Introduced Version House Concurrent Resolution 14 History

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(By Delegates Eldridge, Lovejoy, Rodighiero, Miller, R., Atkinson, Baldwin, Hornbuckle, Maynard, Rohrbach, White and Canestraro)

[Introduced February 20, 2017 ]


Proclaiming and making the fiddle the official musical instrument of the State of West Virginia.

Whereas, The fiddle arrived in Appalachia in the 18th century with immigrants from the British Isles, bringing with them the musical traditions of their countries. These traditions consisted primarily of English and Scottish ballads, which were essentially unaccompanied narratives, and dance music, such as Irish reels which were accompanied by a fiddle. The fiddle soon became a staple of life in West Virginia, being played in churches, in logging and mining camps, at weddings and summer picnics and in the homes and on porches of many West Virginians. It has remained so ever since, being showcased in music festivals around the state, from the Augusta Festival in Elkins, the Vandalia Gathering held on the grounds at the State Capitol and the Appalachian String Band Festival at Camp Washington Carver in Hilltop, just to name a few. West Virginia has also produced some of the finest fiddlers in the nation, and continues to do so; and

Whereas, Fiddler Blind Alfred Reed was born on June 15, 1880, and was one of the artists who recorded at the Bristol Sessions in 1927, along with Jimmie Rogers and the Carter Family, which are the first recordings of traditional country music. He was raised in a very conservative family, and acquired a violin at a young age. Later, he began performing at county fairs, in country schoolhouses, for political rallies, and in churches. He even played on street corners for tips. He used to sell out printed copies of his compositions for ten cents each. After the Bristol Sessions, Mr. Reed recorded his most famous song, that is still being sung today, "How Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live". After 1929, he stopped recording, but continued to perform locally until 1937 when a law was passed prohibiting blind street musicians. He is buried in Elgood and was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2007; and

Whereas, Edwin "Edden" Hammons was born in 1874 and is considered by many to have been one of the finest traditional West Virginia fiddlers of all time, and tales of his musical exploits and eccentric lifestyle flourish among the inhabitants of mountainous east central part of the state.  Mr. Hammons was the youngest of four brothers and three sisters, and his musical abilities were soon recognized to be superior to that of his siblings. Family tradition holds that his ability was recognized and encouraged at an early age and that the boy was spared his share of the burdens of frontier living as a result. Mr. Hammons's first attempt in music was with a fiddle made from a gourd, he soon progressed and he secured a store-bought fiddle and there was no dispute that he could draw out exquisite harmonies from the instrument. Whether because of immaturity or musical passion, Mr. Hammons refused to lay his fiddle down "like most men did" as he grew older and was faced with supporting a family. Mr. Hammons' three-week marriage to Caroline Riddle in 1892 came to a head when Caroline demanded that Edden either quit playing fiddle and go to work or she would leave. Given the ultimatum, Mr. Hammons chose the fiddle. When he was older, Mr. Hammons participated in five to ten fiddle contests each year, and rarely came away with less than first prize. Perhaps Mr. Hammons's most distinguished contest adversary was Lewis "Jack" McElwain, regarded by many others at the time to be the premier fiddler in the State of West Virginia. Mr. McElwain's accomplishments included a first-place finish at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago. At a contest in Marlington in 1909, Mr. McElwain and Mr. Hammons tied for top honors. Later, there were disagreements about the selection of judges, Mr. Hammons insisted that the judging be left to the attendees. Mr. Hammons usually won; and

Whereas, Fiddler Melvin Wine was born in Burnsville in 1909. At the age of nine he began to play his first fiddle tunes by sneaking out his father's prized possession, the fiddle. Mr. Wine eventually gained the courage to inform his mother of the progress he had made with his father's fiddle. One evening his mother bravely shared this with his father. At the time, Mr. Wine believed he might receive a whipping for sneaking out the fiddle. But instead, from this point on, his father supported the young boy's efforts. Mr. Wine's father learned the fiddle tunes that he passed on to Melvin from his father, Nels, Mr. Wine's grandfather. Mr. Wine passed away in 2003; and

Whereas, Mr. Clark Kessinger was born in Lincoln County on July 27, 1896.  Mr. Kessinger began playing the banjo when he was five years old and two years later he performed at local saloons with his father. He switched to fiddle and began performing at country dances. After serving in the Navy, Mr. Kessinger's reputation as a fiddler increased and he visited many local fiddling contests. He teamed up with his nephew Luches "Luke" Kessinger performing at various locations. In 1927 Mr. Kessinger and Luches Kessinger had their own radio show at the newly opened station WOBU in Charleston. On February 11, 1928, the Kessingers recorded twelve sides for the Brunswick-Balke-Collender recording company. In the late 1920s, the Kessingers' records were best sellers, including "Wednesday Night Waltz," "Turkey in the Straw," "Hell Among Yearlings," "Tugboat" and "Salt River". Mr. Kessinger was also greatly influenced by classical violin players such as Fritz Kreisler, Joseph Szigeti and Jascha Heifetz. Following his last recording session on September 20, 1930, Mr. Kessinger retired as a recording artist.  But in 1963 he was rediscovered and soon was competing at several fiddling contests. In August 1964, Mr. Kessinger formed a string band in Galax, Virginia, winning first prize in the string band category.  In April 1971, he won the World's Champion Fiddle Prize at the 47th Old-time Fiddler's Convention in Union Grove, North Carolina. Three more albums followed on Kanawha Records. His albums were later reissued on Folkways and Country Roads. In 1971 Mr. Kessinger recorded 12 tracks for the newly formed Rounder Records. The record company had plans to record many albums with Kessinger but before they could initiate what they had planned, Mr. Kessinger had a stroke and collapsed on the scene at a fiddler's convention in Virginia. His left hand became numb, and he was unable to play the fiddle for the remainder of his life. Rounder released his recordings as "Clark Kessinger: Old-time Music with Fiddle and Guitar". He died in 1975 and was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2007; and

