Vagabonds member Glen Browning receives Thumbpicking Hall of Fame recognition
Olive Branch native Glen Browning has been involved with thumbpicking since he was 8 years old, but he never thought he would be recognized with a prestigious award for his hobby.
In September of 2015, Browning received the National Thumbpickers Hall of Fame award for supporting musician. Browning tied with fellow musician Jason Coleman, who is the grandson of Floyd Kraimer, a country pianist.
The organization is worldwide and people from all over the world voted.
Thumbpicking is a unique way to play the guitar, made famous by Chet Atkins and Merle Travis. The player uses their thumb as the bass rhythm and uses the other fingers for the melody.
Growing up, he bought every Chet Atkins and Merle Travis album that he could.
“The obsession I had with Chet Atkins really got it started,” he said.
He moved to Russellville, Ky., when he was 27 years old to work as an electrical tech. He still resides there today.
Thumbpicking originated one county over in Kentucky and that’s where he got acquainted with local thumbpickers and started playing with them.
“It’s not an easy style to learn,” Browning said.
Growing up, Browning would play along with records and performed at the Assembly of God Church in Olive Branch.
From 1970 to 1976, Browning played in a band called The Vagabonds.
They toured around Southern Illinois, performing in Olive Branch and Anna, as well as in Southeast Missouri and Kentucky. They would practice in Vaughn’s Appliances shop, which was located in Olive Branch.
Members of the Vagabonds were Browning, John Steinhouse, Sam Fraiser, Dave Vaughn and Larry Vaughn.
Browning said it was a change playing with other musicians, but the “magic thing was the fact that we were all real good friends.”
His bandmate, Larry Vaughn, said Browning has worked very hard to get the recognition he deserves.
“He and I started learning to play guitar together when we were in our early teens. I knew right away that Glen had a very special talent,” Vaughn said.
“The fact that he is a self-taught guitarist is very remarkable. His hard work at playing guitar has resulted in his being recognized worldwide for this thumbpicking ability.”
When Browning received the award, he said he was blindsided.
“It meant a lot to me,” he said.
Since being in Kentucky, he played in a gospel quartet called The Ambassadors and played lead guitar with David Head and the Silver Dollar Band.
Browning is active with the Merle Travis Music Center in Powderly, Ky.
This year, they are celebrating Travis’ 100th birthday with a picking contest, which takes place during the last weekend of September.
Browning gives credit to learning the “correct” way to thumbpick to several friends and mentors, including Eddie Bennington, Paul Mosley and Joe Hudson, the director of The National Thumbpickers Hall of Fame.
“I can’t say enough about the help. The willingness. It’s been a joy to be involved,” he said.