Richard Hansen Western strolling Fiddler, David Rainwater, Entertainer, Fiddle Tunes. It is also a colloquial term for the instrument used by players in all genres, including classical music. Fiddle playing, or fiddling, refers to various styles of music. Fiddle is also a common term among musicians who play folk music on the violin. The fiddle is part of many traditional (folk) styles of music which are aural traditions, taught ‘by ear’ rather than via written music. There are few real distinctions between violins and fiddles, though more primitively constructed and smaller violins are more likely to be considered fiddles. Due to the style of the music played, fiddles may optionally be set up with a bridge with a flatter arch to allow multiple strings to be played simultaneously with more ease, such as the droning in bluegrass music or performing triple stops. It is less common for a classically trained violinist to play folk music, but today, many fiddlers have classical training.
My musical adventures began on the prairie in Kansas at Junction City. I was inspired to play harmonica and folk tunes. It may have been Bob Dylan or ‘On Top of Old Smoky’ by The Weavers. Since then I’ve had the privilege of playing every kind of folk venue that I can recall including folk and bluegrass festivals, corn, apple and orange festivals, chili cook-offs, church picnics, wakes, weddings, grand openings, riverboats, fiddle conventions, state and county fairs, wineries, museums, campfire shows, libraries, elementary schools, contract dances, square dances, fourth of July parades, hmmm …….did I forget any? Fiddling has always been part of the fabric of America and is as old as horse racing, trout fishing and certainly as down home as apple pie!
My first real public appearance was at the Seattle Folklife Festival in 1983 with a bluegrass quartet I started ‘Heavens Grass’. Pictured from left to right are John Sutton, Gary the bass player, myself and Jim Bluhm. Seattle was a hotbed in 70’s and 80’s for old time, bluegrass and Irish music. They had a great public radio station KRAB which played folk music 24 hours a day! It’s unfortunate that commercialism has crept into public radio and has cut way back on playing more of America’s folk music and the many awesome musicians out there performing it.
In 1986 in Sacramento I met one of the greatest old time banjoists, Rick Abrams. Together we co-founded the old time string band ‘The Piney Creek Weasels’. Pictured here from the left are original members Hugh Hoeger, Rick Abrams, Ron Morris and myself. We recorded four albums, ‘I’ll Rise When The Rooster Crows’, ‘Bake That Chicken Pie’, ‘Weasels!’ and ‘Go Long’ Mule’.
I really enjoyed playing the fiddle contests and conventions. I counted that I had competed in over 50 events, winning a first or second prize in at least a third of them. In 1993 I won a blue ribbon at the nation’s oldest and largest ‘Old Fiddle Convention’ in Galax, Virginia. After that I ‘retired’ to full time entertaining.
I spent two short years in Justin Bishop’s cowboy duo ‘Horse Sense’. We performed the show ‘Songs of The Western Soil’ for many schools in the Los Angeles area for the LA Art Center.I really enjoyed playing for the young folks, so much so that I wrote my own shows and now present America’s folk music and folklore to schools and libraries. The shows are called ‘Musical Treasures From The Gold Rush Era & America’s Frontier Days’ and ‘Songs of The Appalachians’ with the dulcimer.
I also appeared with ‘The Foothillbillys’, a great
old timey band from Fiddletown, California. We played at many bluegrass festivals and recorded
the CD ‘Smile’. Pictured from left to right are Greg Osborn, Julio Guerra, myself, Jeannie Osborn and Lowell Daniels.
I became a member of the New Christy Minstrels in 1997 and currently tour with the groups founder and song writer Randy Sparks. Pictured in a photo from 1999: from the left are Chris Osward, Ed Reinhart, Chris Miller,
Randy Sparks, Lowell Daniels, Lori Brandon and at the bottom Becky Jo Benson and myself. My first show with Randy was at the grand opening of the Burl Ives Museum in Washington DC in
1998. In 2002 I appeared with the minstrels in the acclaimed PBS Television Special ‘This Land Is
Your Land’. I had a great time meeting many of my folk heroes from my younger days that included ‘The Kingston Trio’, ‘The Limeliters’, ‘The Brothers Four’, Barry McGuire, Roger McGuinn and ‘The Smothers Brothers’.
It’s also been a great pleasure to perform with The Black Irish Band, a great folk band from the Sonora area for seven years. Nowadays I ‘m pleased to perform in several venues which also includes my local Tuolumne County band, The Sierra Mountain Band, in a jazz/folk duo with guitarist John Massey and also present my four shows, ‘Romancing the Fiddle’ , ‘Musical Treasures From The Gold Rush Era’, ‘Way Out West in 1861’ and ‘Violin Petting Zoo’. My campaign to ‘Change The World One Fiddle Tune At A Time’ is gaining momentum! Someone said to me ‘You’d better hurry up and fiddle a whole lot more, cause the job’s not gettin’ done fast enough!’
Solo Performance – Western Strolling Fiddler, David Rainwater …
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