The Old-Time Herald Volume 10, Number 10

Feature
The Johnson County Fiddlers Convention at Laurel Bloomery, Tennessee
By Mark Freed
Photo Mark Freed

In August 2006, 81 years and a few months after the famous 1925 Fiddlers’ Convention in Mountain City, Tennessee, tradition continued with another Johnson County convention. The festival took place at the Old Mill Music Park in Laurel Bloomery, a few miles north of Mountain City, where it has been held for the past 15 years. While the location has changed over the years and many musicians have come and gone, the friendly and relaxed atmosphere continues to attract some of the region’s finest mountain musicians.

This year’s event was dedicated to “Fiddlin’” Fred Price, a musical cohort of Clint Howard, Tom Ashley, and Doc Watson, who was born and raised in Johnson County. Price and Howard both learned to sing from their mothers and through shape note singing schools, and later they became interested in old-time fiddle tunes and songs. “Tom Ashley was getting me and Fred into this music,” remembers Howard. It is fitting that the convention was dedicated to Price. Howard explains, “I was more interested in singing, and Fred just wanted to play fiddle.” Not only did Price love playing fiddle, but he, Clint Howard, and Doc Watson performed a show before one of the conventions in the late 1970s. Doug Dorshug, who helped run sound for the event, remembers it as being a reunion for the three musicians who had not performed together in the area for a while.

In 1972, County 525, A Fiddlers’ Convention in Mountain City, Tennessee, was released with liner notes written by Joe Wilson. The album showcased recordings from a selection of musicians who attended the first convention in Mountain City in May of 1925. Some of the musicians included G.B. Grayson, Charlie Bowman, Tom Ashley, and Uncle Am Stuart from eastern Tennessee, the Hopkins Brothers from Boone, Fiddlin’ Powers and family from Virginia, and Fiddlin’ John Carson from Georgia. While some accounts vary, at least one reports that G.B. Grayson won first prize, a 20 dollar gold piece, for his fiddling of “Cumberland Gap.” Fiddlin’ Dud Vance got second with “Twinkle Little Star,” and Charlie Bowman received third with “Sally Ann.”

 

 

 

 

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