The Delmore Brothers, 1930s

ALTON DELMORE (Dec 25, 1908-Jun 8, 1964)
RABON DELMORE (Dec 3, 1916-Dec 4, 1952)

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Well, I'll tell you where we was borned. We was borned in Elkmont, Alabama. It's a little bitty town right on the outside of Athens. And, of course, we was raised in Athens, Alabama. I am the youngest one of the family and that makes me younger than Alton, and, of course, he's the ugliest one of the family.

But you know, friends, the way we got singing really -- we had an uncle that was a famous songwriter, you know; wrote gospel hymns and everything, and we used to go over to his house and they had a big quartet there. Of course we called it a big one, because it was our cousins, see, and uncle Will and all the boys they'd get together and sing. And we got to liking to sing ourselves, so we kept on going like that.

The first record we ever made [1931], we got in an old jalopy of car and drove from Athens to Atlanta, Georgia. And we got over there and there was a bunch of guys over there that we had a lot of their records. Clayton McMichen, Riley Puckett, Gid Tanner and old Fiddlin' John Carson. Remember those guys, Ray? Yeah, the Skillet Lickers and all the gang was there. And these guys that made the "Birmingham Jail" famous, you know -- Darby and Tarlton.

Yeah, and the old feller was there and he said, "You all got two guitars there. I know you didn't bring them over here if you couldn't play 'em." And he got us to play a tune out there in the audition room.

Yeah, he and Rev. Andrew Jenkins, the old man that wrote "Death of Floyd Collins." Of course Rev. Jenkins is blind. But those fellows treated us good and that's the way we really got started. We played a lot of contests and a feller wrote in and got us an audition over there with Bob Miller of Columbia Records. It was a long time ago...

Promotional interview, late 1940s, reprinted in Old Time Music 10 (Autumn 1973), pp. 19-20.

In contrast to most of the string bands of the period, the Delmore Brothers featured guitars (the six-string and tenor) as lead instruments. In many of their novelty and rhythm tunes they used a ragtime guitar technique similar to that of the Negro blues performer Blind Boy Fuller -- an eight-to-the-bar progression heard in such songs as "Step It Up And Go" and "Don't Let The Deal Go Down"....

quoted in Melvin Shestack (ed.), The Country Music Encyclopedia, London, 1977, p. 59

The Delmore Brothers (along with Merle Travis) are cited as one of the major influences of Doc Watson.

Bob Dylan (with Doug Sahm) covered their 1949 hit "Blues Stay Away From Me" at Atlantic Recording Studios, New York, NY, Oct 1-14, 1972 (released on "Doug Sahm and Band, " Atlantic SD-7254, Dec 1972).

Further Dylan performances of this song:

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