The Old-Time Herald Volume 9, Number 1

Feature

Melvin Wine—Playing for the Boatman

By Drew Beisswenger

One of the hundreds of fiddle tunes Melvin enjoyed playing during the last decades of his life was called “Waiting for the Boatman,” an old hymn his mother sang that Melvin had reworked in a beautiful way. Before playing the tune he would sometimes sing the hymn’s lyrics, which began, “Oh, I’m waiting for the boatman, he is driving o’er and o’er.” The story is of a person waiting and, if all went well in life, ready to be ferried over to heaven’s shore. It’s easy to picture Melvin, who passed away on March 16 at the age of 93, waiting for the ferry with anticipation while keeping the other people there in good humor with his jokes and stories. He probably didn’t need to wait long to be picked up for that well-deserved ferry ride home, but after he got on board he probably had a little time to take out his fiddle and tune it up. I bet the boatman got to hear some great tunes on the trip over.

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