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The Delmore Brothers

The Delmore Brothers are not nearly as well-known as such early country giants as the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, and Hank Williams. The reasons for this, upon close inspection of their work, are not readily apparent. They were one of the greatest early country harmonizers, drawing from both gospel and Appalachian folk. They were skilled songwriters, penning literally hundreds of songs, many of which have proven to be durable. Most important, they were among the few early traditional country acts to change with the times, and pioneer some of those changes. Their recordings from the latter half of the 1940s married traditional country to boogie beats and bluesy riffs. In this respect they laid a foundation for rockabilly and early rock & roll, and rate among the most important white progenitors of those forms.

The Delmores were born into poverty in Elkmont, AL, as the sons of tenant farmers. Alton (b. December 25, 1908) would write most of the duo's original material, although his younger brother Rabon (b. December 3, 1916) was also a competent writer. Performing on guitar and vocals from early ages, they were playing as a pair by the time Rabon was ten years old. In the early '30s, they were confident enough to enter professional music, auditioning for Columbia in 1931 and successfully auditioning for Nashville radio station WSM the following year.

Throughout the 1930s, the Delmore Brothers recorded often, as well as performing on several radio stations. They probably gained their most early fame, however, from their long-running stint with the Grand Ole Opry between 1932 and 1938. The music emphasized their beautiful soft harmonies, accomplished guitar picking, and strong original compositions. Unusually for that time (or any other), the Delmores would switch high and low harmony parts from song to song (or even within the same song), although Alton would usually sing lead. Whether performing their own songs, traditional ones, or gospel, they brought a strong bluesy feeling to both their music and their vocals. It's that element, perhaps, that enables the Delmores, more than many other acts of the time, to speak to listeners of subsequent generations. Not to be underestimated either are their down-to-earth lyrical concerns, which address commonplace struggles and lost love with grace and redeeming, good-natured humor, rarely resorting to cornball tears.

In 1944, the Delmores signed with King, inaugurating an era which found them delving into and innovating more modern forms of country. Although their first sides for the label stuck to a traditional mold, in 1946 they expanded from their acoustic two-piece arrangements into full-band backup, with bass, mandolin, steel guitar, fiddle, harmonica, and additional guitars. Some of those additional guitars were supplied by Merle Travis, who credited Alton Delmore as a key influence.

In retrospect, however, the most important backup musician on these sides was Wayne Raney, who played a "choke" style of harmonica that was heavily influenced by the blues. The Delmores were also leaning increasingly toward up-tempo 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 backbeats and bluesy structures. Arguably they milked the cow dry, recording "Hillybilly Boogie," "Steamboat Bill Boogie," "Barnyard Boogie," "Mobile Boogie," "Freight Train Boogie," and even "Pan American Boogie."

These were usually exciting performances, though, featuring extended guitar solos that clearly looked forward to the rock era. Listen, for instance, to the lengthy guitar breaks of "Beale Street Boogies" (unreleased at the time) -- very few, if any, white or black artists were riffing so extensively in 1947. And of course "Beale Street" itself was a tribute to the most famous musical street in Memphis, the city that did so much to cross-fertilize black and white roots music into what became rock & roll.

The Delmores didn't stick entirely to boogies during the King era, also releasing some slower bluesy material. One of these, the original "Blues Stay Away From Me," became their biggest hit, and indeed the most famous Delmore Brothers song of all, often covered by subsequent country and pop artists. Interestingly, the Delmores continued to record gospel on the side, as part of the Brown's Ferry Four, a quartet which also included (at various points) Grandpa Jones, Merle Travis, and Red Foley.

As influential as the Delmores' King sides may have been on the future of American pop, the Delmores themselves would not be able to capitalize on that future. By the early '50s, their commercial success was fading. After the death of his young daughter, Alton drank heavily; worse, Rabon died of lung cancer on December 4, 1952. Alton (like longtime accompanist Wayne Raney) did record some material as a solo act, in both the gospel and rockabilly fields. Alton was way too old to begin a new career as a rockabilly singer, though, and he didn't record much for the last decade of his life. He wrote the autobiography Truth Is Stranger Than Publicity (published posthumously in 1977 by CMF) before dying on June 9, 1964. By that time the Delmore Brothers' work had already proven extremely influential, particularly on the harmonies of fellow sibling acts the Louvin Brothers and the Everly Brothers. They left behind an extraordinary lengthy and consistent body of recorded work -- virtually none of their sides are lousy, at least the ones which have been reissued. Much of the Delmores' early material, unfortunately, can be hard to locate, although many of the King sides have been reissued on CD. ~ Richie Unterberger
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Classic Cuts, Vol. 3: More From The 1930's Plus

