Merle Travis

Merle Robert Travis (November 29, 1917 – October 20, 1983) was an American country and western singer, songwriter, and guitarist born in Rosewood, Kentucky, United States. His songs' lyrics often discussed both the lives and the economic exploitation of American coal miners. Among his many well-known songs are "Sixteen Tons," "Re-Enlistment Blues," "I am a Pilgrim," and "Dark as a Dungeon." However, it is his unique guitar style, still called Travis Picking by guitarists, as well as his interpretations of the rich musical traditions of his native Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, for which he is best known today. "Travis Picking" is a syncopated style of guitar fingerpicking rooted in ragtime music in which alternating chords and bass notes are plucked by the thumb while melodies are simultaneously plucked by the index finger. He was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1970 and elected to the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1977.

Birth and Death Data: Born November 29th, 1917 (Muhlenberg County), Died October 19th, 1983 (Tahlequah)

Date Range of DAHR Recordings: 1937 - 1956

Roles Represented in DAHR: guitar, lyricist


Company Matrix No. Size First Recording Date Title Primary Performer Description Role Audio
Victor BS-014056 10-in. 9/12/1937 New steel guitar rag Bill Boyd ; Cowboy Ramblers String band, with drums lyricist  
Decca L 9715 11/27/1956 Ruby pearl Jackie Lee Cochran instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca L 9716 11/27/1956 Dear Mom and Dad Jackie Lee Cochran instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca L 9717 11/27/1956 For you baby Jackie Lee Cochran instrumentalist, guitar  
Decca L 9718 11/27/1956 Mama don't you think I know Jackie Lee Cochran instrumentalist, guitar  


Discography of American Historical Recordings, s.v. "Travis, Merle," accessed July 29, 2021,

Travis, Merle. (2021). In Discography of American Historical Recordings. Retrieved July 29, 2021, from

"Travis, Merle." Discography of American Historical Recordings. UC Santa Barbara Library, 2021. Web. 29 July 2021.

DAHR Persistent Identifier



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