Portrait of Carol Hascall

Carol Hascall

Polk County, Missouri

Heel and Toe Polka

Players: Carol Hascall, fiddle; Don Carricker, guitar; Joyce Carricker, bass

From “Now That’s A Good Tune:” Masters of Traditional Missouri Fiddling (University of Missouri Cultural Heritage Center, 1989; Voyager Records reissue, 2010). Recorded by Amy Skillman December 11, 1987 at Carol Hascall’s home in Independence, Missouri.

Spotted Pony

Players: Carol Hascall, fiddle; Don Carricker, guitar; Joyce Carricker, bass

“The Spotted Pony” is Carol Hascall’s signature tune. She learned this tune as a young girl while her family was living in Oklahoma. It is collected on “Now That’s a Good Tune.”

Whiskey Before Breakfast

Players: Carol Hascall, fiddle; Don Carricker, guitar; Joyce Carricker, bass

From the collection, “Now That’s a Good Tune.”

From the project “Now That’s a Good Tune: Masters of Missouri Fiddling

Portrait of Carol HascallCarol Beaty Hascall is one of a group of women old-time fiddlers active in the predominantly male realm of fiddling. In the past, it was sometimes difficult for women to be accepted as fiddlers at dances and contests. Hascall has been accepted in the community of traditional fiddlers. A veteran of years of public performances and contests, she plays a hard-driving style of fiddle that hints at bluegrass yet reflects the influences of old-time fiddlers from the west-central part of the state. Carol was born in the town of Humansville in Polk County. Her parents both played instruments — her father, Andy Beaty, the violin and her mother Cleo, the piano, guitar, and bass. The Beatys had a family band and played for local dances as well as radio programs such as KHOZ in Harrison, Arkansas, in the late 1940s. Hascall played the ukelele as a child, and at the age of ten, when the Beatys wanted to include her in the family band, they bought her a fine Martin guitar.

Ever since she can remember, Hascall wanted to play the violin. She grew up hearing fiddle tunes and could not get them out of her head. Her parents would not teach her, nor did they encourage her to seek a teacher. She recalls her first attempt to learn and the drastic results.

After Granny came to live with us, I decided that I didn’t want to play the guitar; I wanted to play the fiddle. We only had one fiddle; it was Dad’s. His mom could play the fiddle (though) nobody had told me. She never did it around the family, noooo, that was a no-no. Women didn’t play the fiddle, that wasn’t lady-like. So, when Dad would leave for work, in the summer months, a few times we’d get the fiddle out and she (Granny) was going to teach me to play the fiddle. Mom would get the guitar. Well, Dad would come home from work and go to get his fiddle. Every single night after supper he’d sit and play his fid­dle. He’d go to get his fiddle out of the case, well, somebody’d been messing with his fiddle – they didn’t put it back right, you know. Well, at first, Granny and Mom wouldn’t tell him, because, boy, they knew that fur was gonna fly. ‘Course, I was an only child and whatever happened to get done I guess I got blamed for it. It went on two or three days and finally they told him. And, he put a stop to it right then and there. He said there is only going to be one fiddler in this family and I’m it.

The Beatys did, however, encourage Hascall to play other instruments, and by age seventeen she was proficient on guitar and piano. But she resisted guitar all along. First she switched to piano and took lessons for nearly two years. The piano was not portable enough for the many pie suppers and dances for which they were playing. So she traded her piano for an accordion and took lessons from a high school teacher for a little over a year. Hascall soon discovered that “nobody liked the accordion at the dances, nobody liked the accordion with the fiddle. That was a no-no.”

So she returned to the guitar. This time it would be amplified. “I decided if I was going to have to play it, and they were going to play dances, I wasn’t going to beat my brains out. I was going to be heard.”

In 1951, Hascall and her parents traveled to the West Coast where they performed during the summer and visited relatives.

Carol Hascall fiddling in cowboy bootsHer cousin, a young girl about the same age, played classical violin. By the time they returned to Missouri, Hascall wanted a fiddle so much that her mother finally bought her one. She started with classical lessons but her parents decided that they wanted her to play country music, so the lessons stopped. Still, her father would not teach her violin.

At the time of her first marriage in 1955, she had only mastered two tunes. So she put the fiddle up and focused on singing. With her divorce in 1963, she gave up music altogether. It wasn’t until Thanksgiving dinner in 1965 that she picked up an instrument. She explains:

(The family) came over and we had Thanksgiving and Dad was there, and there I was playing the guitar, you know. Any­way, he wanted to start going back to fiddle contests and start playing again and I said, “Look, there’s only one way we’re gonna do this.” I said, “I’m grown and I just plain don’t care anymore. Mom’s gone and there’s no band and,” I said, “I’ve done vocal work now for years and years.” I said, “You’ve got your choice. Either I don’t do it or I learn to play the fiddle and you help me and you second for me and I second for you and we’ll just go to the fiddle contests.” Well, he said, ‘I’ll have to think about it.’ And finally he came back over there a few days later and he said, ‘Well, I’ve decided that I want you for a second and if that’s the only way to get you, why, we’ll just start in.”

She entered her first contest in 1968, and won second place playing “Spotted Pony,” “The Eighth of January,” and the “Swedish Waltz,” which she learned from her Swedish great-grandfather. Hascall and her father entered contests together for thirteen years; many years they would go to one each week. Today she has three cases filled with trophies.

At the time that Hascall and her father were making the contest rounds, she estimated there were about eight or nine women and about seventy-five men in competition throughout the year. Many contests developed a “Ladies Division,” which was generally where she entered. According to Hascall, women couldn’t play as well as men because they put the fiddle down during all those years of raising a family. The Ladies Division encouraged women fiddlers. She explained, “I know a lot of ladies that wouldn’t even bother going to a fiddle contest if they didn’t have a Ladies Division — because they know there aren’t that many women fiddlers and they figure that they got a chance at least at last place.”

Hascall believes that determination is required for men or women committed to the mastery of the fiddle. Most fiddlers would agree with Hascall when she says, “It takes a lot of practice and a lot of time to get good on the fiddle. If you ever go into it, you have to spend a lot of time at it. I mean, you have to live with it day and night. It goes around in your mind even when you’re asleep.” (November 1987, March 1988)

Carol Hascall passed away November 23, 2019.