Clarence 'Tater' Tate

Bluegrass veteran

Clarence "Tater" Tate, fiddle player and bassist: born Gate City, Virginia 4 February 1931; married; died Jonesborough, Tennessee 17 October 2007.

Clarence "Tater" Tate was an accomplished bluegrass bassist and fiddler who, over the course of a 60-year-plus career, lent effective support to many of the leading figures in the genre, from Bill Monroe to Jimmy Martin.

Born, one of nine children, in the south-western corner of Virginia, he played the guitar as a child and had appeared on local radio by the age of 10. In time, he heard a performance of "Train 45" by Flatt and Scruggs on a Bristol, Tennessee radio station and its driving fiddle part, courtesy of Art Wooten, sparked his interest in the instrument – "that sound just sent cold chills up my spine".

By 1950, he had become a much-sought-after sideman, performing regularly on Knoxville's popular Mid-Day Merry-Go-Round, where the sponsor, Cas Walker, gave him the enduring nickname "Tater", and making his recording début with the Sauceman Brothers. He worked with the Bailey Brothers from 1951 until the draft intervened in 1954 and then, on his return to civilian life in 1956, received an invitation from Bill Monroe to join his seminal group, the Blue Grass Boys.

Tate's initial tenure with the "founding father" of the genre would be relatively short – some seven months – but in 1984 he returned to the fold, playing bass and fiddle until Monroe's death in 1996. In the interim, he worked alongside bluegrass notables including Carl Story, Hylo Brown, Jim Eanes and Red Smiley. From 1969 until 1977, he was a mainstay of the Shenandoah Cut-Ups, an underrated outfit whose work today seems ripe for reassessment. In 1977, he replaced the ailing Paul Warren in Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass, remaining as the group's bowman in the years prior to its leader's death. Together they cut the classic "Peacock Rag".

Tate additionally recorded a number of albums in his own right, including a pair of delightful discs dedicated to the waltz made for Rural Rhythm in the mid-Sixties, on one of which, Twenty Beautiful Waltzes, he collaborated with the dobro player Shot Jackson. He occasionally ventured outside the genre, contributing some fine work to Kate and Anna McGarrigle's Dancer With Bruised Knees (1976) and, in 2001, was one of several bluegrass veterans to appear on Patty Loveless's acclaimed roots-based project Mountain Soul.

More recently he delighted in his role as a teacher of fiddle at East Tennessee State University, a position that enabled the modest and unassuming Tater Tate to pass his artistry on to a new generation.

Paul Wadey

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk