CMH Records Releases Merle Travis’ ‘Rough, Rowdy and Blue’ For First Time On Digital and Streaming

CLASSIC TITLE FIRST RELEASED IN 1986

SHOWCASES TIMELESS AND DISTINCTIVE GUITAR PICKING FROM THE GRAMMY AWARD WINNER & COUNTRY MUSIC HALL OF FAMER

CMH RECORDS (County. Music. Heritage.) maintains a rich history of classic country and bluegrass albums and is honoring several of these legacy releases by remastering them and making them available in digital format for the first time ever. Revived from the CMH archives, Merle Travis’ album Rough, Rowdy and Blue is out today (2/10) on all digital and streaming platforms.

The collection, first released on vinyl and cassette tape in 1986, showcases timeless and distinctive guitar picking from the Grammy award winner and Country Music Hall of Fame inductee. 

Although he was known for his country music, in 1982, just before his death, Merle sat down to pay tribute to the songs and stylings he always wanted to record. These special recordings of Merle playing the blues on a 12-string guitar are now digitally available for the first time.

The 12 original recordings feature Merle Travis performing some of his favorite blues standards like “Cocaine Blues” and “Jelly Roll Blues.” The songs “Key to the Highway” and “On the Outskirts of Town” pay tribute to blues guitarist Big Bill Broonzy, while songs like “Whiskey,” “Honey, Take a Whiff on Me” and “Stack O’Lee” lend character to the album’s title: Rough, Rowdy and Blue.

Raised in coal mining country in Muhlenberg County Kentucky, Merle Travis was an entertainer his whole life. He began performing at country dances and quickly moved on to radio shows, developing his distinctive style of guitar picking. The style was taught to him by Kennedy Jones, Mose Rager and Ike Everly (father of The Everly Brothers), who had in turn learned it from pioneering blues musician Arnold Shultz. Merle also owes a great debt to African-American blues guitarists Blind Blake, whose early finger picking influenced Merle’s now famous playing.

The Travis style of picking would evolve to include elements of blues, ragtime and jazz, as well as country, folk and gospel. By plucking a bass line with his thumb and simultaneously picking melodies and strumming chords with a few fingers, an orchestration of sound would emerge to a delighted audience. 

Founded in 1975 by Martin Haerle, CMH Records has released albums from artists whose monumental influence on American roots music is unparalleled.

The ‘70s and ‘80s represent the foundational recordings in CMH Records’ bluegrass, old time and traditional country history, with material being put out by Merle Travis, The Osborne Brothers, Mac Wiseman, Joe Maphis, Jim & Jesse McReynolds, Grandpa Jones, Lester Flatt and Eddie Adcock. Throughout the ‘90s and into the new millennium, CMH Records continued to cut records with artists such as Wanda Jackson (aka “The Queen of Rockabilly”), Raul Malo, Larry Cordle, Pine Mountain Railroad, Jimmy Gaudreau, and many others. Producing songs rich in American heritage by artists with their own distinct style created a strong backbone and history for the label.

The label remains a proud family business, now run by Martin’s son David. Described by the Los Angeles Times as a “stubborn, curious Silver Lake music company,” the label has been a strong proponent for honest music and has found success with its classic catalogue and its ongoing “Pickin’ On” series, which features bluegrass interpretations of contemporary artists, including recent hit albums dedicated to the music of Nirvana and Modest Mouse.

The Times piece added that CMH “meets unsung needs in the music industry” and cited its “creative diversification.”

Track List for Merle Travis’ Rough, Rowdy and Blue:

  1. Cocaine Blues
  2. Cairo
  3. Jelly Roll Blues
  4. Merry Christmas, Pretty Baby
  5. Key to the Highway
  6. (I’m Gonna Move Way Out) on the Outskirts of Town
  7. Stack O’Lee
  8. Whiskey
  9. Step It Up and Go
  10. Dry Bread
  11. Honey, Take A Whiff On Me
  12. Too Mean to Cry

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