When Merle Travis died in 1983, he left enough accomplishments for 3 or 4 lifetimes. He was an ingratiating performer with a pleasant singing voice and a folksy delivery, who had crafted a finger-picking guitar style like no other by adding jazzy elements of Western Swing to traditional, rural ragtime guitar. Travis Pickin'. He wrote "Sixteen Tons" which made tons of money for Tennessee Ernie Ford, and "Smoke, Smoke, Smoke (That Cigarette)" which put Tex Williams on the map, and gave Capitol Records their first million seller. He also invented the concept of the solid-body electric guitar. Built by Paul Bigsby, the 1-inch thick guitar body looked so strange back in 1947 that Merle called it his "biscuit board." Our camera caught him with his Gibson Super 400, appropriately surrounded by lesser guitars. It's a good way to remember him.
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