b. 1909, USA, d. 12 April 1997, Castalian Springs, Tennessee, USA. One of the long-standing but unsung heroes of the Grand Ole Opry, country music’s mecca, Crook sang and played banjo on radio and stage for over 60 years as part of that institution. He first entered mainstream music as a member of the Herman And Matthew Crook Band (no relation), which he joined in 1929 after meeting the pair at a fiddling championship. After Matthew Crook left to join the police, the core duo of Lewis and Herman Crook stayed together for the rest of their professional careers. They played a traditional string-band country music, typified by material such as ‘Lost John’ and ‘Goin’ Cross The Sea’. They oversaw the transformation of WSM Barn Dance (as it was originally called) into the Grand Ole Opry, sharing a stage with similarly inclined acts such as Dr. Humphrey Bate And The Possum Hunters. Initially they were not paid, and Lewis sought outside work as a salesman and representative of the Texas Boot Company (Herman was a tobacco twister for the American Tobacco Co.). Throughout, however, the two Crooks were fixtures at the Opry in each of its numerous locations (they could boast of having played at the WSM Studios, the Hillsboro Theater, the Dixie Tabernacle, the War Memorial Auditorium, the Ryman Auditorium and the Grand Ole Opry’s current home in Opryland). However, in the 40s the string-band acts proved less popular than rising solo stars (particularly Roy Acuff), and the Crook Brothers (as they were now known) were relegated to progressively lower ranking in the show’s billing. The duo’s rare recordings include efforts for Victor Records in the late 20s. They also appeared on a 1962 album with fellow Opry stars Sam And Kirk McGee. By the 80s, only the Crook Brothers and the Fruit Jar Drinkers remained of the original string-band pioneers who appeared regularly on the Grand Ole Opry. The Crook Brothers made their final appearance on 4 June 1988, six days before Herman’s death.
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