Rough, Rowdy and Blue by Merle Travis
Raised in coal mining country in Muhlenberg County Kentucky, Merle Travis was an entertainer his whole life. He began performing at country dances and quickly moved on to radio shows, developing his distinctive style of guitar picking. The style was taught to him by Kennedy Jones, Mose Rager and Ike Everly (father of The Everly Brothers), who had in turn learned it from pioneering blues musician Arnold Shultz. Merle also owes a great debt to African American blues guitarists Blind Blake, who’s early finger picking influenced Merle’s now famous playing. The Travis style of picking would evolve to include elements of blues, ragtime, and jazz, as well as country, folk, and gospel. By plucking a bass line with his thumb and simultaneously picking melodies and strumming chords with a few fingers, an orchestration of sound would emerge to a delighted audience.
Although he was known for his country music, in 1982, just before his death, Merle sat down to pay tribute to the songs and stylings he always wanted to record. Previously released on vinyl and cassette tape, these unique recordings of Merle Travis playing the Blues on a 12-string guitar have been revived from our archives and are now digitally available for the first time. These 12 original recordings feature Merle Travis performing some of his favorite blues standards like “Cocaine Blues” and “Jelly Roll Blues.” The songs “Key to the Highway” and “On the Outskirts of Town” pay tribute to blues guitarist Big Bill Broonzy, while songs like “Whiskey”, “Honey, Take a Whiff on Me” and “Stack O’Lee” lend character to the album’s title: Rough, Rowdy, and Blue.
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