Bob Holt: Dance Fiddling from the Missouri Ozarks – FRC721


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I first met Ava, Missouri fiddler Bob Holt (1930-2004) when I began to attend music parties in nearby McClurg, around 1990. Because of Bob’s drive and backbeat, his preference for breakdowns, and his contagious enthusiasm for the music, I found him exhilarating to play with and listen to. His eclectic repertoire included not the only the breakdowns, rags, blues, and waltzes popular in the Missouri Ozarks, but also polkas, schottisches, and whatever else took his fancy. His early influences ranged from his father (a first-rate whistler, who used to urge Bob to play him “something quick and devilish”) and his banjo-playing uncle, to Arthur Smith, the Skillet Lickers, and Lonnie Robertson; but he never stopped listening to and learning from other fiddlers, as long as they adhered to his idea of “old-time.” Bob was proud of his NEA National Heritage Fellowship, his travels to festivals throughout the country, and his fiddle students. But he was proudest of all of his popularity as a square dance fiddler—especially of how he and the dancers egged each other on until the dancers got “wound up tighter than an eight-day clock,” attaining what old-time musicians throughout the country have come to call “Bob Holt speed.” As he once remarked, “If I can just make people dance—just make it to where they can’t possibly sit still—that’s my pay.”– Julie Henigan

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