Smithsonian Folkways

Growing up in North Carolina, I learned how to play the fiddle. My dad, a professor by vocation, is an amateur musician, a fan of old-time music. When I was a kid, dutifully studying classical violin, I'd listen to him and his friends play tunes in our living room. By the time I was seven, I had learned a few of them by ear.

During summers, we'd travel across Appalachia, to Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, to fiddlers' conventions (weekend gatherings in ball fields and state parks, with contests, concerts, and plenty of opportunities to jam with other musicians). In college, I kept up the hobby, playing with musicians in and around Ithaca, New York, where I went to school.

Mike Seeger, whom we'll hear from today, and hear play today (he is bringing his guitar!), has been a big influence on my playing. In my house, his records — yes, real, vinyl records — were never dusty. On the way to school, we'd listen to his band, the New Lost City Ramblers, on cassette — yes, real, plastic tapes.

If you haven't heard Seeger before, you're in for a real treat. Here is a taste:

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