Kentucky fingerpicking style he had learned from Mose Rager and Ike Everly. In 1938, he joined another group, the Drifting Pioneers, at WLW in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The Pioneers was a pre-bluegrass string band that included mandolin, fiddle, guitar, banjo, and bass. Walter Brown was the emcee of the group and played mandolin. His older brother Bill played bass. Morris “Sleepy” Marlin was a champion fiddler and handled most of the vocals. In his three years with the Pioneers, Travis learned much about performing and expanded his repertoire, playing banjo and guitar with the group. He learned gospel tunes and sang bass in the group’s regular gospel quartet feature. He was also featured as a solo performer and even helped out with the group’s comedy routines. In those days, radio groups would often supplement their income by traveling on local circuits, playing a stage show that would include comedy and skits in addition to music. The Pioneers was one of the more adept at this variety, and their show was beamed across the nation from WLW, billed as “The Nation’s Station.” WLW was a 50,000 watt powerhouse with affiliations with both of NBC’s networks (Red and Blue) as well as with Mutual.
After three years, the Drifting Pioneers began to break up after the United States entered World War II. The Brown brothers took factory jobs and Sleepy Marlin, a flier, taught flying to recruits in the Air Force. Travis, in the meanwhile, stayed at WLW. When WLW’s program director, George
Photo courtesy of the Merle ravis Estate