Clarence "Tater" Tate, a versatile musician who contributed to recordings
by Bill Monroe, Patty Loveless, Mac Wiseman and many others, died Wednesday
at his home in Jonesborough, Tenn. He was 76 and was suffering from lung cancer.
"He could play any stringed instrument, and he was a tremendous musician," said
fiddler and WSM-AM air personality Eddie Stubbs. "Tater understood what
bluegrass music was all about, and he'd been playing the music almost since it began.
He had a nearly 60-year career."
In recent years, Mr. Tate was serving as a fiddle instructor at East Tennessee State University,
passing along some of the secrets of a hard-driving fiddle style that featured
equal parts grit and elegance.
Mr. Tate's skills did not end with the fiddle, though. He also sang and played
bass, mandolin, banjo and acoustic guitar. As part of Bill Monroe's Blue Grass Boys
band, Mr. Tate often switched between fiddle and bass.
On Loveless' "The Boys Are Back In Town" single, he played the sprightly bass part.
He was also the last fiddle player in Lester Flatt's Nashville Grass band, working
with the revered singer until Flatt's death in 1979.
Mac Wiseman, Wilma Lee Cooper, Carl Story, Jimmy Martin and many others
used Mr. Tate in performances and on recordings. Politician and country music
promoter Cas Walker gave Mr. Tate the nickname of "Tater," and
Bill Monroe often excitedly introduced him as "Tater Tater Tater Tate!"
Mr. Tate lived in Nashville for a quarter-century, often working the Grand Ole Opry.
Funeral services will be at 2 p.m. today at Dillow-Taylor Funeral Home in Jonesborough.
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