Vintage Fiddlers Oral History Project,
- Vintage Fiddlers Oral History Project,
- Young, Marynell
- 0.25 linear ft.
- Morehead State University
- Biography / History
- Project Description
- "To learn to fiddle, really fiddle, I mean really fiddle, you get you a big cake of rosin and go out onto the porch, with your fiddle, and sit in the sun. You are out on the porch because no one wants to hear you trying to learn to fiddle. You fiddle, and you fiddle, always in the hot sun," said J.P. Fraley, a master fiddler from Rush, Kentucky. "When the shadow of your elbow has worn a hole in the porch, you maybe can fiddle a little bit," he continued.
- Fraley is one of the fiddlers interviewed for the 1984-1985 collection phase of Vintage Fiddling in Eastern Kentucky.
- Another fiddler, Hiram Stamper, a World War I veteran from Knott County, starts his day with a little down-home fiddle music and a few buck dancing steps. At 93 years of age, his repertoire is a generation older than the younger (65 to 78) players.
- All fiddlers interviewed for the first phase of Vintage Fiddling in Eastern Kentucky are master artists. They are Alfred Bailey. Fleming County; Virgil Alfrey, Greenup County; Chillson Leach, Boyd County; David Sizemore, Floyd County, and Clyde Davenport, Wayne County in addition to J.P. Fraley and Hiram Stamper, mentioned above.
- The taped collection and the accompanying guide sheets to the cassette collection only begin to reveal the repertoire of older players in eastern Kentucky. As I worked to complete these projects, a cast of over thirty more fiddlers emerged. This, then, is a beginning, not a finale.
- The goal of the two projects for 1984-1985 was to collect and preserve the record of the fiddling careers of six Appalachian fiddlers. The Kentucky Folklife Foundation funded the collection of the entire repertoire of one eastern Kentucky fiddler, Alfred Bailey. The goal of the project funded by the Kentucky Oral History Commission was to preserve the record of the fiddling careers of six Appalachian fiddlers.
- Sketch of the Fiddlers
- 1. Alfred Bailey, a resident of Fleming County, has entered and won fiddle contests for over 50 years. He decided not to enter Rowan County's harvest festival contest in 1984 because the strain of competition and a known heart condition are, as notes, "not a good mix." His repertoire ranges from tunes learned from his father, other family members, and local players to tunes played over the radio.
- 2. Virgil Alfrey and Clela Alfrey, a husband and wife team, have performed since playing on radio stations as teenagers. A crane operator in Greenup County, Virgil learned to play fiddle as a youngster, but spent thirty years playing electric guitar for dance bands. According to Alfrey, he likes to take five or six fiddle tunes and "polish them up" for fiddle contests. Clela writes weekly columns about musicians for two area newspapers. Virgil, along with Clela's accompaniment, was the top fiddler at the 1984 Fiddlers Grove competition in North Carolina. He possesses a pervasive knowledge of waltzes and chording styles to accompany them.
- 3. Chillson Leach was introduced to the interviewer-collector by Virgil and Clela Alfrey. He learned to play fiddle at the age of nine when he lived in Mt. Sterling. For years he never played. Recently, after his retirement, he again began playing old tunes he learned as a child.
- 4. J.P. and Annadeene Fraley have contributed to traditional music programs in many states. They have performed at the International Folklife Festival in El Paso, Texas, and at Alaska's Folklife Celebration, for example.
- 5. David Sizemore, a resident of Prestonsburg, like the other fiddlers listed here, has a repertoire of several decades. He enjoys guitar backup to other fiddlers as well as performing with bluegrass bands. His ability to make and repair instruments, along with a score of fiddles he has adorning his music room wall are testimony to his commitment to traditional music.
- 6. Hiram Stamper, a life-long resident of the Cumberland Plateau, has fiddled for over 80 years. At 93, he is an agile and vigorous performer who is expert at what are now rarer tunings.
