The field recordings of musician-researchers Bruce
Greene, Steve Green, John Harrod, Barbara Kunkle, Steve Rice, and
Jeff Titon are especially strong in documenting Kentucky’s
older generation fiddlers. In many instances the fiddle tunes and
playing styles that they have documented date well back into the
1800s. Predominant tune sources for the fiddlers they recorded
include minstrel stage music, Civil War military music, and the
dance music of Britain, Ireland, and in some instances, France
and Germany. Nonetheless real but less well documented, are the
musical interchanges with African and Native Americans.
Transcriptions of some selected fiddle tunes from
these collections have recently been produced by Appalachian
Music Fellowship recipient Erynn
A useful perspective from which to explore a large
portion of Berea’s fiddle recordings, are the three broad
regional traditions identified by Jeff Titon in Old-Time Kentucky
Fiddle Tunes (University Press of Kentucky, 2001).
Playing styles found most commonly in the south-central region include fiddle-banjo
combinations associated with African-Americans prior to the Civil War. There
is also an even older tradition of solo fiddle tunes not well suited to banjo.
Representative fiddlers from this region include Doc
Roberts (Madison County), Clyde
Davenport (Wayne County), and Jim
Bowles and Isham
Monday (Monroe County). Davenport’s playing includes both styles.
Bowles tends mostly toward the African-American and Monday more toward the
solo style. Doc Roberts is particularly notable for the extent to which he
merged more modern styles with his older repertoire, much of which came from
African American fiddlers of his acquaintance.
The more elaborate melodies that became common in the northeast tended to not
be well suited to the banjo. Representative fiddlers from this region include
Alfred Bailey (Bath County), Darley Fulks (Wolfe County), and Santford Kelly (Morgan County.)
Fiddle-banjo duets were particularly prevalent in the southeast but the
solo tradition was also well represented among fiddlers born as late
as the 1880s
and 1890s. Representative fiddlers from this region include Estill Bingham (Bell County), John
Morgan Salyer (Magoffin County), and Effie
Pierson (Owsley County), and Hiram Stamper (Knott County).
Browse across and
beyond regional boundaries by clicking on a specific county
from the map below. (72 of Kentucky’s
120 counties are represented in the Berea recordings. Inclusion
of sound files for each of these counties is progressing.)
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from the following options to browse available fiddle sound
files via the Digital Library of Appalachia.