The Old-Time Herald Volume 10, Number 6

Feature

Clint Kilgore:
Fiddle Music from the Sequatchie Valley

By Joseph Decosimo

I was always out into everything. Once a year, the coalminers used to have these big conventions. And this one was out at Palmer, Tennessee. It was at the ball field and they built a stand to play—it was like a boxing ring, up about three or four feet off the ground with banisters around it and steps up it. That’s where the musicians played. It was in the middle ’30s, somewhere along in there. Jess Young was playing. He was my idol, just about. Anyway, I kind of stayed hid. He didn’t know me, never had seen me before or nothing at that time. And some nut kept after me and said, “You go up there and play with him. He’ll let you play.” I said, “No, I don’t want to play. I can’t play as good as he does.” I was backwards. Some nut went up

Joseph Decosimo

there and told him who I was and pointed me out. And Jess Young come out there in the crowd and got me. Just got me by the arm and said, “Come up here.” I said, “Listen, I can’t play the fiddle—not like you can.” He said, “It don’t make no difference, I want you to play. What do you wanna play?” I said, “Well, what do you want me to play?” He said, “Can you play ‘Sweet Bunch of Daisies’?” I said, “Yes, I can play ‘Sweet Bunch of Daisies.’ “And so I played’“Sweet Bunch of Daisies’ and he just had a fit. I had it note for note, just like he played it. And from then on, why, I was with him everywhere. We got really acquainted. He thought it was it was out of this world that I could play this. He never did forget me, I can tell you.

– Clint Kilgore remembering how he met Fiddling Jess Young

Clint Kilgore turned 87 this year. He continues to fiddle with incredible control and a delicate and deliberate bow. As a teenager, Clint performed alongside Jess Young, Lowe Stokes, and Bob Douglas. He has not forgotten how it felt to share the stage with these legends. He lives in Victoria, Tennessee tucked in the beautifully green Sequatchie Valley. His house sits on a hill a few hundred yards away from Jess Young’s grave. Creating a wall of green and sandstone brown in the horizon above his house, the Cumberland Plateau stretches as far as the eye can see, punctuated by the gulches and tumbling creeks that slice into the plateau and drain into the Sequatchie River. During Clint’s childhood a number of coal mines bore deep into the Plateau, bringing with them thriving little communities such as Victoria. Like a number of other towns in East Tennessee, once the mines shut down, the towns followed suit becoming little more than memories. The mines around Victoria ran their course long ago and the hotel, stores, and depot have long since rotted or been turned into something else. . . .

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