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Bond, Johnny (01 June 1915–12 June 1978), songwriter, musician, and writer, was born Cyrus Whitfield Bond in Enville, Oklahoma, the son of Rufus Thomas Bond, a storekeeper and cotton gin operator, and Anna May Camp. While the family had little money, they did own a Victrola player that Bond found fascinating. Inspired by ...

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Bryant, Boudleaux (13 February 1920–25 June 1987), songwriter, was born Diadorius Boudleaux Bryant in Shellman, Georgia, the son of Daniel Green Bryant, a lawyer and amateur musician, and Louise Farham. Boudleaux was the name of a man who had saved Daniel Bryant’s life in the First World War. When Bryant was young, his father moved the family to Moultrie, Georgia, where he practiced law. Bryant studied violin under a member of the Boston Symphony who had retired to Moultrie. He moved to Atlanta in 1937 and worked for both the Atlanta Symphony and for local rural string bands, as well as on Works Progress Administration projects....

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Carlisle, Cliff (06 May 1904–05 April 1983), pioneer country musician and songwriter, was born Clifford Raymond Carlisle in Mt. Eden, Kentucky. Many members of his family were musicians, and his younger brother Bill would later join Cliff in the ranks of early professional musicians. Cliff attended several rural grade schools near Wakefield, Kentucky, eventually transferring to larger schools in Louisville, Kentucky, between 1921 and 1924. Unlike many early musicians, he did not serve an apprenticeship in another field before taking up music; from his earliest days he aspired to be a professional musician, and he emerged as one of the first such professionals in the field of country music....

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Carter, A. P. (15 December 1891–07 November 1960), and Sara Carter (21 July 1898–08 January 1979), musicians and songwriters, were the founding members of the early country music singing group the Carter Family. A. P. Carter was born Alvin Pleasant Delaney Carter near the Appalachian hamlet of Maces Spring, Scott County, Virginia, the son of Robert C. Carter and Mollie Arvelle Bays, both local farmers whose families had been in the region since the late eighteenth century. As a youth, A. P. was exposed to music by both sides of his family. His father had been a well-known local banjo player who later turned to sacred music; his mother’s family included an uncle, Flanders Bays, who taught rural singing schools for area churches; and his mother was a repository of old ballads, both those brought over from Great Britain and newer ones derived from Native American sources. By 1913 A. P. was singing bass in a local church choir and had learned to play both the guitar and fiddle—the latter in a light-bowed, skirling style associated with older Scotch styles. A restless and curious young man, A. P. traveled to Indiana in around 1910–1911, worked on a railroad crew near Richmond, Virginia, for a time, and eventually returned home, suffering from typhoid fever. His schooling consisted of sporadic attendance at local country schools in the Poor Valley. By 1915 he was trying to make a living selling fruit trees to area residents....

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Richard Carlin

Delmore Brothers, country singers, guitarists, and songwriters, were born Alton Delmore (25 Dec. 1908–8 June 1964) and Rabon Delmore (3 Dec. 1916–4 Dec. 1952), in Elkmont, Alabama, the sons of Charlie Delmore and Mary (called “Aunt Mollie,” maiden name unknown). The parents were subsistence farmers. The brothers’ uncle W. A. Williams was a prominent gospel singer and songwriter, and the family encouraged the two youngsters from a young age to attend a local singing school. Mollie, who played the fiddle, also taught her sons to play country fiddle tunes, and as early as 1925 she was writing gospel songs with Alton that were published locally. Alton and Rabon were heavily influenced by the bluesy recordings of white country star ...

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Evans, Dale (31 October 1912–07 February 2001), actor and singer-songwriter, actor and singer‐songwriter, was born Lucille Wood Smith in Uvalde, Texas, the daughter of Walter Hillman Smith, a cotton farmer and hardware dealer, and Bettie Sue Wood. At an early age her name was changed to Frances Octavia Smith. During her childhood the family moved to Osceola, Arkansas, where Frances attended local schools and enjoyed singing with church and social groups. She was bright, skipped several grades, and entered high school at the age of twelve. Two years later, to her parents' dismay, she eloped with her boyfriend, Thomas F. Fox, and gave birth to their son the following year. Soon afterward Fox deserted the family, leaving Frances to raise the child on her own; the couple divorced in 1929 when Frances was seventeen....

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Dale Evans. [left to right] Dale Evans, Roy Rogers, and their horse Trigger, 1958. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection: LC-USZ62-128588).

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Flatt, Lester (28 June 1914–11 May 1979), bluegrass singer, musician, and songwriter, was born Lester Raymond Flatt in Overton County, Tennessee, the son of Isaac Flatt and Nancy Haney, sharecroppers and amateur musicians. After rudimentary schooling, Flatt became a mill worker at the age of seventeen. That same year (1931) he married Gladys Lee Stacey, with whom he later would have one daughter. Flatt moonlighted from his job at the textile mill as a guitar player and singer in several local bands, including the Harmonizers and the Happy-Go-Lucky Boys, until 1939. Then, at the age of twenty-five, Flatt left home to join ...

