Merle Travis & Deke Dickerson

Sixteen Tons: The Merle Travis Story

Deke Dickerson does things right. He doesn’t skimp in his books, recordings, or various other productions, knowing that true “guitar geeks” (as he justly refers to himself and the rest of us) revel in the details. And his latest project here may just be his masterpiece – so far.

Starting with the “treasure trove” that is Merle Travis’ unpublished autobiography, Deke dove deep into one of his favorite subjects, fleshing out the story with further research, key details, and transitional portions.

Deke knows what we fans want as he delves into the stories behind songs, Travis’ influential picking style, and plenty about his guitars – especially the pioneering Paul Bigsby instrument that unwittingly became a seminal creation in the history of electrics.There are also dark details that Travis brought on himself – the “Mexican marriages” and troubled home life, fondness for the bottle, numerous arrests, and more. There ain’t no skimping here. Even the massive photo section is rich in images and story. The result is an honest, thorough, and insightful portrait of Travis that travels far beyond what we know of many other guitar heroes. Hat’s off to both Merle and Deke.

This article originally appeared in VG’s April 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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