Farewell Bill Kearns

Bill Kearns died February 14, 2010, in Slater, Missouri. Bill had been battling cancer for several years, and his death was not unexpected. He was 86.

One of twelve children, all of them musicians, Bill Kearns (his real name was Bobby H. Kearns) was born on the family farm east of Slater, Saline County. His people were German and Scotch-Irish. Bill was a survivor of the Normandy Invasion in France during World War II and he served with distinction in the Army throughout the war. After the war, he returned to Slater, decided on a career as a railroad brakemen, settled down, and raised a family.

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Fair Winds to Fred Stoneking

Fred Stoneking, fiddler, guitar and banjo player, son of Lee Stoneking, passed away in October 2009 after a fight with cancer. Fred was a fixture at local festivals at Harrison, Arkansas and Compton Ridge, Missouri, comfortable playing bluegrass, contest fiddle, or the Ozark tunes he learned as a youngster. He will be missed.

New Bob Walters CD Released

Nebraska fiddler Bob Walters is little-known outside Missouri Valley fiddle circles, but that’s about to change with the new release of eighty of Bob’s best tunes on “Bob Walters, The Champion: Classic Missouri Valley Fiddling from Dwight Lamb’s Collection.”

Long before the days of the iPod or even the portable tape recorder, Dwight Lamb was collecting recordings from Bob Walters on wire recorders, reel-to-reels, or whatever the latest technology might be. Now we’re lucky to have his amazing collection of Bob Walters recordings cherry-picked into this giant two-CD set which demonstrates both Mr. Walters’ mastery of the instrument and his breadth of repetoire. The set includes reels, waltzes, polkas and quadrilles, and even a few more rare birds, and tunes are sourced all the way from Kentucky to Canada and beyond.

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Troy, Missouri Contest

Fiddlers Howard Marshall of Fulton (left) and Richard Shewmaker (right) Fiddlers Howard Marshall of Fulton (left) and Richard Shewmaker (right) of Columbia won first place in the Senior and Junior division, respectively, at the old-time fiddlers contest in Troy, Missouri, May 3, 2009. The trophies awarded at this contest were unique and very special — miniature violins made by a local artisan. (Photo by John Shewmaker)

Guitarist Elvin Campbell Passes Away

Elvin Campbell is best known for his top-notch guitar backup for Dwight Lamb and Cyril Stinnett.We’re sorry to report that Elvin Campbell, a long-time guitarist for Dwight Lamb and Cyril Stinnett, passed away on Sunday, March 15, 2009, in Fremont, Nebraska. He was 84.

Though Elvin was a fiddler himself, he preferred the role of guitarist and found his niche as Dwight Lamb’s preferred guitarist throughout his contest days in the 60s and 70s. He supported Dwight and Cyril Stinnett on their trips to the National Fiddler’s Contest in Weiser, Idaho in the mid 1960s. Elvin supplemented Dwight’s playing with a spare and elegant style of his own. Playing in the Missouri Valley repertoire requires a flexible, well-rounded guitarist who can play comfortably in many keys, change keys smoothly, and generally make it all sound easy, and Elvin qualifies on all counts.

Be sure to visit Elvin’s page to hear some of his top-notch guitar playing.

Now That’s a Good Tune Re-released on CD

Now That's a Good Tune bookletNow That’s a Good Tune: Masters of Missouri Fiddling was originally issued in 1989 as a set of two LP records and a 64-page book by the Missouri Cultural Heritage Center at the University of Missouri, Columbia. This newly revised edition was produced by Howard Marshall, Vivian Williams, and Phil Williams and includes 2 CDs packed with recordings of 13 Missouri fiddlers and a 98-page book. The fiddlers whose stories are featured in the book, and whose fiddling is heard on the CDs, are R. P. Christeson, Bill Eddy, Lyman Enloe, Gene Goforth, Carol Hascall, Vesta Johnson, Dean Johnston, Pete McMahan, Cyril Stinnett, Howe Teague, Charlie Walden, Bob Walsh, and Nile Wilson. The book also includes over 40 photographs and illustrations, and transcriptions for some of the tunes. This is a “must have” set for anyone interested in traditional fiddling in America and is available from Voyager Recordings.
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Fayette Freeze-Off Fiddle Contest

100_5051.jpgSaturday, August 2
Annual fiddle contest held as part of festival music, cake, and ice cream making contest. The audience that braved the heat of an early August day was treated to superb fiddling on the shady lawn of the Fayette courthouse square. Continue reading

Shade Tree Fiddlers at Art in the Park

thumbs_008_17A.jpgA number of fiddlers and accompanists performed at Shade Tree Fiddlers State as part of the annual Art in the Park festival at Stephens Lake Park in Columbia on June 7 and 8. Some 10,000 visitors came to the fair to see the artworks of dozens of artists working in various media – and to take in some good music. The Shade Tree stage was organized by Howard Marshall, and cosponsored by the Missouri Traditional Fiddle and Dance Network. The venue included hour-long sets by a range of fiddlers young and old, playing styles such as bluegrass, old-time, Cajun, and western swing.
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So Long, Nile

Legendary Missouri fiddler Nile Wilson passed away Friday, March 21. He was 95.

I wish to inform everyone of the death on March 21 of north Missouri fiddler Nile Wilson of Bucklin at the age of 95. A great loss of one of the legendary elders, and a good friend.

Nile was among those who played in the WOS radio fiddle contests and live broadcasts in the late 1920s (Jefferson City). Nile played a number of “tie hacker tunes,” many of which he learned from his fiddling grandfather Isaac Wilson, who walked to north Missouri from Indiana after the Civil War as a young Union Army veteran. Isaac Wilson worked in the tie hacker camps, hewing white oak railroad ties for the railroad being built across north Missouri. These camps included a number of itinerant Irish and Scotch-Irish fiddle players (Civil War veterans), in the same part of Missouri where Francis O’Neill taught school for a year and collected several fiddle tunes at local dances (before going to Chicago and becoming famous; see article in Missouri Historical Review, October 2005).
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