Disc 1

1. I Got The Kansas City Blues

2. Keep The Camp Fires Burning

3. Alabama Lullaby

4. 'cause I Don't Mean To Cry When You're Gone

5. Git Along

6. I Wonder Where My Darling Is Tonight

7. My Heart Will Be Crying

8. Someday You'll Pay

9. Take It To The Captain

10. Boogie Woogie Baby

11. Born To Be Blue

12. Weary Day

13. Darby's Ram

14. Take It Out On The Door

15. Gotta Have Some Lovin'

16. Pan American Boogie

17. Sand Mountain Blues

18. I Swear By The Stars

19. Life's Too Short

20. Blues You Never Lose

21. Field Hand Man

22. I'll Be There

23. Heartbreak Ridge

24. How You Gonna Get Your Lovin' Done

25. I Said Goodnight To My Darling

Disc 2

1. Mocking Bird

2. Smith's Waltz

3. Doin' The Goofus

4. There's More Pretty Girls Than One

6. Little Darling They Have Taken You From Me

7. Never Alone

8. Little Darling

9. Cheatham County Breakdown No. 2

10. It's Hard To Please Your Mind

11. Love Letters

12. Walking In My Sleep

13. Lonesome For You

14. Sweet Heaven

15. Beautiful Mabel Clare

16. Beautiful Memories

17. Beautiful Brown Eyes

18. Nellie's Blue Eyes

19. Across The Blue Ridge Mountains

20. Lonesome Ramblers Blues

22. Henpecked Husband Blues

23. Her Little Brown Hand

24. Lost Love

25. Paris Waltz

Disc 3

22. John Three Sixteen

Disc 4

6. Lonesome Wind Blues

10. Del Rio Boogie

24. When They Let The Hammer Down

25. Steamboat Bill Boogie

x

Track List: Good Time Saturday Night

1. Born To Be Blue

2. Calling To That Other Shore

3. 'dis Train

4. Everybody Loves Her

5. Give Me Your Hand

6. Goin' Back To The Blue Ridge Mountains

7. Good Time Saturday Night

8. Happy On The Mississippi Shore

9. I Let The Freight Train Carry Me On

10. I Swear By The Stars

11. Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide

12. Life's Too Short

13. Long Journey Home

14. Midnight Train

15. Now I'm Free

17. Please Be My Sunshine

19. Someday You'll Pay

20. Sweet, Sweet Thing

21. Tennessee Choo, Choo

22. The Girl By The River

23. The Trail Of Time

24. There's Something About Love

25. Who's Gonna Be Lonesome For Me

x

Track List: Fifty Miles To Travel

1. Fifty Miles To Travel

3. I Let The Freight Train Carry Me On

4. I Won't Be Worried Long

5. Stop That Boogie

6. My Heart Will Be Cryin'

7. Blues Stay Away From Me

8. Shame On Me

9. Waitin' For That Train

10. Barnyard Boogie

11. Born To Be Blue

13. Why Did You Leave Me, Dear

14. Dis Train Am Bound For Glory

15. Red River Valley

16. Fast Express

17. Give Me Your Hand

18. Midnite Special

19. Somebody Else's Darling

20. Down Home Boogie

21. Mississippi Shore

23. Long Journey Home

24. Blues Stay Away From Me

x

Track List: Blues Stays Away From Me

Disc 1

1. I've Got The Kansas City Blues

2. Lonesome Yodel Blues

3. I'm Mississippi Bound

4. I Ain't Got Nowhere To Travel

5. Lonesome Jailhouse Blues

6. Brown's Ferry Blues #2

7. Blow Your Whistle Freight Train

8. I'm Going Away

9. Down South

10. I'm Worried Now

11. False Hearted Girl

12. Singing My Troubles Away

13. Weary Lonesome Blues

14. I've Got The Railroad Blues

15. Hi De Ho Baby Mine

16. Baby You're Throwing Me Down

17. Wabash Blues

18. Scatterbrain Mama

Disc 2

1. Lorena, The Slave

2. Take Away This Lonesome Day

3. It's Takin' Me Down

4. Lonesome Yodel Blues #2

5. Goodbye Booze

6. Careless Love

7. Over The Hills

8. Rainin' On The Mountain

9. The Storms Are On The Ocean

10. See That Coon In A Hickory Tree

11. Midnight Train

12. I Won't Be Worried Long

13. Mississippi Shore

14. Going Back To The Blue Ridge Mountains

15. Long Journey Home

16. Blues Stay Away From Me

17. Life's Too Short

18. The Girl By The River

x

Track List: Classic Cuts 1933-41

Disc 1

1. I Ain't Got Nowhere To Travel

3. Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar

5. Brown's Ferry Blues

6. I'm Mississippi Bound

7. I've Got The Big River Blues

8. The Girls Don't Worry My Mind

9. Bury Me Out On The Prairie

10. The Frozen Girl

11. Lonesome Jailhouse Blues

12. Blue Railroad Train

14. Blow Your Whistle Freight Train

15. Down South

16. Brown's Ferry Blues - Part 2

17. I Got The Kansas City Blues

18. Alabama Lullaby

19. The Fugitive's Lament

20. I'm Going Away

21. I Long To See My Mother

22. Lorena, The Slave

Disc 2

1. The Nashville Blues

2. The Lover's Warning

3. I'm Worried Now

4. Take Away This Lonesome Day

5. Promise Me You'll Always Be Faithful

6. Don't You See That Train

7. It's Takin' Me Down

8. That Yodelin' Gal - Miss Julie

11. Lonesome Yodel Blues - 2

14. Take Me Back To The Range

15. No Drunkard Can Enter There

16. Southern Moon

17. False Hearted Girl

18. The Budded Rose

21. No One

Disc 3

2. I Need The Prayers Of Those I Love

3. I've Got The Railroad Blues

4. The Weary Lonesome Blues

5. Heavenly Light Is Shining On Me

6. Wonderful There

7. Singing My Troubles Away

8. They Say It Is Sinful To Flirt

9. Till The Roses Bloom Again

11. Hi De Ho, Baby Mine

12. Goodbye Booze

13. Careless Love (Bring My Baby Back)

14. In That Vine Covered Chapel In The Valley

16. 15 Miles From Birmingham

18. Just The Same Sweet Thing To Me

19. A Better Range Is Home

20. Don't Let My Ramblin' Bother Your Mind

21. Wabash Blues

Disc 4

1. Over The Hills

2. The Dying Truckdriver

3. Scatterbrain Mama

5. Rainin' On The Mountain

7. The Storms Are On The Ocean

8. Back To Birmingham

10. God Put A Rainbow In The Clouds

11. There's Trouble On My Mind Today

12. Silver Dollar

13. Old Mountain Dew

14. In The Blue Hills Of Virginia

15. Make Room In The Lifeboat For Me

17. Will You Be Lonesome Too

20. Baby Girl

21. Gospel Cannonball

22. Honey I'm Ramblin' Away

x

Track List: Freight Train Boogie

1. Blues Stay Away From Me

2. Freight Train Boogie

3. Trouble Ain't Nothin' But The Blues

4. Boogie Woogie Baby

5. Rounder's Blues

6. Mobile Boogie

7. Used Car Blues

8. Pan American Boogie

9. Field Hand Man

10. Brown's Ferry Blues

11. Peach Tree Street Boogie

12. Blues You Never Lose

13. Steamboat Bill Boogie

14. Muddy Water

15. Sand Mountain Blues

16. Hillbilly Boogie

17. You Can't Do Wrong And Get By

18. Kentucky Mountain

19. Weary Day

20. Take It To The Captain

x

Track List: The Later Years 1933-1952

Disc 1

1. Ramblin' Minded Blues

2. I Ain't Gonna Stay Here Long

3. I'm Going Back To Alabama

4. I'm Leaving You

5. By The Banks Of The Rio Grande

6. Don't Let Me Be In The Way

7. Hey Hey I'm Memphis Bound

8. I Guess I've Got To Be Going

9. I Know I'll Be Happy In Heaven

10. I Believe It For My Mother Told Me So

11. Carry Me Back To Alabama

12. I Don't Know Why I Love Her

13. Don't Forget Me Darling

14. Memories Of My Carolina Girl

15. Wonderful There

16. The Farmer's Girl

17. Look Up Look Down That Lonesome Road

18. Ain't It Hard To Love

19. Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow

20. Brother Take Warning

21. Alcatraz Island Blues

22. There's A Lonesome Road

23. Leavin' On That Train

24. My Home's Across The Blue Ridge Mountains

Disc 2

1. I'm Alabama Bound

2. Nothing But The Blues

3. Some Of These Days You're Gonna Be Sad

4. Heart Of Sorrow

5. Quit Treatin' Me Mean

6. Just The Same Sweet Thing To Me

7. The Only Star

8. Baby You're Throwing Me Down

9. Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar No. 2

12. Goin' Back To Georgia

13. Home On The River

14. Gambler's Yodel

15. The Wabash Cannonball Blues

16. That's How I Feel So Goodbye

17. The Storms Are On The Ocean

18. She Won't Be My Little Darling

