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Guitarist, songwriter and vocalist Merle Travis introduced to country music a distinctive picking style that was indigenous to his native western Kentucky. He also helped to popularize the electric guitar and designed his own solid-body model that influenced Leo Fender's Telecaster. Travis began his career in the mid-1930s, performing with early hillbilly bands like Clayton McMichen's Georgia Wildcats and the Delmore Brothers before going solo. Moving to California in 1944, he cut his first solo records and soon started scoring hits. Over the years Travis' compositions became smashes for other artists, including Tex William ("Smoke! Smoke! Smoke! [That Cigarette]") and Tennessee Ernie Ford ("Sixteen Tons"). Travis also popularized country-folk songs such as "The Nine Pound Hammer" and "Dark as a Dungeon" - all evocative of his native Kentucky coal mining community.

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