- 7. Clyde Davenport lives in Monticello, Kentucky. He performs flawlessly and almost without effort. His repertoire contains many locally played tunes learned from his father and uncles. He has an unusual style of fingering, and for this reason, was video (VHS) taped. According to Davenport, he knew dozens of tunes by the time he was five years old and could play immediately upon being given the chance at the age of seven.
- Scope and Content
- The goal of the project, Vintage Fiddling in Eastern Kentucky, is to preserve and to make available to scholars and enthusiasts information about traditional music in the Commonwealth's eastern-most counties. Aware that fiddle tunes exist in the oral tradition, I knew that a collection would help preserve and present, not only the tunes played, but would provide a record of the fiddlers' lives as well. They readily agreed and donated their time and talents.
- In conjunction with my effort, David Bartlett, Associate Professor of Art at Morehead State University, produced a collection of black and white photographs of the fiddlers.
- Accordingly, we are submitting to the Appalachian Collection of the Camden-Carroll Library archives the following items:
- This particular collection and the accompanying guide sheets merely "scratch the surface" in revealing the repertoire of older players in eastern Kentucky. During the course of this project, opportunities to preserve and present additional examples of this heritage have mushroomed. Aside from the seven whose talents are documented, there are thirty more fiddlers, all over 65 years old, who continue playing tunes learned down through the generations.
- Marynell Young, Appalachian Development Center, Morehead State University, November 1, 1985
Contents of the Collection
Photographs of Fiddlers by David Bartlett
J.P. and Annadeen Fraley
- Item afrale01
- Item jfrale01
Virgil and Clela Alfrey
- Item alfrey01
Virgil and Clela Alfrey
- Item alfrey02
- Item bailey01
- Item bailey02
- Item bailey03
- Item bailey04
- Item daven01
- Item leach01
- Item leach02
- Item leach03
- Item sizem01
- Item stamp01
Tape 1, Side 1, , May 17, 1985
- Item 1_1
Tape 1, Side 2, , May 17, 1985
- Item 1_2
Tape 2, Side 1, , May 17, 1985
- Item 2_1
Tape 2, Side 2, , May 24, 1985
- Item 2_2
Tape 3, Side 1, , May 24, 1985
- Item 3_1
Tape 3, Side 2, , May 24, 1985
- Item 3_2
Tape 4, Side 1, , May 24, 1985
- Item 4_1
Tape 4, Side 2, , May 24, 1985
- Item 4_2
Tape 5, Side 1, , May 24, 1985
- Item 5_1
Video Tape v1, , May 24, 1985
Video Tape v2, , May 24, 1985
Tape 8, Side 1, , July 25, 1985
- Item 8_1
Tape 8, Side 2, , July 25, 1985
- Item 8_2
Tape 9, Side 1, , July 25, 1985
- Item 9_1
Tape 9, Side 2, , July 25, 1985
- Item 9_2
Annadeene and J.P. Fraley
Tape 17, Side 1, , June 4, 1985
- Item 17_1
Tape 17, Side 2, , June 4, 1985
- Item 17_2
Tape 18, Side 1, , June 4, 1985
- Item 18_1
Tape 18, Side 2, , June 4, 1985
- Item 18_2
Tape 19, Side 1, , June 4, 1985
- Item 19_1
Tape 20, Side 1, , August 2, 1985
- Item 20_1
Tape 20, Side 2, , August 2, 1985
- Item 20_2
Tape 24, Side 1, , August 23, 1985
- Item 24_1
Tape 24, Side 2, , August 23, 1985
- Item 24_2
Video Tape v3, , August 24, 1985
Tape 25, Side 1, , August 31, 1985
- Item 25_1
Tape 26, Side 1, , August 31, 1985
- Item 26_1
Tape 26, Side 2, , August 31, 1985
- Item 26_2
Tape 27, Side 1, , August 31, 1985
- Item 27_1
Tape 27, Side 2, , August 31, 1985
- Item 27_2
Tape 28, Side 1, , August 31, 1985
- Item 28_1