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Clarence (Tater) Tate
Born:  February 4, 1931
Died:  October 17, 2007
WWVA Original Jamboree
WWVA Wheeling, WV

About The Artist

As a bluegrass fiddler Tater Tate ranked as one of best and most durable although for some reason he never earned the legendary status of a Chubby Wise or a Kenny Baker.

Born in Gate City, Virginia, Tater entered the radio bluegrass scene on such stations as WCYB Bristol, WNOX and WROL Knoxville in the late 1940s.

Before he was twenty-five, he had done record sessions with such notables the Sauceman Brothers, Carl Butler, and the Bailey Brothers.

Over the next fifty years, he added most of the other greats of bluegrass to the list of those with whom he had either done record sessions or been a band member except for the Stanley Brothers and Osborne Brothers. Although best known as a fiddler, he could also play most other bluegrass instruments with considerable skill.

During his stays in Knoxville, Tater was often part of shows either connected with merchant Cas Walker or comedian Archie Campbell and toured with either Carl Story, Bonnie Lou and Buster Moore, or one of the other Knoxville acts.

From 1954 until 1956, he was in military service often working with a band in the Canal Zone. Tater spent seven months with Bill Monroe in 1956, but would later spend about twelve years as a Blue Grass Boy.

In these earlier years, he generally avoided working with Nashville-based bands but that changed in 1977.

Meanwhile, he earned a positive reputation working again with the Bailey Brothers, Carl Story, and Hylo Brown's Timberliners. From 1965 until 1969, he was part of Red Smiley's Bluegrass Cutups at WDBJ TV in Roanoke and at WWVA Wheeling ( he had previously worked at the Jamboree with the Baileys). With Smiley, he fiddled on four long play albums and made another four of fiddle instrumentals, three of them on the Rural Rhythm label.

After Smiley retired in 1969, Tater and the rest of his band reorganized as the Shenandoah Cutups, continuing their affiliation with what was now Jamboree, U. S. A. at WWVA.

In 1977, Paul Warren had to retire from the Lester Flatt band and Tater became his replacement. After Flatt died, Tater worked the revamped Nashville Grass under Curly Seckler's leadership, followed by work with Wilma Lee Cooper, a short stint back with Carl Story, and then in 1984 returning to Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys until the venerable "Father of Blugrass had to retire.

Ironically, Tate played bass more often than fiddle during that twelve year stretch. Then he did session work with artists ranging from Curley Seckler to Patty Loveless. Toward the end Tater returned to east Tennessee and gave fiddle lessons at East Tennessee State University.

In addition to his above mentioned sideman and session work, he also recorded with such figures as Jimmy Martin, Jim and Jesse, Jim Eanes, Lee Moore, J. E. Mainer, Maybelle Seiger, Gloria Belle Flickinger, Shot Jackson, Red Rector and perhaps others.

Credits & Sources