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Haggard, Merle Ronald (6 Apr. 1937–6 Apr. 2016), country musician, singer, and songwriter, was born in Oildale, California, the son of James Francis Haggard and Flossie Mae Harp, Oklahoma farmers who had fled the Dust Bowl and migrated to California in 1935. Merle’s father worked as a carpenter with the Santa Fe Railroad, and the Haggards’ home was a converted boxcar. When Merle was nine, his father died of a stroke and his mother went to work as a bookkeeper, leaving the boy with little guidance. He was a rebellious youth, constantly skipping school and running away from home. At age ten he hopped his first freight train; at fourteen he and a friend, Bob Teague, hitchhiked to Texas, working odd jobs, visiting an Amarillo brothel, and grappling with the law along the way....

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Miller, Roger (02 January 1936–25 October 1992), musician, was born Roger Dean Miller in Fort Worth, Texas, the son of Jean Miller and Landine Burdine, farmers. Miller was thirteen months old when his father died, and rather than commit her children to an orphanage, his mother sent her three sons to live with her late husband’s brothers. From the age of three, Roger Miller was raised by Elmer D. Miller and Armelia Miller in Erick, Oklahoma....

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Morgan, George Thomas (28 June 1925–07 July 1975), country singer and songwriter, was born in Waverly, Tennessee, the son of Zachariah “Jack” Valentine Morgan, a farmer and laborer, and Ethel Turner. Two weeks before George was born, his father had an accident when his boot laces got caught in a railroad switch and his leg was severed by a train. George was raised in Barberton, Ohio, where Jack Morgan supported the family by hauling coal and later working for a rubber company....

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Robison, Carson Jay (04 August 1890–24 March 1957), singer, musician, and songwriter, was born in Oswego, Kansas, the son of Albert Robison, a fiddler and dance caller, and Maggie Andrews, a singing pianist. The family moved to Chetopa, Kansas, during his early childhood. He may have had only a grade school education. Surrounded by the music of his parents, Robison got his first guitar at age twelve. His first composition is said to have been an Easter hymn written for his church choir. By age fifteen, he was singing and performing on the guitar professionally in the Midwest despite never having had a formal lesson. He worked in the Texas and Oklahoma oil fields and served in the army during World War I. Robison married Bernice Rucker in 1907, and they had one son. His wife died of tuberculosis when their son was five years old....

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Rose, Fred (24 August 1897–01 December 1954), music publisher, songwriter, and pianist, was born Knols Fred Rose in Evansville, Indiana, the son of Andrew Rose and Annie West. Little is known about either parent. His childhood in St. Louis, Missouri, was Dickensian in its poverty and insecurity; when he was as young as seven, he was singing for change in various saloons and being shuttled about to various relatives. It was little wonder that he left St. Louis when he was around fifteen, hopping a freight train to Chicago, where he established a base of operations for the following fifteen years. His first marketable skill was as a pianist, and he joined jazz great ...

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Tubb, Ernest (09 February 1914–06 September 1984), singer and songwriter, was born in Crisp, Texas, the son of Calvin Robert Tubb, a cotton sharecropper and sometime bootlegger, and Sarah Ellen Baker. When he was six, his family moved to Benjamin, where his father was a farm overseer. Tubb began school at age nine, attending for two years (which he maintained was equal to four). Described by siblings as a child of “smarts, ambition, and drive,” Tubb wrote poetry and, influenced by silent film stars ...

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Whitley, Keith (01 July 1954–09 May 1989), country music singer, songwriter, and guitarist, was born Jackie Keith Whitley in Sandy Hook, Kentucky, the son of Elmer Jackson Whitley, an electrical contractor and oil well maintenance worker, and Faye Ferguson. Whitley, who was in the vanguard of the 1980s country music boom, was inspired to play music by his mother, who played guitar, banjo, and organ as a hobby, and his older brother Dwight, who played guitar and banjo semiprofessionally in local country music bands. Keith began singing at local shows by age four, learned to play guitar at age six, and first appeared on a radio show at age eight. He and Dwight later performed on regional live shows, radio, and television, first as the Whitley Brothers and later as members of the Lonesome Mountain Boys....

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Williams, Hank (17 September 1923–01 January 1953), country songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist, was born Hiram Williams in Mount Olive, Alabama, the son of Elonzo Huble Williams and Jessie Lillybelle Skipper. His father was a strawberry farmer when Hank was born, although his usual occupation was that of an engineer on logging trains in the Chapman, Alabama, area. Williams spent his earliest years in and around the logging camps of south-central Alabama. Then, when he was six years old, his father went into a Veterans Administration hospital with a brain aneurysm, and his mother moved the family to Georgiana, Greenville, and then on to Montgomery in July 1937....

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Wynette, Tammy (05 May 1942–06 April 1998), country music singer and songwriter, was born Virginia Wynette Pugh on her grandparents' farm in Itawamba County, Mississippi, the daughter of William Hollice Pugh, a farmer and amateur musician, and Mildred Faye Russell Pugh. Her father died of a brain tumor when she was nine months old, leaving Mildred Pugh a young widow. Tammy—known to family and friends by the surname Wynette all of her life—was reared until age thirteen by her maternal grandparents, Chester and Floyd Russell. Later she went to live for brief periods in Alabama with her mother, who had remarried. Despite this somewhat unstable home environment, Wynette's childhood was happy, revolving around church and hard work in the cotton fields. She learned to play instruments by ear and mastered the guitar, piano, accordion, and flute. From an early age Wynette loved music and performing in front of an audience, and as a teenager she dreamed of singing with her favorite country music singer, George Jones, who was a little more than ten years her senior....