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The Ongoing Search for Ohio's Old-Time Fiddle Repertoire

Since the beginning of my journey into old-time music, I have sought to find a connection to my home state. After studying the recorded repertoire of a dozen old-time fiddlers who spent a majority of their lives in Ohio, I have compiled a master list of more than 250 tunes. By cross-referencing this list, there were 12 tunes that I identified as “common,” based on their appearance in the repertoire of at least three fiddlers. The results of my findings follow.

This is far from a scientific method or academic study. I do not claim to be a musicologist or folklore scholar. I welcome any feedback.

Common Tunes:
  1. Arkansas Traveler 
  2. Birdie
  3. Cumberland Gap
  4. Durang’s Hornpipe
  5. Forked Deer
  6. Grey Eagle
  7. June Apple
  8. Leather Britches
  9. Mississippi Sawyer
  10. Raggedy Ann
  11. Turkey in the Straw
  12. Wild Horse
At some point I would like to put together a list of tunes that are unique to Ohio or have a particular connection to an Ohio locale, such as Lonnie Seymour’s “Chillicothe Two-Step” or Arnold Sharp’s “Anna Hayes.” However, that will require far more research than I am capable of at present.

Fiddlers Studied:
  1. Estil Adams (Washington Courthouse)
  2. John Baltzell (Mount Vernon)
  3. Jeff Goehring (Zoar)
  4. John Hannah (Columbus)
  5. Clifford Hardesty (West Lafayette) 
  6. Rector Hicks (Akron)
  7. Ward Jarvis (Athens County)
  8. Cecil Plum (Massillon)
  9. Lonnie Seymour (Chillicothe) 
  10. Arnold Sharp (Gallia)
  11. Kenny Sidle (Licking County)
  12. Jimmy Wheeler (Portsmouth)
This is far from a complete list, and I fully expect it to grow as I continue to research Ohio’s old-time musicians. Keep in mind that this list focuses on the the older generation of fiddlers and those those who influenced today's masters. That said, there are still more than two dozen notable fiddlers on my list whose repertoires I have not yet been able to compile.

Undocumented Fiddlers:
  1. Everett Dowdy (Rainbow Valley Boys)
  2. Telford Hardesty (West Lafayette)
  3. Curly Herdman (Columbus)
  4. John W. Hutchison (Barnesville)
  5. Denny Jones (Carollton)
  6. Merle Joy (unknown)
  7. Jim Kelley (unknown)
  8. Bert Layne (Cincinnati) 
  9. Virgil Rice (Washington Courthouse)
  10. Ray Sponaugle (Newton Falls)
  11. Clyde Riggs (Traditional Music from Central Ohio, Ohio Arts Council, 1979)
  12. Rollie Hammon (ibid)
  13. Woody Imboden (ibid)
  14. Shorty Ratcliffe (ibid)
  15. Jack Hendrickson (ibid)
  16. Chester Gray (White Eyes Music Club - Traditional Music in Southeastern Ohio)
  17. Raymond Klass (ibid)
  18. Carl Harney (ibid)
  19. Bob Mason (ibid)
  20. Jayne Lucas (ibid)
  21. Asa Neal (Portsmouth) 
  22. Lem Isom (Portsmouth)
  23. Ray Hilt (Marion - Art of Traditional Fiddle, Rounder Heritage, 2000)
  24. Howard Zimmerman (ibid)
  25. Forest Pick (Portsmouth - Along the Ohio’s Shores, Rounder Records, 2005)
If you have any information about these fiddlers, especially regarding where they lived, what tunes they played and where to find recordings of their playing, please let me know. If you have any information regarding fiddlers that are not listed, feel free to contact me.

My thanks to the Field Recorders’ Collective, Susie Goehring and Kerry Blech for their role in helping me discover these fiddlers, as well as to members of the Northeast Ohio Old-Time Music Group page on Facebook, the Banjo Hangout and the Fiddle Hangout.

[Photo notes: At top, John Hannah (left) fiddles as Jeff Goehring looks on, with Clifford Hardesty in the background at a craft bazaar in Columbus, circa 1982. Second image shows Rector Hicks (center) with Joe LaRose (left) and Roy Combs at Rector's house in Akron, circa 1977. Both photos courtesy of Kerry Blech.]


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