Brothers, Alton and Rabon Delmore, from Elkmont, Alabama, were early country music pioneers that had a profound impact on the history of country music. I’m Debby Delmore, Alton’s youngest child. My father and uncle’s talented songwriting, intricate harmonies and complex guitar rhythms influenced their contemporaries as well as generations of later country and bluegrass stars. The Delmore Brothers began in the mid-1920s, playing at local community events. In 1933, they became regulars on The Grand Ole Opry, quickly becoming one of the program’s most popular acts. Over the course of their career, they wrote more than one thousand songs; many of which became crossover hits. Few country music acts can rival their sophisticated chord arrangements and lovely melodies. The Delmore Brothers are members of the Nashville Songwriters, Alabama, and Country Music Halls of Fame.
The brothers were born in Elkmont, Limestone County, just south of the Tennessee border, to Charlie and Mary Williams Delmore. Alton, the eighth of the couple’s children, was born on December 25, 1908. Rabon, the 10th child, was born on December 3, 1916. The parents were tenant farmers, but the infertile soil of northern Alabama forced Charlie to find work at a nearby cotton mill as well. As the boys grew older, they helped the family by occasionally working as hired hands on nearby farms. Alton became fascinated with music at any early age, most likely through the boys’ aunt Molly and uncle Will Williams, who taught him how to read and play music. Alton’s familiarity with traditional shape-note singing was strengthened by attending local singing schools. Like so many other youngsters in the South at that time, both boys sang at revival meetings and Sunday services. In his teens, Alton learned to play the guitar, fiddle, and mandolin. He also became fascinated with the tenor guitar, an instrument he saw played in a vaudeville show, and he eventually acquired one to give to Rabon, who up to that point had focused his musical attention on learning to play the fiddle and traditional guitar.