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 legacy.
"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.