A fourth generation old-time musician, Vesta Johnson began playing fiddle in 1929, at the age of 7. She was taught by her father, mother, aunts and uncles, and other respected fiddlers from around Linn County, Missouri. She only plays by ear and never learned to read music. Vesta will tell you that she’s played at jams, contests, and festivals “everywhere,” and she still gives lessons to both adults and children. In the last 45 years, she has performed or taught in Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, “Ioway,” and at festivals, camps, and concert venues across the United States. What makes Vesta unique as a fiddler is far more than her age and gender. She has an extensive repertoire; uncanny sense of timing; penchant for form, especially bowing; and an undying commitment to Missouri dance fiddling. – Adapted from Vesta’s NEA National Heritage Fellowship nomination
For many years, Vesta’s backup musician of choice has been her grandson Steve Hall. He’s not only a terrific guitarist and mandolin player, but also has served as a master fiddler at the annual Bethel Youth Fiddle Camp, near Hannibal, MO. – Bob Bovee
Additional Notes: Vesta Johnson, Missouri’s Well-Kept Secret by Bob Bovee
Visit Charlie Walden’s YouTube channel to view videos of Vesta Johnson.