Merle Robert Travis (November 29, 1917 – October 20, 1983) was an American country and Western singer, songwriter, and musician born in Rosewood, Kentucky. His lyrics often discussed the life and exploitation of coal miners. Among his many well-known songs are "Sixteen Tons", "Re-Enlistment Blues" and "Dark as a Dungeon". However, it is his masterful guitar playing and his interpretations of the rich musical traditions of his native Muhlenberg County, Kentucky for which he is best known today. "Travis picking", a syncopated style of finger picking, is named after him. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1977. After a career dip during which he struggled to overcome alcohol and drug abuse, Travis put his career back on track in the 1970s. He appeared frequently on such country music TV shows as The Porter Wagoner Show, The Johnny Cash Show, Austin City Limits, Grand Old Country, and Nashville Swing; and his featured performances on the 1972 Nitty Gritty Dirt Band album Will the Circle Be Unbroken introduced him to a new generation of roots music enthusiasts. His 1974 album of duets with Chet Atkins, The Atkins - Travis Traveling Show, won a Grammy award in the category "Best Country Instrumental," and a later album Travis Pickin' received another nomination. In 1976, he contributed to the musical score of the Academy Award-winning documentary Harlan County, USA. Toward the end of the 70s he signed a new contract with the Los-Angeles based country music label CMH, which launched one of the most prolific recording periods in his career. The many titles that followed included new guitar solo albums, duets with Joe Maphis, a blues album, and a double LP tribute to the legendary country fiddler Clayton McMichen, with whom he had played in the 1930s.
In 1983, Travis died of a heart attack at his Tahlequah, Oklahoma home. His body was cremated and his ashes scattered around a memorial erected to him near Drakesboro, Kentucky.
Merle Travis and his Gibson Super 400 at the Country Music Hall of Fame
|Birth name||Merle Robert Travis|
|Born||November 29, 1917|
Rosewood, Kentucky USA
|Died||October 20, 1983 (aged 65)|
Tahlequah, Oklahoma USA
|Genres||country, Western swing, blues,folk, gospel, Americana|
|Labels||King, Capitol, CMH|