Old-time fiddling was a vibrant, mixed-race tradition in the hands of Robert Lee “Bob” or “Strawberry” McCloud (1907-80). His repertoire and style are rooted in east central Kentucky (Clark County), where he lived for 30 years before relocating to southern Indiana.
He plays many traditional fiddle tunes, including Kentucky classics such as “New Money” and “Martha Campbell.” But his style seems rooted in the couple dance-oriented (foxtrot, two-step, shimmy), racial boundaries-blurring blues, rags, and popular songs of the 1920s-early ‘30s. These pieces, such as “Frankie and Johnny,” “Wang Wang Blues,” and “Silver Bell,” are well-represented here. Stylistic traits (affected by losing the use of his left little finger in a construction accident) include emphasis on the off-beat, crooked timing, staccato notes, slides, and high-string tremolo and blue notes, always in standard tuning.
Doc Roberts was a mentor and friend; and Strawberry played bass with Clayton McMichen’s Georgia Wildcats. About 1935, he became a heavy equipment operator and soon moved to Indiana. Our recordings date from his retirement, 1975 to ‘78. They were made with stellar younger musicians on banjo, guitar, bass, and piano at his home, a radio studio, and folk festivals. For complete personnel and collector listings, expanded track notes, and articles see fieldrecorder.org. —Teri Klassen
Just got my copy, and it is great! Strawberry’s fiddling is wonderful, backed up by excellent young Bloomington musicians who were used to playing with him and could follow the quirks of his tunes. — Brad Leftwich
Great CD, and long overdue! Strawberry was a giant of a fiddler. In my opinion he was a far more interesting and expressive musician than his compatriots Doc Roberts and Clayton McMichen. — Andy Cahan
Track Notes for FRC749 – Strawberry McCloud by Teri Klassen
Strawberry McCloud: Sassy Old-Time Fiddling by Teri Klassen
Memories of Strawberry by Steve Hinnefeld|
Strawberry’s Folk Festival Autobiography
Newspaper Article on Strawberry, ca. 1978