It was Rager’s brother-in-law who told Mose about a man who could play chords “all up and down the neck of a guitar.” After learning of this, Mose decided to seek the man out. Cleaton was about four miles from Rager’s home, and when Mose and Kennedy Jones finally met, Rager noticed that Jones was playing his guitar with a thumb pick, the first he had ever seen. Rager recalled that Jones was playing the Tin Pan Alley standard “Tuck Me to Sleep in My Old ‘Tucky Home.” He was hooked.
In time, other guitarists in the area picked up the Kennedy Jones style, including Lester “Plucker” English and Ike Everly, the latter the father of Don and Phil, the Everly Brothers. Rager would often team up with either English or Everly and play dances. By the mid-1930s, Rager had settled in Drakesboro in Muhlenberg County. He had curtailed his work in the coal mines and took up barbering, continuing to play music as a sidelight. It was at this time, around 1934 or 1935, that he met Merle Travis (Charles Wolfe reports that Travis may have learned Rager and Everly’s style as early as 1932).
In 1943, Rager quit mining, determined to make it in the music business. He worked for Grandpa Jones on the Grand Ole Opry in the late 1940s, and was often featured playing the show-stopper, “Tiger Rag.” In 1947, he joined fiddler Curley Fox’s band, and made his first recordings as a sideman on “Black Mountain Rag,” recorded for the King label (KI-710). Rager’s lightning fast solo on the record
Mose Rager & The Everly Brothers