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Bill Black's Combo

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Bill Black (September 17, 1926 – October 21, 1965) was an American musician who is noted as one of the pioneers of rockabilly music. Black was the bassist in Elvis Presley’s early trio and the leader of Bill Black’s Combo.

William Patton Black, Jr. was born in Memphis, Tennessee, to a motorman for the Memphis Street Railway. He was the oldest of nine children. His father played popular songs on the banjo and fiddle to entertain the family. Black learned to play music at the age of 14 on an instrument made by his father—a cigar box with a board nailed to it and strings attached. At the age of sixteen, Black was performing “honky-tonk” music on acoustic guitar in local bars.
During World War II, Black was stationed with the U.S. Army at Fort Lee in Virginia. While in the Army, he met Evelyn, who played guitar as the member of a musical family. They married in 1946 and returned to Memphis. Black worked at the Firestone plant.

Black began playing the upright bass fiddle. He modeled his “slap bass” technique after one of his idols, Fred Maddox of Maddox Brothers and Rose. Black also developed a “stage clown” persona in the same way that Maddox entertained audiences. Black performed as an exaggerated hillbilly with blacked-out teeth, straw hat and overalls. According to his son, Black said his goal was always to give his audience “a few moments of entertainment and maybe a little bit of humor that’ll tickle ‘em for a while.”

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