Tennessee Ramblers (Tennessee Band) - Origins


William Sievers (the name is sometimes spelled "Seivers") was born in Elza, Tennessee (now part of Oak Ridge) in 1875 and worked as a barber in nearby Clinton, where James and Willie were born in 1904 and 1909, respectively. William's grandfather and mother had been fiddle players, and his children later recalled that most everyone in the family played an instrument of some sort. William's wife, Myrtle McKinney, occasionally sang with the band in its early years. Aside from his parents, William's influences included an obscure Knoxville fiddle player known as "Old Bill" Jones (Georgia fiddler Earl Johnson also claimed Jones as an influence) and a Knoxville blues group known as the "Kinser Brothers."

James Sievers began playing banjo with his cousin, Walter McKinney, in 1913, and learned much of his technique from a north Anderson County banjo player named Steve Cole. Willie initially took piano lessons, but quit after her instructor told her she would only learn an instrument by "playing it by ear." She took up guitar shortly thereafter, and would later go on to win several contests. Within a few years, James and his sister Willie were playing at school assemblies. The two developed what would become a lifelong interest in Hawaiian music during this period, at the same time learning old-time music their father taught them.

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