Alton Delmore

Induction Year: 1971

Birth Name: Will Alton Delmore

Birth Date: 12-25-1908

Place of Birth: Elkmont, Alabama

Death Date: 06-08-1964

Place of Death: Huntsville, Alabama

Alton Delmore and his younger brother Rabon grew up as two of the 10 children born to northern Alabama tenant farmers. The family was highly musical; everyone sang and many relatives played instruments.

Alton taught himself to play guitar with the help of an uncle and developed a highly sophisticated and individualistic playing style that utilized the entire fingerboard, emphasizing unusual chords and driving rhythm. He also taught himself to play banjo, mandolin, fiddle and tenor guitar. He wrote his first song at 13.

Brother Rabon Delmore was eight years his junior. Alton taught Rabon to play tenor guitar, and they soon developed a beautifully intricate interplay between their instruments. They began winning regional talent contests and recorded their first disc in 1931. They joined the cast of Nashville's Grand Ole Opry in 1933.

The Delmore Brothers' warm harmony vocals, appealing songs and instrumental dexterity made them among the most popular of all the Opry artists in the early days of the show. In 1933, they resumed their recording career and created such old-time music classics as "Brown's Ferry Blues," "Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar" and "Blue Railroad Train."

Rabon never learned to drive. As Alton drove the team from show to show, he would make up and sing new songs. Rabon would write them down, adding, subtracting and editing as he did so.

The Delmores left the Opry in 1938 and drifted from radio show to radio show for the next few years. In Cincinnati, they formed the successful gospel quartet the Brown's Ferry Four with Grandpa Jones and Merle Travis.

After World War II, the Delmore Brothers enjoyed a resurgence in popularity by moving in a more rhythmic direction, influenced by boogie-woogie music. This resulted in perhaps their best-known song, "Blues Stay Away from Me," and other hits.

The brothers broke up in early 1952. Rabon died of lung cancer in December of that year. Alton died in 1964, but left behind a remarkable autobiography, which was posthumously published in 1977. Son Lionel Delmore (1940-2002) later became a successful Nashville songwriter with John Anderson ("Swingin'," "Bend It Until It Breaks"). The Delmore Brothers were inducted together into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1971, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 1989 and into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001. Unless otherwise indicated, all songs listed were written by both brothers.

"Alabama Lullaby"

(written with Rabon Delmore)

The Delmore Brothers1935 

"Beautiful Brown Eyes"

(written with Arthur Smith)

Arthur Smith & Delmore Brothers1937 
The Blue Sky Boys1938 
The White Brothers1938 
Roy Acuff1939 
The Shelton Brothers1940 
Jimmy Wakely1951 #5 country, #12 pop
Rosemary Clooney1951 #11 pop
Chet Akins1959 
Gene Vincent1959 
Kitty Wells1960 
Grady Martin1960 
Connie Francis1961 
The Brothers Four1961 
Ramblin' Jack Elliott1962 
Slim Whitman1963 
Charles River Valley Boys1964 
Merle Travis & Johnny Bond1969 
Brother Oswald1975 
Jimmy Martin1977 
The Gibson Brothers2003 

"Blue Railroad Train"

(written with Rabon Delmore)

The Delmore Brothers1934 
Doc Watson1966 
Merle Travis & Johnny Bond1969 
Geoff & Maria Muldaur1972 
The Tony Rice Unit1979 
Marty Stuart1982 
Jorma Kaukonen2002 
Hot Tuna2006 
Josh Williams2010 

"Blues Stay Away from Me"

(written with Rabon Delmore, Wayne Raney, Henry Glover)

The Delmore Brothers1949 #1 country
Eddie Crosby1949 #7 country
Tennessee Ernie Ford1949 
Owen Bradley1949 #7 country, #11 pop
Les Paul & Mary Ford1952 
Ray Price1957 
Gene Vincent1957 
Margaret Whiting1958 
The Browns1959 
The Louvin Brothers1960 
Floyd Cramer1960 
Jean Shepard1961 
Clyde McPhatter1962 
Ace Cannon1962 #36 pop
Pat Boone1963 
B. B. King1964 
Jimmy Dean1964 
Wanda Jackson1964 
Jimmy C. Newman1966 
The Sweet Inspirations1967 
Merle Travis & Johnny Bond1969 
Doug Sahm1973 
Sonny James1974 
Doc Watson1975 
Charlie McCoy1975 
Merle Haggard1977 
The Everly Brothers1985 
Asleep at the Wheel1987 
k. d. lang, Loretta Lynn, Kitty Wells & Brenda Lee1988 
Chris Austin1989 #54 country
The Notting Hillbillies1990 
Jeff Beck1993 
The Band1993 
Larry Sparks2005 
Charlie Louvin2007 

