Song:Nine Pound Hammer
Album:I Am A Pilgrim
Legendary country singer Merle Travis is best known for his innovative guitar picking technique. But he was also a great singer and songwriter and he had some chart success mostly in the 40s. He was born Nov. 29, 1917 in Rosewood, KY. This is in the coal mining area of Muhlenberg County which was also a fertile area for music. Travis learned to play guitar from local legends like Arnold Shultz, Kennedy Jones, Mose Rager and Ike Everly, the father of The Everly Brothers. Travis' picking style got some attention when he was a regular on the radio show Boone Country Jamboree on WLW in Cincinnati. He worked with Grandpa Jones and The Delmore Brothers. He and Jones signed with King Records in 1943 and recorded as The Sheppard Brothers. After a brief stint in the US Marine Corps, Travis formed The Brown's Ferry Four with Jones and the Delmores. He left in 1946 and signed with Capitol Records. He had several top ten country hits with Divorce Me C.O.D. and So Round, So Firm, So Fully Packed topping the country charts. His novelty songs seemed to chart higher than his serious songs about coal mining like Nine Pound Hammer. Travis' best known song Sixteen Tons was a monster hit for Tennessee Ernie Ford in 1955. While Travis was having chart success, he appeared in several B-western movies. And he appeared a lot on radio and TV. His career faded in the mid 50s due to alcoholism that resulted in several violent incidents in the Los Angeles area. He was also notorious for suffering from stage fright though you wouldn't know it by watching him perform. This comp from the Dutch label Country Stars is a good intro to his music. Travis left Capitol in 1969. He revived his career in the 70s appearing frequently on TV and recording for CMH Records. Merle Travis died of a heart attack on Oct. 20, 1983 at age 65. Many guitarists including Chet Atkins credit Travis as a guitar innovator and his techniques are still widely taught. Here is Merle Travis performing Nine Pound Hammer from the 1951 film Cyclone Fury.