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Boogie Woogie Cowboy

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Album Review

This intriguing collection of radio transcriptions and movie soundtrack pieces isn't exactly a Merle Travis set, although he plays guitar — mostly electric — on every track. Recorded between 1944 and 1956, these cuts generally feature other vocalists (Jimmie Dean, for instance, sings the title track), with Travis working as part of a backup ensemble, taking center stage on maybe a half-dozen selections, including the brilliant guitar instrumentals ("Down South Blues" and "Cannon Ball Rag") that open and close the album. There are a couple of Travis vocals, too, including his fine take on "Nobody" and a swinging, chugging version of "John Henry." There is a good deal of in-studio patter, scripted radio introductions, and cornball humor on display, as well. More than anything, Boogie Woogie Cowboy spotlights the golden era of Western swing on radio during a time when television had yet to steal the whole audience.


Born: 29 November 1917 in Rosewood, KY

Genre: Country

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s

Merle Travis was virtually without peer as a guitarist and songwriter. A unique stylist, he was respected and prominent enough to have an instrumental style ("Travis picking") named after him, and only Chet Atkins even comes close to the influence that Travis had on the way the guitar is understood and played in country music. (Indeed, Atkins was initially signed to RCA to be that label's Merle Travis.) As a songwriter, he wasn't far behind, with originals such as "Sixteen Tons" crossing over as...
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Boogie Woogie Cowboy, Merle Travis
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