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!
By Howard Marshall
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
by Howard Marshall, also appearing in Fiddler Magazine
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
One 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 www.voyagerrecordsandbooks.com.
The 37th Annual Arkansas Fiddlers’ Convention, scheduled for March 26–29, 2020 in Harrison, Arkansas, has been canceled.
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
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.
This event has been postponed and more information will be shared when it has been rescheduled or canceled.
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!
We are very sorry to report that Missouri fiddler John White, of Hallsville, passed away this past weekend. He was 81, and had just returned from teaching as a master fiddler at the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, Washington in July. John, never one to sit still for long, had also just finished recording a new CD, now available from Missouri Valley Music, and teaching at Bethel Youth Fiddle Camp, a week-long camp for young people to learn traditional Missouri fiddle.
John will be sorely missed by his family, his musical compatriots, the many young and young-at-heart musicians who learned from him, and of course, his community dance in Hallsville. The Hallsville dance was a labor of love for John for over 15 years (during which he missed only two dances!), and we will continue dancing on the second Saturday of each month at the Hallsville Community Center.
There will be an Open House in John’s honor at Bach-Yager Funeral Home in Columbia, MO on Friday, August 18 from 5-7 pm.
There will be a Celebration of Life and Jam Session, also at Bach-Yager Funeral Home in Columbia, MO, on Saturday, August 19 from 2-5 pm.
On Friday evening, July 7, at 7 pm, author (and musician!) Howard Marshall will sign copies of his new book (with companion CD), “Fiddler’s Dream” (University of Missouri Press) at The Book House in St. Louis.
“Fiddler’s Dream” is the sequel to Marshall’s “Play Me Something Quick and Devilish” (2012). It continues the saga of traditional fiddle and dance music, focusing on the period from the 1920s to the 1960s, and such topics as radio fiddlers, early fiddlers contests, oprys, swing, early Missouri bluegrass, and old-time fiddling.
The 540-page book incorporates oral history and archival research, numerous photograph, and 24 transcriptions of fiddle tunes. The book comes with a CD with 30 recordings from 1939 to 2015. Marshall is Professor Emeritus of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Missouri (Columbia) and former director of the Missouri Cultural Heritage Center (and yes, he plays a bit of fiddle, himself).
The event will include live music by some of St. Louis’s finest musicians — Geoff Seitz (violin), Dave Landreth (banjo), and Jim Nelson (guitar).