Online Program: The Fiddle in Missouri Life With Howard Marshall

Thursday, May 27 • 6-7 p.m.
Registration link:
Presented by the Daniel Boone Regional Library

Howard Marshall works on a tune for the soundtrack to a friend's movie. Photo by Shane Epping.

Howard Marshall works on a tune for the soundtrack to a friend’s movie. Photo by Shane Epping.

How and why did the fiddle (or violin) become so prevalent in Missouri history and in the varieties of music around us? At this virtual presentation, Howard Marshall will talk about the history behind the fiddle tunes played across Missouri and play some examples.

Howard Marshall is a lifelong fan of fiddle music and fiddlers. In recent years, he has published his research in journal articles and books for the University of Missouri Press documenting the people and music of the fiddle in Missouri’s cultural life, from the early French settlements into the 1960s. His books include “Play Me Something Quick and Devilish,” 2012, and “Fiddler’s Dream,” 2017, both with CDs of archival recordings. A third book, continuing the saga from the 1960s to the present, is being prepared for publication.

Dr. Marshall is professor emeritus of art history and archaeology at the University of Missouri in Columbia and former director of the Missouri Cultural Heritage Center. Adults and teens.

Bethel Youth Fiddle Camp 2021

The Bethel, Missouri, youth fiddle camp returns this summer, June 6-11, 2021. This event features a week of instruction with fiddle masters representing several of Missouri’s fiddle styles, dancing, and sometimes swimming!

Master fiddler Vesta Johnson with students.

Vesta Johnson shows some young fiddlers how to play a dance tune.

For more information or to register, visit

Missouri Fiddling in the New York Times

Upper body shot of Alvie in a field with a dreadnought guitar

Alvie Dooms has been a regular at the McClurg jam session for decades. Here he is his with his guitar, 2013 (from Old-Time Music and Ozark Heritage Festival)

Looks like Missouri fiddling is famous these days! Our friends at the McClurg jam session have appeared in the New York Times, with an article about how the pandemic is affecting traditional arts.

McClurg’s session isn’t meeting these days, because of the pandemic, but here’s hoping that when we can all get together again, they’ll re-start their long-standing Monday night tradition. It’s a great way to spend a Monday night in the Ozarks. Listeners, card players, snackers, and musicians are all welcome, and there’s a wood stove for cool nights. (Make sure you are ready to drive some curvy roads if you visit!)

All in all, it’s not too different from something your grandparents or great grandparents might have done on a Monday night, long before Netflix or Monday night football.

Like the McClurg jammers, we all really miss dancing and playing together. But missing it also reminds us what we value about music and dance. In Missouri we have a still-lively fiddle and dance tradition full of welcoming people. But our traditions stay lively because we put our time and energy into them, and into each other and our communities in the process. Here’s hoping we can soon do more of the ‘work’ of passing on our traditions—that is, playing tunes with friends under a shade tree or dancing the night away!

Gary Johnston, Missouri Master Fiddler, Dies at 83

By Howard Marshall

Gary Johnston fiddles while Lloyd LaPlant play backup on guitar at a fiddler's convention.

Gary Johnston fiddles a few tunes with Lloyd LaPlant of Great Falls, Minnesota, March 2016. (Photo by Howard Marshall)

Gary Johnston, the champion old-time fiddler from Nevada, Missouri, died December 19, 2020. He was born in 1937 near Lamar (Barton County) and part of a large clan of musicians. Two of his older brothers were also fiddlers, Don and Dean. All “the Johnston boys” were versatile players with deep repertoires who enjoyed various styles of music. (Dean Johnston is featured in the University of Missouri documentary Now That’s A Good Tune and other projects and publications.) Continue reading

Warren Helton, an Elder of the Missouri Fiddle Community, Dies at 83

by Howard Marshall, also appearing in Fiddler Magazine

Warren Helton standing in front of his house.

Helton, October 2010. (Photo by Howard Marshall)

Warren Helton, a strong advocate who kept an unusually-rich storehouse of family fiddle traditions alive, and who embraced western swing as a young man, died in Vienna, Missouri, August 28, 2020. He had been in fragile health following a stroke in recent years, and suffered from advancing Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

Carol Beaty Hascall, Fiddler and Luthier, Died November 23, 2019

Portrait of Carol HascallOne of the Midwest’s finest fiddlers, Carol Hascall, has passed away. She was born Elizabeth Carolyn Hascall in February 1936 on the family farm in the Humansville community of Polk County in the upper Missouri Ozarks.

Most devotees of fiddle music and history know of Carol’s rich family history of fiddle and dance music. In childhood, Carol played guitar in the popular dance band organized by her father, fiddler Andy Beaty. Her father strongly discouraged her from playing the fiddle, but fiddling was Carol’s passion and she prevailed in her desire and became a successful contest competitor and recording artist, performing in a variety of country and bluegrass bands.

Hascall was included in the University of Missouri’s Grammy Finalist documentary recording project, Now That’s a Good Tune: Masters of Missouri Fiddling. The 1989 project was been reissued on CD by Voyager Records in 2008, available at

Roger Williams, Missouri Bluegrass Fiddler, Dies at 84

Roger Williams plays fiddle in his living room with guitar backup played by Ed McKinney

Roger Williams plays some tunes on the violin his uncle Clyde Briggs, a soldier in World War Two, brought home from Germany after the war in 1945; Roger acquired the bow while in the Army in 1960. With guitarist Ed McKinney, West Plains, 2013. (Photo by Howard Marshall)

Roger A. Williams, one of the Midwest’s foremost bluegrass fiddlers, died in West Plains, Missouri, December 15, 2019. He was 84. Williams was born in 1935 on the family farm between Cureall and Pottersville in the gently rolling landscape of Howell County in southern Missouri. Roger descended from Scottish, English, Irish, and Cherokee Indian people, and there are many musicians in the clan. Continue reading

Bethel Youth Fiddle Camp, 2019

Master fiddler Vesta Johnson with students.

Vesta Johnson shows some young fiddlers how to play a dance tune.

The annual youth fiddle camp hosted in Bethel, Missouri, will be held June 9-14 this summer. It’s a great opportunity for young fiddlers to spend the week working with master musicians every day and meeting other young musicians who love to play as much as they do. Read more about the event or register to attend.

Bethel Adult Fiddle Camp, 2019

This event has been postponed and more information will be shared when it has been rescheduled or canceled.

Adults play fiddle tunes together at Bethel adult fiddle camp.This year’s adult Missouri fiddle camp will be taking place in the spring. Come join fellow learners at the Bethel German Colony in Bethel, Missouri for a long weekend of instruction and jamming May 15-18. Read more about the event or register to attend.

Master Missouri fiddlers Charlie Walden, Angie Lennie, and Mickey Soltys will be teaching workshops all weekend. They represent a broad variety of Missouri styles and a deep trove of traditional tunes and lore.

Come play till your fingers bleed and learn tunes till your brain leaks out your ears! Your friends and family might not understand, but you’ll meet new friends who do at Bethel!