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Bate, Humphrey (25 May 1875–12 June 1936), bandleader, harmonica player, and physician, was born in Castalian Springs, Tennessee, the son of a local physician. His parents’ names are unknown. A graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Bate took over his father’s practice and traveled the circuit in Sumner County, just north of Nashville. As a hobby he organized and led a string band that eventually became the first such group to appear on the pioneer country radio show the “Grand Ole Opry.” His band is considered by historians to be one of the finest and most authentic of the old-time performing groups, and for years it was the cornerstone of the “Grand Ole Opry.”...

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Brown, Milton (08 September 1903–18 April 1936), country music vocalist and bandleader, was born Willie Milton Brown in Stephenville, Texas, the son of Barty Lee Brown, a sharecropper, and Martha Annie Huxford. A bright child with an outgoing personality, Milton early on exhibited a love for singing and entertaining. In the summer of 1918 after the sudden death of Milton’s older sister Era, the Browns moved to Fort Worth. There Milton attended West Side and then Arlington Heights High Schools, where he was active in school government, sports, and clubs, and where his singing abilities and sociable personality earned him the nickname “Harmony Boy.” Because he had to work on the family farm, Milton didn’t graduate from high school until age twenty-one, when he began to take various labor and sales jobs. At the same time he was singing at local functions in a variety of small vocal groups....

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Monroe, Charlie (04 July 1903–27 September 1975), country music guitarist, vocalist, and bandleader, was born in Rosine, Kentucky, the son of James Buchanan “Buck” Monroe, a farmer and buck dancer, and Malissa Vandiver, a singer, fiddler, and accordion and harmonica player. Monroe was raised in rural western Kentucky, where his family operated a large, successful farm and sawmill. He was exposed to music from an early age by his mother and her brother Pendleton Vandiver (“Uncle Pen”), one of the best-loved fiddlers of the region. Charlie took up guitar, while his elder brother Birch played fiddle; the youngest brother, ...

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Parsons, Gram (05 November 1946–19 September 1973), country-rock vocalist and bandleader, was born Ingram Cecil Conner III in Winterhaven, Florida, the son of Ingram Cecil Conner, Jr., a semiprofessional country singer and songwriter known professionally as “Coon Dog” Connor, and Avis Snively, the daughter of a wealthy citrus grower. Connor was raised in a musical household and showed early interest in playing the guitar. However, Connor’s at-home exposure to country music ended at age thirteen, when his father committed suicide. His mother subsequently remarried, and he took his stepfather’s surname of Parsons. As a high school student, he played in several bands that featured the music of the Everly Brothers and ...

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Poole, Charlie (22 March 1892–21 May 1931), country music singer, banjo player, and bandleader, was born Charles Cleveland Poole in Randolph County, North Carolina, in the textile mill region, the son of John Philip Poole and Bettie Ellen Johnson, mill workers. Poole’s mother died when he was a small child, and his father remarried, eventually creating a family of eight sons and one daughter, most of whom grew up working in mills around the company town of Haw River in Alamance County, North Carolina. Charlie Poole grew up in the rough and tumble turn-of-the-century towns in the area, often fighting and occasionally even jailed; he worked in the Haw River mills as a doffer in the Granite Cotton Mill and married a local girl, seventeen-year-old Maude Gibson, in 1912. Though the marriage only lasted ten months, it produced one child....

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Tanner, Gid (06 June 1885–13 May 1960), country music fiddler and bandleader, was born James Gideon Tanner in Thomas Bridge, near Monroe, in north Georgia. His parents’ names are unknown. He was reared on a 500-acre farm by his grandmother. Neither of his parents was especially musical, though he had a brother, Arthur Tanner, who later won fame as a singer and recording artist. As a young man he bought a farm near Lawrenceville and married a woman from Rockdale County when he was twenty-one. (He later remarried; he had five children from his two marriages.) He moved to Atlanta, where by 1914 he had become a well-known local personality, and then to Dacula, where he ran a chicken farm....