The Old-Time Herald Volume 11, Number 8

Vesta Johnson, Missouri’s Well-Kept Secret
By Bob Bovee

I’ve known Vesta Johnson since 1977, played tunes with her at her home and on stage, learned from her, and consider her a friend and mentor. She has likewise been a friend and teacher to countless other old-time musicians over the years. I interviewed Vesta at her house last winter, but our visit seemed more like a conversation with an old friend than a formal interview.

"You know, both of my folks played. My dad played pretty much all the square dances in the neighborhood. But there was a cousin of my mom’s, he just stayed around different places out in the country and worked during the winter, just fixing fences, or [doing] chores or whatever. He had an old fiddle, and he wasn’t a real good fiddler. I brought home those Christmas seals, a sheet of them, and, of course, back in the ‘20s there wasn’t no money. People didn’t have money. But he had worked during the summer following harvests and corn-husking in Kansas. He said, “I’ll buy a dollar’s worth, but you got to learn to play the fiddle.” Well, he taught me; he got me off in a corner of the room and taught me “Golden Slippers.” And that was all the teaching I ever had, actual teaching. And I learned “Golden Slippers,” and I took that dollar to school."

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