Some of my fondest memories of my grandfather are when he would bring out his fiddle and play us some tunes in his living room. I can still picture him holding the fret board with his nimble fingers, hunched over with his chin in the chin rest, foot stomping and mouth twitching in time as he would run the bow over the strings and make his music.
I called my mom tonight to get my Grandpa/Fiddle facts straight because I had them a little skewed. So here are the facts as Mom knows them:
Grandpa started his musical career when he was just a kid in Abilene, Kansas during World War I. He and a friend of his would hang out on the steps of the town square singing patriotic songs. Doesn’t that just sound like something out of a movie?
Mom said she thought he might have taken some fiddle lessons when he was about 10, but he had to sneak around to do so. Mostly he taught himself to play the fiddle and he couldn’t read music so he played by ear. When my mother’s family moved from Kansas to California, my grandfather forgot his fiddle in the attic so in 1942 he bought this fiddle at a pawn shop in Oakland.
When I was a teenager I asked Grandpa if I could try to play his fiddle. I knew a little something about music, being a fair to middling pianist and a dabbling guitarist, so I was able to pick out Ode to Joy and he said it was the prettiest his fiddle had ever been played. So not true. It was squeaky and screechy and there were a lot of wrong notes. But I was his granddaughter and I was “playing” a classical tune on his fiddle. What else was he going to say?
Several years after he died my nephew, Matt – an awesome fiddle player, loaned Katie his 3/4 size fiddle and she and I took lessons together. Todd and Taylor took guitar lessons together from the same guy and he would teach Todd the guitar part of some bluegrass tune and me the fiddle part and we’d ho down in the living room every now and again. We weren’t so great, but it sure was fun!
Every time I look at the fiddle it makes me smile. I get my love for music (and a slight bit of musical ability) from both sides of my family and Grandpa’s fiddle is tangible evidence of what was passed down from my mom’s side. But even better are the memories and stories it provides – not just for me, but for all my mom’s family. I saw a lovely bit of sunlight coming through the window yesterday so I decided to get some shots of this beloved fiddle. No doubt the pictures don’t truly show it the way I see it.
And his rosin. I loved the way the sunlight made it glow!