"Brown's Ferry Blues"

(written with Rabon Delmore)

The Delmore Brothers1933 
Bill Cox1934 
Kirk & Sam McGee1934 
Woody Guthrie1944 
The New Lost City Ramblers1958 
Tennessee Ernie Ford1959 
The Louvin Brothers1960 
Glen Campbell & Green River Boys1962 
Dian & the Greenbriar Boys1965 
Merle Travis & Johnny Bond1969 
Doc & Merle Watkins1971 
Kenny Baker1973 
Vassar Clements1975 
The Wronglers & Jimmie Dale Gilmore2012 

"Field Hand Man"

(written with Alton Delmore)

The Delmore Brothers1950 
Merle Travis & Johnny Bond1969 

"Freight Train Boogie"

(written with Rabon Delmore)

The Delmore Brothers1946 #2 country
Red Foley1947 #5 country
Reno & Smiley1952 
The Whitstein Brothers1987 
Bill Harrell & the Virginians1991 
Charlie Louvin1995 
Special Consensus2000 

"Goin' Back to the Blue Ridge Mountains"

(written with Rabon Delmore)

The Delmore Brothers1949 
Norman Blake1999 
Jim Mills2002 

"Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar"

(written with Rabon Delmore)

The Delmore Brothers1933 
The Louvin Brothers1960 
Joe Maphis & Merle Travis1964 
Charles River Valley Boys1964 
Merle Travis & Johnny Bond1969 
Doc & Merle Watson1982 
Laurie Lewis & Kathy Kallick1991 
Bob Neuwirth1996 
The McPeak Brothers1998 
Norman Blake2002 
Jim Mills2005 
Bryan Sutton2009 
Russell Moore & IIIrd Tyme Out2011 

"Midnight Train"

The Delmore Brothers1946 
Roy Acuff1965 
Jim & Jesse1990 

"Pan American Boogie"

(written with Rabon Delmore)

The Delmore Brothers1950 #7 country
Robin & Linda Williams1984 

"Sand Mountain Blues"

(written with Raybon Delmore)

The Delmore Brothers1949 
The Louvin Brothers1960 
K. T. Oslin1996 

"She Left Me Standing on the Mountain"

The Delmore Brothers1946 
Jim & Jesse1962 
Del McCoury2009 


(written with Rabon Delmore, D. C. Mullins)

Jimmy Martin1958 
David Grisman1987 
Chris Thile & Michael Daves2011 

"Southern Moon"

(written with Rabon Delmore)

The Delmore Brothers1937 
The White Brothers1938 
The Louvin Brothers1960 

"The Nashville Blues"

(written with Rabon Delmore)

The Delmore Brothers1936 
The Louvin Brothers1960 
Doc Watson1964 
Flatt & Scruggs1965 
Jorma Kaukonen2009 
Chris Jones & Night Drivers2012 

"The Weary Lonesome Blues"

(written with Rabon Delmore)

The Delmore Brothers1937 
The Milo Twins1939 
Roy Acuff1942 
The Louvin Brothers1960 
Glen Campbell & Green River Boys1962 
Merle Travis & Johnny Bond1969 

"Trail of Time"

The Delmore Brothers1952 
John Anderson1982 
The Knitters1985 
The Handsome Family1999 

"When It's Time for the Whip-Poor-Will to Sing"

The Vagabonds1933 
The Delmore Brothers1940 
The Louvin Brothers1960 
Jim & Jesse1963 
Merle Travis & Johnny Bond1969 
Lester Flatt1989 

"Will You Be Lonesome Too"

The Delmore Brothers1940 
Flatt & Scruggs1965 
J. D. Crowe & the New South1978 
The Front Porch String Band1991 
Benny Martin & John Hartford1993 
Ronnie Bowman1994 
Josh Graves1998 

Alton Delmore

Induction Year: 1971