore Brothers were inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. Their pioneering contribution to the genre has been recognized by the Rockabilly Hall of Fame.[3]

Bob Dylan was quoted in the Chicago Tribune, on November 10th 1985 as saying "The Delmore Brothers, God, I really loved them! I think they've influenced every harmony I've ever tried to sing." [5]

Partial discography

  • 1957: Sacred Songs (King Records)
  • 1964: In Memory (King)
  • 1964: In Memory, Vol. 2 (King)
  • 1966: Wonderful Sacred Songs (King)
  • 1984: When They Let the Hammer Fall (Bear Family)
  • 2003: Classic Cuts: 1933-1941 (JSP)
  • 2005: Fifty Miles to Travel (Ace)
  • 2007: The Delmore Brothers, Vol. 2: The Later Years 1933-1952 (JSP)
  • 2008: Blues Stay Away from Me (Jasmine)
  • 2008: Classic Cuts, Vol. 3: More from the 1930's Plus (JSP)

Awards

  • Citation of Achievement from Broadcast Music Inc. presented to Alton Delmore for "Beautiful Brown Eyes", 1951.
  • Induction into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, 1971
  • Induction into the Alabama Country Music Hall of Fame, 1987
  • Induction into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame, 1989
  • Independent Country Music Association-Germany, Induction into the Hall of Fame. 2000
  • Independent Country Music Association-Germany, Artists of the 20th Century, 2000
  • Inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, October 4th, 2001
  • National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences "Blues Stay Away From Me", Delmore Brothers, King, 1949, was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, January 2007

References

External links

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