Other Players

Forgotten side of Merle Travis

1

We've had some interesting bantering the past few years regarding what constitutes "Travis picking", a subject I won't pick the scab off on this occasion, but rather this post is to show Travis' earlier work where his tunes featured him primarily as a singer. For those who don't know, in the late '40's he had several tunes that spent many weeks at #1. This tune I've chosen wasn't one of that collection but is a great tune. Good all round musical structure and fun lyrics, and a good tune about the South's culture without denigrating it.

I chose this tune in particular, because it has a modern version from a French group to compare it to, somewhere around 50 years apart. Aside from not using Merle's complete lyrics as I wished they did, they do a wonderful job and give this tune a hell of a lot of jump!....even more than Merle did. If their version doesn't get your toes tappin' you're dead. Not to take anything away from the fine playing by the other musicians here, this is some kind of bass being laid down give it that wicked jump! I'd say this tune has survived well.

Oh, and this was one of Merle's substantial number of tunes he wrote, both the music and lyrics. BTW, Merle recorded this twice. The other version is slightly better IMO but it isn't on YouTube to hear. Nonetheless, enjoy this version.

2

Thanks for the Merle video Dave. Talent will rise to the surface.

The song reminded me a lot of Ernie Ford.

3

I could go on and on about Merle Travis. I don't think he gets near enough credit for his contribution to the music world. He was one of those kind of guys that was good at just about everything he tried. I wish I could remember exactly how Chet Atkins introduced him at The Grand Ole Opry, but it was something like, Merle Travis is a man that can fix your watch, draw a picture for you, or write a hit song, and he is my friend...

Thom Bresh said that Travis told him that after he wrote Sixteen Tons, he talked about how much he hated the song. He couldn't stand it, and then Tennessee Ernie Ford recorded it, and he started getting huge royalty checks. All of a sudden he loved the song.

He didn't invent the Travis style of guitar picking, nor did he invent Travis picking, but he was the first one that was good enough and had the charisma to take it to the rest of the world. Thank God he did.

I love Merle Travis.

4

Right you are Richard. I remember reading the same quote from Chet.

An interesting note about 16 tons. I once saw a rerun episode of Hee Haw - late '70's IIRC - featuring Tennessee Ernie Ford and Merle Travis doing 16 Tons together, and the host mentioned that this was the first time they had ever performed Merle's tune together; this being 20+ years following TEF making it a hit in '55, Merle having done it first [in '47].

5

I think Merle is one of the most important guitar players the 20th century. I’m surprised I was the only person who put a cd out to celebrate what would’ve been his 100th birthday last year. That being said I’m really glad that Deke Dickerson is writing an authorized biography right now

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I think Merle is one of the most important guitar players the 20th century. I’m surprised I was the only person who put a cd out to celebrate what would’ve been his 100th birthday last year. That being said I’m really glad that Deke Dickerson is writing an authorized biography right now

– paul pigat

Yes, if you follow him on Instagram you can already see some of his research activities on Merle.

7

Windsordave,

Not Merle, nor Merle's song- even though he did some great versions of it- but I thought you'd enjoy the effortless economy of this fellow. This is one of the ways the Merle Travis style is so, so useful. For dramatic, flexible piano-style rolling vocal accompaniment it's just about unbeatable. With a grand old Baldwin Country Gentleman too-

8

Merle and Maphis = killer separately, 2x killer together

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Very good player Ade and good entertainment value. Thanks.

BTW, "Not Merle, nor Merle's song- even though he did some great versions of it."

Are you saying Merle didn't write KIC?

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Of course not. It just seemed helpful to note that he didn't write I Am A Pilgrim.

The Travis style is so very useful, efficient and flexible. Great for so many musical settings.

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Oh, got you now. Wish there was a You Tube video of the unpublished version of KIC. It has better syncopation for the lyrics.

Couldn't agree with you more Ade regarding how versatile The REAL Travis style is. I play his style all the time and also play Chet's style. I'd will say though that most of the time when I'm noodling to come up with a fingerstyle version of a known [old] song or something of my own creation, my right hand thumb makes the decision as to what it's going to play! A 3 string Chet 6-4-5-4 alternating bass or Merle's hybrid 3 string 6-4(3)-6-4(3) that use the 5th string much of the time.

For some inexplicable reason, my brain's wiring is way ahead of my conscious thinking as regards what the thumb needs to do. Same with adding harmony notes for the melody line....index finger just seems to know what's needed. This is a great advantage in not having to worry about the bassline and let's me focus on just finding the positions for the chords I need and the melody notes.

12

merle travis' early pickin mentor/ idol was ike everly..father of the brothers

poor quality utube..but you'll get the idea!!

cheers

13

Great stuff! Thanks for adding it to the thread. Back in the day, Merle used to sit down front at the local camp meetin's so he could watch Ike and Mose Rager play then went home to try and play it himself. If we could just go back in time...…

Sure want to get a copy of Deke's book as soon as it comes out.

14

Here's a reincarnation of Merle from his earlier days when his vocal tunes topped the hit parade charts in the late '40's. Even though the fingerpickin' is pattern picking while Chris sings, it has that hard driving thumbpicked bassline identified with Merle and was one of his hallmarks.

This original tune is akin to the style of No Vacancy, Divorce Me COD, et al. While the playing is superb, the lyrics are brilliant. If your toes aren't tappin' you aren't alive!

15

I've enjoyed Paul Pigats tribute album, Blue Smoke. He mentioned it, in his above post, but it deserves another mention.

Well; I tried to imbed it but don't know the method. Maybe someone else can take up the slack for me.

Divorce me COD

16

Here's a couple of Merle's great tunes that exemplify his style. In these he has a band with a small solo for himself. In Chris' video he's the whole band but you can sure hear the similarity of style and his lyrics have the same fun quality as Merle's.

In this tune it's obvious he was referring to women, not chicken, and while it got around the censors it stirred up controversy nonetheless, through the Bible Belt.


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