FIDDLER’S DREAM

FIDDLERS-DREAMFIDDLER’S DREAM: OLD-TIME, SWING, AND BLUEGRASS FIDDLING IN TWENTIETH CENTURY MISSOURI
BY HOWARD WIGHT MARSHALL

Univ. Of Missouri Press 9780826221216. CD included, 448 pp., 111 photos, $29.95.
(Chicago Distribution Ctr., 11030 S. Langley Ave., Chicago, IL 60628, upress.missouri.edu.)

This second volume by Marshall on the fiddling in Missouri brings the reader up to the twentieth century, building upon his earlier volume Play Me Something Quick And Devilish. Like this previous volume, a CD of fiddle music accompanies the book, putting sounds to the stories and names and some of the transcriptions included herein.

The wide variety of styles are defined and a series of chapters detail the everchanging world and lives of Missouri fiddlers. Chapters focus on radio fiddlers, music parties, individual fiddlers such as Lonnie Robertson. There’s a chapter on Missourians who moved West to California and Washington and a bit about their influences on the fiddle scene there. There’s a candid description of fiddle contests that peels back the mystique, laying bare the realities of this phenomenon. There are chapters detailing the showier aspects of the art on radio and stage shows. There’s a fine section on the swing scene including Kansas City and the influence of Joe Venuti on Western Swing fiddlers and jazzier aspects of the genre. Claude “Fiddler” Williams and his jazz fiddle are included.

No description of Missouri fiddling would be complete without mentioning the bluegrass players, Lonnie Hopper and Lyman Enloe. Also included is Cecil Goforth, an important fiddler that John Hartford brought to a lot of people’s attention. Hartford did a lot for the fiddlers of Missouri (he grew up in Saint Louis, although born in New York City). For those familiar with Hartford’s later recordings, there are stories in this volume about many of the fiddlers he cited on those recordings.

The included CD is a wealth of great fiddling taken from a wide array of sources brought together by Voyager Records, perhaps the leading fiddle music label of today. The recording quality ranges from rough to quite good with fine examples of great fiddlers.

This volume ends its focus with the 1960s, another turning point for fiddle music. Recordings and radio were major shakeups in the status quo of old-time fiddling, making the music more accessible over wider areas. That Missouri was able to keep its fiddle traditions intact as well is it did is part of the book’s focus. It’s Marshall’s feeling that from the 1960s on, the revival and the spread of technology has caused a major shakeup once again, and a third volume is in order to fully document all that’s happened since. This book holds many interesting revelations, such as what did Lawrence Welk have to do with traditional fiddling in Missouri? Ah, the joys of a well-researched and annotated tome.RCB

Leave a Reply

Enter Amount Below * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.