There's no denying that Ace has really pulled out the stops in its attempts to launch its King Acetate Series in the manner that befits its importance. There were obviously many leading contenders with whom we could have launched the series, but at the end of the day we could think of no finer examples of King R&B and hillbilly at its best than Roy Brown and the Delmore Brothers to get things underway. Roy's already been discussed (and raved about!) elsewhere in this issue of RT, so it's now time to turn the spotlight on one of the most beloved brother acts in the history of country music. SIXTY MILES TO TRAVEL features some of the Delmores' rarest, and many of their finest, King sides and captures them at their very best, both musically and sonically!
The Delmore Brothers recorded for King from 1944 until late 1952, long after Syd Nathan had committed his last session to acetate, and might have recorded for them longer had Rabon Delmore not succumbed to lung cancer as '52 drew to a close. During their eight years with the label they produced some of the most exquisite and timeless hillbilly music ever to be played in a recording studio. Most of the tracks on this CD come from Alton and Rabon's golden years on King which, happily, coincided with the period that their recordings were still being committed to acetate rather than the new fangled recording tape that Syd Nathan was initially at least - deeply suspicious of.
Along with Grandpa Jones soon to be the subject of his own volume in the King acetate series Alton and Rabon Delmore were the first artists to be signed to Syd Nathan's fledgling hillbilly imprint. Their earliest sessions for King were cut to glass acetates, like so many others during wartime, when metal was used for more important things. It's amazing how many glass acetates have survived, considering their extreme fragility. Happily, at least one example of everything the Delmores recorded to glass has survived. The primitive conditions under which the early King sessions were held was a major factor in my decision not to feature too many of the duo's earliest King sides on this CD. But I have included both sides of King 514, which come from one of the earliest sessions, which give a pristine example of how the Delmore Brothers might have sounded on the many radio stations that employed them between the late 1920 and the early 1950s.
Even though Ace already had one Delmores King CD in catalogue I was still spoilt for choice as to what I could include. The earlier CD had concentrated on the brothers' many great King boogies, and I had a much wider range of material at my disposal this time around. I have included material that ranges from classic "brother" hillbilly duets to uptempo, western swing-style boppers, from traditional folk and gospel material, to neo rockabilly. I hope Delmore Brothers' fans will agree that I've made the utmost of what was available to me especially as I was privileged to be able to include not only the seminal Blues Stay Away From Me, with the best sound that anyone will have heard it in since the day it was recorded, but also a never-before-heard first take of this classic - which shows how close to getting it right first time everyone was!
As well as hearing the Delmore Brothers as true to life as if they were singing in your own living room, this CD is something of a showcase for those great King sidemen who worked with Alton and Rabon including doghouse bass man Louis Innis and hucklebuck guitar whiz Zeke Turner. Also present on most of the later tracks is their good friend Wayne Raney, whose harmony and harmonica contributions to the overall sound make him so much of an honorary Delmore Brother that he could almost be a blood relative. (And if you like what you hear here, I'll remind you that Ace has a CD of Raney's own King recordings many of which also feature the Delmores available on CDCHD 957).
It's worth mentioning that, although Syd Nathan issued just about all of his Delmore masters during their time on King, only a handful of these tracks have ever been reissued, most being unavailable for the best part of fifty years. Of those that have been reissued, I believe that the only one to have made it to CD before is Blues Stay Away From Me. I even managed to find the acetate for the originally unissued Leavin' Town and the never before issued Don't Talk About Me which means that every Delmore Brothers King recording has at last been issued in some format, be that format 78, 45, EP, LP or CD! The results on this CD more than demonstrate that it's entirely fitting that the Delmore Brothers kick off the hillbilly portion of the King Acetate Series programme.
By Tony Rounce