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Encyclopedia > Merle Travis

Merle Travis (November 29, 1917 - October 20, 1983) is an American country and western singer, songwriter, and musician. November 29 is the 333rd (in leap years the 334th) day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. ... 1917 was a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar (see link for calendar) or a common year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar. ... October 20 is the 293rd day of the year (294th in leap years) in the Gregorian Calendar, with 72 days remaining. ... 1983 is a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar. ... Country music, once known as Country and Western music, is a popular musical form developed in the southern United States, with roots in traditional folk music, spirituals, and the blues. ...


Born Merle Robert Travis in Rosewood, Kentucky, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1977. Some of the songs he wrote or performed include: "Sixteen Tons", "So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed", and "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette". The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame was established by the Nashville Songwriters Foundation, Inc. ... Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum 2001 - Present The Country Music Hall of Fame is a museum at 222 Fifth Avenue South in Nashville, Tennessee, United States. ...


Merle Travis was raised in Muhlenburg County, Kentucky; the same coal mining county mentioned in the John Prine song, "Paradise." Merle became interested in the guitar early in life, and he originally played one made by his brother. Merle reportedly saved his money to buy a guitar that he had window-shopped for some time.


There were other guitar players in the County that drew Merle's attention. One musician, black blues guitarist and fiddler Arnold Shultz, played a thumb and index finger picking style method which essentially created a solo style that blended lead lines and rhythmic bass plucked by the thumb (equipped with a thumbpick). Shultz was also friendly with young Bill Monroe.


This guitar style captivated many white guitarists in the region most notably Kennedy Jones, its first great local exponent. A part-time barber and coal miner named Mose Rager was a disciple of Jones's as was Ike Everly, the father of Don and Phil, who also used this method. Young Travis learned from both.


In 1936, he performed "Tiger Rag" on a local radio amateur show while visiting his older brother in Evansville, Indiana. That led to offers to work with local bands. He then spent a brief period with the better-known Clayton McMichen's Georgia Wildcats before connecting with the Drifting Pioneers who performed on WLW in Cincinnati.


Travis's style amazed everyone at WLW. He became a popular member of their barn dance show the "Boone County Jamboree," and worked on various weekday programs, often working with other WLW acts including Grandpa Jones, the Delmore Brothers, Hank Penny and Joe Maphis, all of whom became lifelong frinds. In 1943, he and Grandpa Jones recorded for Cincinnati used-record dealer Syd Nathan, who had founded a new label, King Records. Because WLW barred their staff musicians from recording, they used the pseudonym "The Sheppard Brothers."


In 1944, Travis left Cincinnati for Hollywood where his style became even more renowned as he worked on radio, recording sessions and on live stage shows. He recorded for small labels there and in 1946 was signed to Capitol Records. Hits like "Divorce Me C.O.D.," Sweet Temptation," "Steel Guitar Rag" and "Fat Gal" gave him national prominence. His single "Merle's Boogie Woogie" showed him working with multi-part disc recording at the same time as Les Paul. His design for a solidbody electric guitar, built for him by Paul Bigsby, with a single-row of tuners, inspired longtime Travis pal Leo Fender's early guitar design. That guitar now resides in the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.


In 1946, asked to record an album of folk songs or pseudo-folk tunes, Travis combined traditional numbers with originals he wrote recalling his family's days workin in the mines from that came "Sixteen Tons" and "Dark As A Dungeon. Travis's personal life was less sanguine. A heavy drinker and at times desperately insecure despite his multitude of talents (prose writing, taxidermy, cartooning and watch repair), he was involved in various violent incidents in California and married several times.


His popularity spawned followers the most notable of whom was Chet Atkins, who first heard Travis on WLW in 1939, when Atkins lived with his father in rural Georgia. Atkins added to Travis' style, using index and middle finger for picking and adding influences from his other guitar heroes: Django Reinhardt, George Barnes and Les Paul. Travis continued recording for Capitol into the 1950s, found greater exposure when his friend Tennessee Ernie Ford" recorded his million-selling rendition of "Sixteen Tons" in 1955 but still plagued by substance abuse issues, never sustained his popularity, though he was revered by friends like Johnny Cash, Grandpa Jones and Hank Thompson, with whom he toured in the 1950s. Thompson, who could pick Travis-style, even had Gibson design him a Super 400 hollowbody electric guitar identical to the one Travis began using in 1952. Chet Atkins Chester Burton Chet Atkins (June 20, 1924 – June 30, 2001) was an influential country guitarist and record producer in country music. ...


While Travis did not "invent" his style, he certainly popularized it. It's true that longtime Travis fan Arthel "Doc" Watson named his son, Eddy Merle Watson, himself a terrific quitarist, in Merle Travis' honor (the name "Eddy" came from Doc's admiration for Eddy Arnold). Travis enjoyed a brief revival in the late 1970s with some excellent recordings for CMH Records, including Western Swing, re-recordings of his hits and acoustic playing before he died of a massive heart attack at his Oklahoma home in 1983. Today his biological son Thom Bresh, continues playing in Travis's style.


External links

  • Official Web page
  • CMT Merle Travis

  Results from FactBites:
 
Merle Travis - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (818 words)
Merle Travis (November 29, 1917 - October 20, 1983) was an American country and western singer, songwriter, and musician.
Merle Travis was raised in Muhlenburg County, Kentucky, the same coal mining county mentioned in the John Prine song "Paradise." Merle became interested in the guitar early in life, and he originally played one made by his brother.
Travis enjoyed a brief revival in the late 1970s with some excellent recordings for CMH Records which finally showcased the guitar work he was renowned for, including Western Swing, re-recordings of his hits, and acoustic playing.
VH1.com : Merle Travis : Biography (1101 words)
Merle Travis was virtually without peer as a guitarist and songwriter.
Travis was lucky enough to have as neighbors Ike Everly, later the father of Don and Phil, and Mose Rager, who played in a unique three-finger guitar style that had developed in that area of Kentucky.
Travis was one of those musical figures who was referred to constantly, either musically or literally, by dozens of major figures, but he was never able to ascend the charts himself again.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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