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).

Nile’s recordings include several cuts on “Now That’s a Good Tune:” Masters of Missouri Fiddling (1989) as well as a CD produced by Charlie Walden and Bill Shull, Nile Wilson: Tie Hacker Hoedown (1995). He was profiled in The Old-Time Herald (winter 1994-1995) and other places.

In later years Nile was featured at festivals such as the Frontier Folklife Festival (St. Louis), the University of Chicago Folk Festival, and the Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. His visitation March 25 was attended by numerous family members and fellow musicians.

– Howard Marshall