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Princess Theatre:

Center for the Performing Arts 25th Celebration
Delmore Brothers
Princess kicks off 25th
season with tribute night

By Danielle Komis Palmer · 340-2447

Two old maids a-sitting in the sand

Each one wishing that the other was a man

Lord Lord got those Brown's Ferry Blues

The Delmore Brothers, who once lived on Brown's Ferry Road, brought blues tunes like this one to the world and over the years attracted a devoted following. Along with "Brown's Ferry Blues," some of their well-known songs include "Blues Stay Away From Me," "Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar," and "Fifteen Miles from Birmingham."

That devoted following will likely turn out Monday for the Princess Theatre's 2007-08 season kickoff party that will be a tribute to the Delmore Brothers. Cost for the theater's 25th anniversary event is only $2.

Alton (1908-64) and Rabon Delmore (1916-52), both born in Elkmont, were popular in the 1930s for their gospel and Appalachian folk-inspired music that married traditional country to boogie beats and bluesy riffs, and laid a foundation for rockabilly and early rock 'n' roll.

The duo, who were stars of the Grand Ole Opry in the '30s, is in the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Alabama Music Hall of Fame and the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Debby Delmore, daughter of Alton Delmore, said it's unreal how many people know them.

"I never would have realized that their music has gone so far," said Delmore, who lives in Huntsville and manages the Delmore Brothers Web site. "I hear from people from all over the world."

How far the music reached may not be surprising when one considers the claims that the Delmore Brothers were some of the first to conjure up boogie woogie, and some of the first to contribute to rock 'n' roll's development.

In fact, they even created a trademark melody, beat and sound on the guitar — called a "lick" — unlike anyone else's, said Randy Cross, an English instructor at Calhoun who will commentate at the tribute night. Cross got turned onto the Delmore brother's music at a young age because his father was a Delmore Brothers fan. In fact, his father told him something he'd always remember about the duo, Cross said.

"He said this: 'The Delmore Brothers brought it with them when they came and they took it with them when they left,' " Cross said. "No one could replace their talent, their close harmonies lyrics, and virtuosity on guitars."

And back then, the whole idea behind music was different, Debby Delmore said.

"Big music was unheard of," she said. "Awards were unheard of. They did it simply for the love of what they did. Nowadays it is so different. Daddy and Ray, their focus was on the music itself. Daddy always said he wanted to do something lastingly worthwhile."

Well-known singers such as Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Bob Dylan later performed some of the brothers' songs they wrote, Cross said. The brothers paved the way for duos like the Louvin brothers and the Everly brothers, and Dylan even credited them with his development of all his harmonies.

The tribute night at the Princess will feature the Dan Williams Family Band of Athens, the Hovis Family Band of Madison County, and the Calatrello Family Band of Athens.

The Dan Williams Family Band will play mostly Delmore Brothers songs that night, Charles Williams said. Interestingly, the Williams family is actually related to the brothers.

"We've heard them all our lives," Williams said.

The Hovis Family Band will play a lot of traditional country music at the show including songs from the Golden Age of Nashville such as "Heartaches By The Number," "Stand By Your Man" and "Your Cheatin' Heart."

The Calatrello family will play traditional fiddle tunes, like the ones the Delmore Brothers would have grown up listening to, Cross said. The band, which includes four boys under age 12, will even feature four-year-old Henry Calatrello on percussion.

As an added bonus, the 8ers from Decatur square dancers will also perform at the tribute.

"We plan for it to be a relaxed evening of old time music," Cross said.

Princess Theatre season tickets are now on sale at the theatre's box office, and single ticket sales will begin Monday and will be available at the kickoff party.

If you go

What: Princess Theatre’s 2007-08 Kickoff Party with a Celebration of the Delmore Brothers

Where: Princess Theatre Center for the Performing Arts, Decatur

When: Monday, 6:30 p.m.

Admission: $2. Festivities include a chance to win tickets to touring shows, concessions, a cash bar and more.

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