19. Gathering Flowers From The Hillside

20. Last Night I Was Your Only Darling

21. New False Hearted Girl

22. I Wonder Where My Darling Is Tonight

23. Precious Jewel

24. I'll Never Fall In Love Again

25. I'm Leaving You

Disc 3

1. Prisoner's Farewell

2. Sweet Sweet Thing

3. The Fast Old Shovel

4. Why Did You Leave Me Dear

5. I Found An Angel

6. Lonely Moon

7. Midnight Special

8. Be My Little Pet

9. Remember I Feel Lonesome Too

10. Fast Express

11. I'm Sorry I Caused You To Cry

12. Hillbilly Boogie

13. I'm Lonesome Without You

15. She Left Me Standing On The Mountain

17. Kentucky Mountain

18. Midnight Train

19. Goin' Back To The Blue Ridge Mountains

20. Rounder's Blues

21. The Wrath Of God

22. Calling To That Other Shore

23. Freight Train Boogie

24. Shame On Me

Disc 4

1. Harmonica Blues

2. Mississippi Shore

4. Brown's Ferry Blues

5. Mobile Boogie

6. Stop That Boogie

7. Used Car Blues

8. Barnyard Boogie

9. Fifty Miles To Travel

10. Now I'm Free

11. Lonesome Day

12. Down Home Boogie

13. Peach Tree Street Boogie

14. Blues Stay Away From Me

15. Trouble Ain't Nothin' But The Blues

16. Everybody Loves Her

18. Please Be My Sunshine

19. Who's Gonna Be Lonesome For Me

20. The Girl By The River

21. There's Sumpin' About Love

22. Tennessee Choo Choo

23. Good Time Saturday Night

24. The Trail Of Time

Comments

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garammasala1 9 6 8
Love me some old timey country music. New country, not so much.
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Sad little tune. Good though.
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When our parents made love they made us to die; now we're friends?
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Stupendous! Wow...
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mattsegel
Awesome music ............ . . . . . . .
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Alright!! Sure wish this type of music and artists were on radio around here. Love it.
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jcarltone3
the harmony sounds like one person with two mouths
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Every year Athens State University in Athens Alabama celebrates with a festival in their honor called Delmore Days.http:// w w w . d e l m o r e d a y s . c o m /
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hermit1927
If the Delmores were alive today, they would be sensational in traditional American music circles. Those not blessed to have heard the Delmores live and in their element will still realize that they were playing rock licks in some songs long before any of the alleged inventors of rock were born. Rock came out of one fascet of country. The term 'rock and roll' was in use long before the egotistical disc jockey claimed to have originated it. It referred to the acts of worshipers in the the sec
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The Delmore Brothers were a top notch harmonizing act of ole timey music. it will live on forever. GOD rest their souls.
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I just gotta say, thank you so much Pandora. For introducing me to these underappreci a t e d masters. I have completely fell in love with their music, too bad that they are virtually almost completely unknown so it is hard to find anything other then "Blues Stay Away From Me" for free online. They have really influenced me and I hope I will have the skill some days to do some Rockabilly or Folk Rock version of "Waiting For That Train" or "When I'm Gone".
Report as inappropriate
Great artists. Glad to see their recordings being reissued.

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