Home » blog » Don’t Forget The Delmore Brothers

Don’t Forget The Delmore Brothers

I usually shy away from posting on bands or performers for whom I can’t find video. After all, seeing the acts is as much fun and illuminating as hearing them. But in the case of the Alton and Rabon Delmore — The Delmore Brothers — the absence of video is unfortunate but not a reason to skip them. They are extremely important, though not as well remembered as some other early country bands. They also are terrific.

There are very good sites dedicated to the brothers. One is maintained by Alton Delmore’s daughter Debby. Another is The Delmore Brothers Room at Calhoun Community College in Decatur, AL.

CMT puts it well:

The Delmore Brothers are not nearly as well-known as such early country giants as the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, Bob Wills, and Hank Williams. The reasons for this, upon close inspection of their work, are not readily apparent. They were one of the greatest early country harmonizers, drawing from both gospel and Appalachian folk. They were skilled songwriters, penning literally hundreds of songs, many of which have proven to be durable. Most important, they were among the few early traditional country acts to change with the times, and pioneer some of those changes. Their recordings from the latter half of the 1940s married traditional country to boogie beats and bluesy riffs. In this respect they laid a foundation for rockabilly and early rock & roll, and rate among the most important white progenitors of those forms. (Continue Reading…)

There is a very good essay at the YouTube page of the song above, I’ve Got the Deep River Blues. It was written written by a gentleman named Wilson McPhert. Read it by expanding the “show more” button. Here is how it starts:

I am a big fan of Doc Watson’s performance of ‘Deep River Blues’. In finding out about it’s origins, I came across the Delmore Brothers, who did a version in 1933 entitled ‘I’ve Got the Big River Blues’. I really like their close harmony singing and their straightforward approach to music, which morphed from rootsy country ballads to later up tempo tunes which were clearly influential on the development of rock and roll. (Continue Reading…)

Brown’s Ferry Blues, which I believe is an early number, is below.

(Homepage photo: DelmoreBrothers.net)

Sign Up for TDMB Daily Email Blasts

TDMB offers daily one-video email blasts. A different genre each day of the week. They are quick hits: Just great music and a bit of context.

Sign up below or, for more info, click here.

Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.


What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.


The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.