Monday, August 27, 2007

Hillbilly Boogie

Of all the harmonizing brother groups in country music, Alton and Rabon Delmore set the standard that all others have strived to equal. The Delmore brothers were born in Elkmont, Alabama and raised in poverty by tenant farmer parents.

The Delmore Brothers combined country, gospel, and traditional Appalachian folk music (and in the 1940s, boogie) with their beautiful, soft harmonies. Although both were quite talented songwriters, the elder Alton wrote most of the duo’s original material. They auditioned for WSM in 1932 and were soon appearing on the Grand Ole Opry. They stayed with the Opry through 1938 and those years probably account for their early widespread popularity.

It was when they signed with King Records in 1944 that their music took on a new aspect that would launch them to stardom, and eventually earn them an induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame. In 1946, the brothers expanded their sound from an acoustic guitar duo to add a full band with mandolin, fiddle, steel guitar, harmonica, and additional guitars. Merle Travis added guitar on many of those mid-‘40s recordings and credits Alton Delmore as one of his greatest influences. The most influential of the new band members was Wayne Raney. Raney’s blues influenced harmonica helped carry the Delmores into their new roles as the leaders of hillbilly boogie.

While the Delmore Brothers rode that boogie train further than any country group, they didn’t forget their roots. Their biggest hit ”Blues Stay Away From Me” was a slow, bluesy number featuring the lonesome harmonica of Wayne Raney.

Those King recordings of the late 1940s and early ‘50s laid some of the foundation for what would become rock and roll.

Delmore Brothers - Goin' Back To The Blue Ridge Mountains.mp3

Delmore Brothers - Mobile Boogie.mp3

Delmore Brothers - Waitin' For That Train.mp3

Delmore Brothers - Blues Stay Away From Me.mp3

A word of thanks goes out to our good friend Walt and his cousin Wes for these fine old 78s.
I have finally gotten around to transferring the stacks of 78 rpm records that these two kindly let me borrow.


Anonymous Dan said...

Nice post, Ed. The harmonica, when played with passion, can transform any song to greatness. It's one of those now underappreciated instruments like the dobro, the mandolin, and (sadly) even the banjo.

August 28, 2007 6:10 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

You've got that right, Dan.

Perhaps I'll post some more Wayne Raney.

August 28, 2007 8:41 PM  

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