Clarence 'Tater' Tate
Friday 02 November 2007
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.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
- 1 Belgium fan Axelle Despiegelaere lands L'Oreal campaign after World Cup viral photo
- 2 Orange Is The New Black has not been cancelled – it was a hoax
- 3 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 5 Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Pope Francis: ‘One in 50’ Catholic priests, bishops and cardinals is a paedophile
Fry ‘criticises Operation Yewtree in dinner party rant’ calling for tougher laws to deter false sex abuse allegations
Supermoon 2014 in pictures: Moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Saharan remains may be evidence of first race war, 13,000 years ago
Israel-Gaza conflict: ‘Sderot cinema’ image shows Israelis with popcorn and chairs 'cheering as missiles strike Palestinian targets'
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’
Emergency data law: David Cameron plots to bring back snoopers’ charter
NUT strike: David Cameron announces crackdown on strike action ahead of mass industrial action
£27,000-£34,000 per annum: US Embassy: An office of the US Embassy based in Be...
£27,000-£34,000 per annum: US Embassy: An office of the US Embassy London base...
£25000 - £35000 per annum + bonus + bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: IT Sy...
£45000 - £60000 per annum: Charter Selection: Charter Selection are working wi...