Whereas, Ed Haley was born in 1885 and was one of the best known fiddlers in his region of Appalachia.  He traveled frequently and performed in a variety of venues and played over WLW in Cincinnati. He also made occasional studio recordings for friends, such as for Doc Holbrook in Greenup, Kentucky. He seldom recorded commercially because he was worried that record companies would take advantage of a blind man. Late in life, he made recordings for the family on a Wilcox-Gay disc-cutting machine brought home from the service by his stepson, Ralph. The recording featured Ed, Ella, Ralph (on guitar) and daughter Mona (vocals). Ralph eventually distributed the recordings among his five siblings. Eventually about one third to one half of those recordings were released to Rounder Records, but it is estimated that two thirds of Mr. Haley's recordings are still missing. Beginning in 1990, legendary bluegrass, folk musician and songwriter John Hartford began researching the story of Mr. Haley's life and music. Generally, Mr. Hartford spent the last years of his life promoting Mr. Haley and his significance in the world of music. He learned a number of Haley's tunes and recorded them on the Grammy-nominated album, "Wild Hog in the Red Brush" and "Speed of the Old Long Bow: A Tribute to Ed Haley". Mr. Hartford and Brandon Kirk, a Harts-area historian and genealogist, collaborated on a Haley book project from 1995 until Hartford's death in 2001. In March 2000, the "Smithsonian" magazine featured a story about their research. In October 2015, Ed Haley was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame; and

Whereas, Tim O'Brien was born on March 16, 1954, in Wheeling and plays guitar, fiddle, mandolin, banjo, bouzouki and mandocello. He has released more than ten studio albums in addition to charting a duet with Kathy Mattea entitled, "The Battle Hymn of Love", a No. 9 hit on the Billboard Country charts in 1990. He eventually moved to Boulder, Colorado in the 1970s and became part of the music scene there. In Colorado, he met guitarist Charles Sawtelle, banjoist Pete Wernick and bassist/vocalist Nick Forster with whom he formed Hot Rize in 1978. Over the next twelve years, the quartet earned recognition as one of America's most innovative and entertaining bluegrass bands. In 2005, O'Brien won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album for "Fiddler's Green." In 1993 and 2006, O'Brien was honored with the International Bluegrass Music Association's (IBMA)'s Male Vocalist of the Year award. His band Hot Rize was the IBMA's first Entertainer of the Year in 1990. In November 2013 he was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame; and

Whereas, Glenville resident Buddy Griffin, was born at Richwood on September 22,1948, and recalling his Nicholas County childhood has said "Everybody in the family played music. It was never expected, it was never forced on us. Nobody ever handed us an instrument and said, "You have to play this." It was just trying to be part of what was going on, "cause there was always music at the house". Mr. Griffin was a part of his family's music from an early age. "The first instrument I ever touched was a bass fiddle. They kept it leaned up behind the couch. I'd stand up on the couch when I was about five, maybe six. I couldn't note it, but I could play the strings. So if they'd play some old fiddle tune, I'd have all three chords to go with it. I'd stand there and just play the strings." He soon learned to play the guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and banjo. His parents were good singers especially in the style of the Carter Family, and they taught their children the older country music. The Griffin children, however, tended toward the faster, more modern bluegrass. Erma played the guitar and bass and sang harmony. Richard played guitar and fiddle, along with other instruments, and sang the lead. Richard's father, Joe Griffin, born in 1883, played the old claw hammer style of banjo. Joe traveled to logging camps in Roane, Lincoln, and Calhoun counties and played dances on Saturday nights with some of the local fiddlers, mostly Enoch Camp. Parts of Mr. Griffin's family tree can be traced to Revolutionary War times, some of his ancestors reportedly received land grants from General Washington. Mr. Griffin later became a staff musician at WWVA's Jamboree USA in Wheeling, played more than 200 times on the Grand Ole Opry, toured the country for more than 30 years with some of the biggest names in country and bluegrass music, appeared on more than 150 record albums, and established the world's first college degree program in bluegrass music at Glenville State College. In May 2011, he received the coveted Vandalia Award, recognizing his lifetime of devotion to entertainment and education; therefore, be it

Resolved by the Legislature of West Virginia:

That the Legislature of West Virginia hereby proclaims and makes the fiddle the official musical instrument of the State of West Virginia; and, be it

Further Resolved, That the Legislature of West Virginia recognizes the importance and significance of the fiddle in West Virginia's history, traditions and culture; and, be it

Further Resolved, That the Clerk of the House of Delegates forward a certified copy of this resolution to Buddy Griffin, Tim O'Brien, Clark Kessinger's daughter, Frances Goad, the descendants of West Virginia's other great fiddle players, Blind Alfred Reed, Edwin Hammons, Melvin Wine and Ed Haley, The West Virginia Music Hall of Fame, the Friends of Old Time Music and Dance (FOOTMAD) and Stan Bumgardner, Editor of Goldenseal, the official State magazine of West Virginia traditional life.

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