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The Cate Brothers are the singer-songwriter-musician duo of Earl and Ernie Cate, twin brothers from Fayetteville, Arkansas, who in the mid-1960s became performers of southern soul music at clubs and dances throughout the regional South of the United States. Both brothers are singers, with Earl on guitar and Ernie on piano. They became prolific recording artists during the mid to late 1970s, and again since the mid-1990s.
In their 1950s Fayetteville hometown, where rock pioneer Ronnie Hawkins had also grown up during the 1940s, Hawkins owned and operated the Rockwood Club. There, some of Rock music's earliest pioneers came to play, including Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison and Conway Twitty.
During the late 1950s the Cates associated with Hawkins and his original band members in Arkansas, known as the Hawks, including Hawks drummer Levon Helm. After 1958 Helm and Hawkins left, and settled in Canada, where they went on to form the core of the group The Band.
In 1975 Levon Helm introduced the Cates to a record company representative in Los Angeles. The Cates soon after received a recording contract with Asylum Records, and so began their recording career.
Their 1975 debut self-titled album was produced by guitarist Steve Cropper, who also appeared on the record along with Levon Helm, Donald "Duck" Dunn and Poco bass guitarist Timothy B. Schmit, who later joined the Eagles. The album spawned the duo's only Hot 100 top 40 single, "Union Man", which was on the Hot 100 for 20 weeks, peaking at #24 on 22-29 May 1976.
Two more albums followed in 1976 and 1977.
In 1979 they reached a wide audience when they appeared on the PBS music television program Austin City Limits, taped in December of the prior year.
In 1979 the brothers released their fourth and final album of the period, Fire on the Tracks, which reached number 24 on the album rock charts on the success of "Union Man". That single was one of the songs the brothers had performed during the Austin City Limits television show, leading up to the album's release.
During the 1980s the band's recording career went on hiatus, though they remained a popular touring act around the southern country rock and blues circuit of the Tennessee and Arkansas region.
In the early 1980s, the brothers joined Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, and Garth Hudson in a revival of The Band (without guitarist Robbie Robertson), and also worked with blues singer Maria Muldaur.
The Cate Brothers resumed recording in the mid-1990s, on a series of independent label albums.
In September 2000, Porky Hill died. He was the drummer for the Cates for 12 years. Ron Eoff's brother Mickey then joined the band.