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When The Fiddle Was King
Ron Yule
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The story of pre-World War II country music in the northern and western regions of Louisiana.

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When The Fiddle was King is the story of a few pre-World War II country bands and country music in northern and western Louisiana as told by the few surviving musicians and available newspaper accounts. Several authors submitted articles about their remembrances, family members, and experiences, and these accounts are presented in their words.
Blue Valley Boys, Bossier Band, The Broussards, Burge Brothers, Burr Bunch, Carriers of Castor Creek, Clark Brothers Stringband, Clark's Merrymakers & Alexandria Hotshots, Clear Creek Wonders, Clyde Baum, Colvin-Sherill Fiddle Band, Conner Boys, The Country Boys, The Anatole Cradeur Band of Black Bayou, Creole Ramblers, Dark Corners Band, Dixie Pals, Eaves Boys, Fawvor Brothers, The Fiddle De Di Do Band, Fiddlin’ Lenard Duke, The Fridays, The Grangers, Green Valley Boys, Grigg Family and the Taylor-Griggs Louisiana Melody Makers, Hackberry Ramblers, The Hill Country Fiddlers of South Natchitoches Parish, The Hoods, The Jeter Boys, Jones Brothers, Junction Fiddlers, Lake Charles Playboys, "Bull” Leger and the Pine Island Cajun Band, The Leger, Guidry, and Meche Stringband, Miller’s Merrymakers / J. B. and the Merrymakers, Duce Monceaux and the Andrus Brothers, Old Fiddlers Club of North Louisiana, Pelican Wildcats, Plainview Serenaders, Rhythm Rascals, Rocks Creek Hillbilly Band, The Skilletlickers, Strickland Family, and Youk and Duma

Country fiddlers have abounded as early as the Civil War in the area between Merryville and DeRidder. The sounds of the fiddle, plus whatever rhythm instruments could be found, drew throngs of dancers to the Saturday night house parties in the Graybow, Pujo, Junction, Eaves, and Mathis settlements. Fiddling families like the Burrs had played in Merryville at their father's dance hall and came when they could. Beauregard Parish historian, Velmer Smith notes in a Beauregard News article, that "Leather Britches" Smith had fiddled at country dances from Merryville to Grawbow in the very early 1900's. "Leatherbritches", whose real name was Ben Myeatt, became a legendary figure for his part in the union wars at the Graybow Sawmill, near DeRidder. He was killed in an ambush, in 1912, but was remembered by many as a country fiddler.
In the late 1800's, the weekly dances were being attended by a host of country fiddlers, who lived within a few miles of each other, in the Junction and Mathis communities. The Nichols boys, Lum (b. 1883) and Ira, and Henry Dewey (b. 1875) had played before the turn of the century and joined other fiddlers like Joe Foshee for the Saturday night frolics. Like many other fiddlers of the late 1800's and early 1900's, Lum learned to play on a cigar box fiddle.
In a 2003 interview, Giles Craft recalled country dances in the 1920's and 1930's. Giles remembers people coming from all around the area. People came to the dances by foot, horse and buggy or wagon, and horseback. Giles stated that on Saturday evening someone would have a dance and sometime the crowds were so large they'd have to put all the furniture outside so they could accommodate everyone. This gave the musicians and dancers more room.
His favorite fiddlers were Lum Nichols, Henry Dewey, and Joe Foshee, who he said, "Could fiddle with the best of them." Lum was noted for playing "Leatherbritches", "Wagoner", and "Billy in the Lowground." It is not known whether he learned "Where The Southern Crosses the Dog", "So Deceiving", or "Charleston #1", three of his favorite numbers, which he played until his death in 1972. They may have heard some them on recordings of Mississippi fiddler, Willie Narmour. Junction fiddlers had also listened to the Leake County Revelers, another Mississippi band. Tracy Stamps recalled in a 1970's conversation that he had listened to their version of "Wednesday Night Waltz" and tried to learn it.
Henry Dewey's favorite tunes were "Leatherbritches", "Wagoner", and "Rubber Dolly". Clifford Blackmon also remembers his favorite tune as being "Rubber Dolly", and notes, "He liked it so much he named his horse 'Rubber Dolly'."

Fiddle Country Publishing

In When the Fiddle was King Ron Yule saves from oblivion the lives and stories of many of the pioneers of Louisiana Country music. Let me be clear, Ron saved these stories. No other researcher has compiled as much information on these important bands and performers. Ron invested hundreds of hours in researching old newspapers and interviewing anyone he could find related to his two great passions- fiddlers and fiddling. The result is a highly readable and deeply informative work of value to both the general reader and the researcher.

Kevin Fontenot
Tulane University

Music Books :: Genres & Styles Books :: Country & Bluegrass Books
Music Books :: Genres & Styles Books :: Folk & Traditional Books

ISBN: 0978735803
ISBN(13-digit): 9780978735807
Copyright: 2006
Book Publisher: Moran / Fiddle Country Publishing
Binding: Perfect
No. of Pages: 258
Paper Weight (lb): 60 lb
Illustrations (B&W): 146

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