W. W. "Skinny" Trammell

Guitar maker and musician from Lone Star, Texas


W.W. Trammell answers the question "How did you get started as an instrument maker?" Interview with Alan Govenar. Recorded by Alan Govenar. Texas, 1986.

W. W. Trammell explains how he's responsible for country music getting its name. Phone interview with Alan Govenar, 2010.



W. W. Trammell grew up in a poor family that valued music and by an early age was playing 78-rpm records on the family Victrola. He formed a country and western band in the 1940s that played for dances and on the radio. His decision to teach himself to make instruments in 1966 is steeped in traditional culture, but he did not apprentice himself to a master guitar maker. Trial and error was his method. Music was done in his spare time; he was a trucker and then ran a gas station in a small town. Most traditional artists do not make a living from their craft.


Students may:

Big Ideas

Material Culture




W. W. Trammell’s story and photos
Radio clip
Everyday Music Field Notes
Traditions Venn Diagram 

Time Required

1-2 class periods


Texas history, social studies, English language arts, music


Review W. W. Trammell’s story and the media clip. Choose Big Ideas that you find important to your curriculum and your students. Copy Everyday Music Field Notes and any other worksheets students will need and cue the audio clip. 

Class Discussion

Students may read the story and listen to the audio story independently, in groups, or as a class. Using the Everyday Music Field Notes worksheet will help them focus more closely. In a class discussion, raise some of the Big Ideas above, depending upon your curriculum and students’ needs and grade level. Here are questions to spark discussion:

Suggested Activities

Students may work independently or collaboratively to:

Brainstorm a list of things that you’ve learned to do or make outside a formal classroom setting. Examples include skateboarding, cooking, playing games, hunting, fishing, or texting with friends. If possible, list the person who taught you. Share examples and talk about what and how you learned. What skills have you taught someone? Choose a classmate to interview about how he or she learned to do something. Make a storyboard or timeline illustrating the sequence of learning or making something.

Invite a parent or community member who makes something by hand to class for a group interview. Be sure to use a Release Form. Document the interview to create a presentation or Web page. Include music in the final project.

Research the music that W. W. Trammell loved as a child by musicians like the Carter Family, Jimmie Rodgers, and Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers. Share lyrics and, if possible, music excerpts in an essay or oral report.

The guitar is the most important instrument among Texas traditional musicians. Investigate how to make a guitar by hand. Calculate the cost of materials and the time it takes to make a guitar. How much would you have to charge to make a profit? How does this compare with the $2,500 W. W. Trammell charges?

Living in the Piney Woods region of Texas during the Great Depression meant hard times. W. W. Trammell got his nickname “Skinny” because one of his thirteen siblings couldn’t remember his little brother’s name when he got a job with the Works Progress Administration and was asked to list family members. Research the economic and social effects of the Great Depression in Texas for an essay. Include at least two of the following: a timeline, graphs, pie charts, illustrations, or song lyrics.

His family’s four-foot-tall Victrola that played 78-rpm records was a highlight of W. W. Trammell’s childhood. Research the history of recorded sound from the late 19th century to today for a class multimedia presentation. Team members may choose different decades. Interview people of different generations about their experiences with recorded sound. Be sure to use a Release Form. Include illustrations, sound excerpts, prices, and stories. 

Assessment Strategies

Field notes
Lists of skills
Storyboards, timelines
Web page
Essays with timelines, graphs, pie charts, illustrations, lyrics


acoustic guitar
bluegrass music
Great Depression
old-time music
one-room school
Piney Woods


Analyze information
Use and create primary sources
Great Depression
Organize information