The Crook Brothers

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There are many "brother" duets in bluegrass music, but none with a name as evocative as the Crook Brothers. The brothers Herman and Matthew grew up on a farm and were pretty much on their own from a young…
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There are many "brother" duets in bluegrass music, but none with a name as evocative as the Crook Brothers. The brothers Herman and Matthew grew up on a farm and were pretty much on their own from a young age, when their father was killed by a tree falling on him. The youngsters were known to play for social gatherings, building up a fan base that kept expanding through the state of Tennessee. When the first radio stations went on the air, their type of old-time music was definitely in demand and they soon had regular shows on three different Nashville stations. This was the mid-'20s and it was an exciting era that spawned the beginnings of the country & western music scene as it is known today. Like the friends Kirk and Sam McGee, the Crook Brothers were approached by promoter George D. Hay, nicknamed "Solemn Old Judge," to appear on a brand new show he was starting. This "lil' old radio show" turned into the Grand Old Opry, eventually becoming such an institution that for many people around the world it symbolizes country music. The Crook Brothers were an absolute institution with the Opry, appearing numerous times and saluting the 10th, 25th, 35th, and so forth anniversaries of their Opry debut with a shrug and another song. In addition to the Opry the band went on the road regularly, sometimes in package tours with other legends such as Uncle Dave Macon. The number of actual "crooks" in the Crook Brothers went up and down over the years. In the beginning the group not only featured Herman and Matthew, but Herman's wife as well. She dropped out, and then Matthew also had to leave the band around 1929. In 1930, Herman had a stroke of luck and hooked up with a fiddler named Lewis Crook, who although no family relation had the name for the job. Other regular band members included Sam McGee and fiddler Gerry Rivers, who was also an original member of Hank Williams' Drifting Cowboy Band. Old age eventually forced Herman to hang up his harmonica. He died in 1988, at the age of 1999, 73 years after making his Opry debut. He is remembered not only by old-time music enthusiasts who enjoyed the Crook Brothers' music, but by fans of harmonica music, who credit Herman as one of the most innovative players of his time.