One of the most popular recording artists in his day, and one of the least appreciated today, is classically trained tenor-turned-country singer Vernon Dalhart. The first million-selling country artist, whose records enthralled the listeners of the 1920s, and sometimes annoy record collectors today because of their prevalence, a testament to his popularity.
The man who would become internationally famous as Vernon Dalhart was born Marion Try Slaughter II in the town of Jefferson, Texas on April 6, 1883 (some sources say 1881), son of Robert Marion “Bob” and Mary Jane Slaughter. Growing up on a ranch outside town, Try, who went by his middle name, learned to play the harmonica, kazoo, and Jew’s harp. The Slaughters, living up to their name, had a reputation as violent people, and when Try was ten in 1893, his uncle, also named Bob, shot his father following a dispute in the alley behind the Kahn Saloon in Jefferson.