The Old-Time Herald Volume 13, Number 11

Tom Fuller: The Life and Times of a Fiddler from Indian Territory
By Brad Leftwich
courtesy Fuller family


I stood in Jan Fitzgerald’s home recently in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, holding her father’s familiar old fiddle in my hands and trying to wrap my mind around the fact that it had been almost 40 years since I had last seen it or heard him play. Tom Fuller’s fiddle was just as I remembered: the top was painted brown, which he had done when he discovered he had no varnish in the house after a repair (I can still hear his voice: “Brad, I’m the kind of fellow who likes to get a job done one way or another.”), and there was the old rosin-encrusted bow with enough of the finish worn away to reveal that it was made of aluminum.

Miraculously, the glue joints were still solid; the strings, bridge, and sound post were all there; and enough hair remained in the bow to hold rosin from the ancient cake that I found in the compartment of the case. I carefully tuned it up and then launched into one of his tunes: “Jan’s Tune,” he had called it, because it was his daughter’s favorite. It was an emotional moment. Jan’s daughter Cindy caught it on her cell phone camera and immediately emailed the video clip to me. I couldn’t help but be struck by the odd incongruity of that ultra-modern technology and the beat-up old fiddle. How vastly different must have been the world Tom Fuller was born into – 124 years earlier!



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