The Delmore Brothers grew up playing
Hillbilly Music. It was music too primitive to be called
Country Music. Alton Delmore bought his younger brother
Rabon a small four string Martin Tenor Guitar. The
brothers spent hours working out tight vocal and musical
arrangements of songs. They wrote about the life they
knew well. It was a hard life, and they were poor or
struggling even when they were popular. Recognizing
Rabon Delmore's contribution to the tenor guitar, is one
small step in preserving the brother's enduring musical
"Brother Rabon, eight years younger than
Alton, was already learning fiddle and guitar when Alton
brought home the small, strange, four-stringed instrument.
Tuned like a tenor banjo, but softer and sweeter sounding,
the tenor guitar proved to be a natural instrument for Rabon.
Not yet ten years old, he adapted well to the size of the
instrument and, with his big brother to coach him, he soon
became proficient at playing both melodies and imaginative
back-up chords and rhythms.
Armed with this unusual combination of
6-string and tenor guitars, and blessed with a soft and
subtle vocal blend, the Delmore Brothers took it public for
the first time at a rural high school fiddlers convention in
1926. Alton was 18 years old, Rabon was 10, and the
competition was stiff. With no amplification the two young
boys were virtually drowned out by the reveling
festival-goers for the first half of their first song. But
as they sang and played, a quiet came over the crowd, the
way it does when someone important is speaking. By the time
they had finished their second song the crowd roared its
approval, they won second prize, and the Delmore Brothers
act had been born.
Over the course of their
careers, the Delmores wrote more than one thousand
songs. Some of the most popular were Brown’s Ferry
Blues, Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar, Fifteen Miles from
Birmingham and Blues Stay Away From Me.
A few of the artists who
have recorded their songs include: Merle Haggard, The
Everly Brothers, Doc Watson, Merle Travis, The Louvin
Brothers, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Jorma Kaukonen, The
Band, and many, many more.
Their tight harmonies,
well rehearsed arrangements, and perseverance against
extremely difficult odds is a story that reaches out to
everyone. Their music had and still has a positive
impact on people all over the world. There is no other
tenor guitarist in history who tuned CGDA who made more
recordings, or played more live concerts, or played on
The Grand Old Opry more than Rabon Delmore.
It is with great honor,
that the tenor guitar community recognize the hard won
achievements of Rabon Delmore, and, on this second day
of June, 2012, proudly induct him into the Tenor Guitar
Hall of Fame.