The Crook Brothers must hold the long-service record for performers on the Grand Ole Opry. They first played theOpry in 1926, only weeks after the programme was created and remained on it until 1988. The duo comprised Herman Crook (b. 2 December 1899, Scottsboro, Tennessee, USA, d. 10 June 1988; harmonica) and Matthew Crook (b. 1896, Scottsboro, Tennessee, USA. d. date unknown; harmonica). They first played for local dances and on WDAD Nashville and when George D. Hay heard them, he invited them to play on WSM. They began regularOpry appearances but also played on WBAW and WLAC Nashville. Herman, who always treated his music as recreation, worked as a cigar roller for a tobacco company. The brothers recorded four instrumentals for RCA - Victor Records in 1928, which sold well but surprisingly were the only recordings by the Crook Brothers until 1962. In 1929, having already added a pianist and guitarist, the brothers, after being introduced by Dr. Humphrey Bate at a fiddler’s contest, were further reinforced by Lewis Crook (b. 30 May 1909, Trousdale County, Tennessee, USA, d. 12 April 1997) on banjo, guitar and vocals. He was, in fact, no relation, a fact that has caused some confusion over the years.
In 1931, Matthew left to work for the Nashville police department and Herman, maintaining that he could not find a good enough harmonica player, for the first time added a fiddle to the band. After Sam McGee had worked with them for a time, Floyd Etheridge started a long-time association. The group’s output was increased by Lewis Crook adding more vocals and, in the 40s, a vocal trio also sang on theOpry with the band (it included both father and son Neal Matthews, the younger later working with the Jordanaires for many years). The band, with variation in personnel, continued to play on theOpry, and attempts were made in the 60s to persuade them to appear at folk festivals. Herman was still rolling cigars and had no interest in touring or in making records. They did record one side of an album for Starday in 1962. Noted historian Charles K. Wolfe organized a Rounder Records session but for some reason, Herman found a way to avoid doing it. Eventually, the deaths of so many old-time musicians resulted in the remaining members of the Possum Hunters and the Crook Brothers combining as one band, which continued to play on theOpry until Herman Crook died in 1988.