The Story of My Fiddle + A Little Tune

In 4th grade I was taken to an after school thing where we got to play with musical instruments and pick one to learn. The adults asked "What do you want to play?"

I said, "I want to play the violin."

"We don't have a violin program," responded the adults, "you'll have to pick something else."

I picked the flute, but never got over my desire to play the violin. I love the sounds of the fiddle so much that I even dreamed, literally, like dreamed during my sleep, that I was playing it. But it always seemed so impossible. One day I was messing around with Michael's mandolin, and started playing along with a record. "Whoa," I said, "this makes so much sense." I continued playing the mandolin for the next few years and occasionally picked up another person's violin and made some game attempts to play. The bowing came fairly naturally, once I was shown how to do it, and since the mandolin and the violin are tuned the same, I could manage with the left hand.

One day, I decided to just go ahead and start playing the violin. I mentioned this to our fiddle player, and she loaned me a violin she had sitting around. I loved that fiddle, but since it wasn't mine, I had to give it back after a few months. I started looking around for a fiddle of my own, and remembered that when I had met my family on my dad's side while my grandmother was in the hospital, they had told me of a violin that had belonged to my great-grandfather, Tony Sneath, who had taught violin and piano lessons, played in an orchestra, and owned a piano store. It was tucked away in someone's attic, and had been since he had passed away the year of my birth.

I made some phone calls, and found that my cousin Liz, whose attic it was in, was delighted at the prospect that it would be played again. She met me the next day to give it to me.

After sitting for 30 years in the attic, it needed a little work. I took it to the fiddle doctor, and he quickly got it in working order. When I picked it up, I asked him to tell me what he could about it. 

"This violin is a mystery," he said. "I can't tell when it was made. In some ways it looks hand made. In others, it looks factory made. It has been repaired a number of times. There is a mark inside indicating that it went to auction at some point, and the tag inside was taken out of another violin. There is only one thing that I can tell you for sure."

"What is that?"

"Your great-grandfather loved this fiddle very much," he said, holding it in his hands and looking down upon it. 

Hog of the Forsaken is a song by Michael Hurley with a prominent fiddle line. I fell in love with the song on the back porch at Shady Grove, and decided to learn it on the fiddle. So I asked Michael Hurley to teach me. He showed me how, and then I played along with the record. I wanted to sing it, too, but it is in a most awkward key for me, hitting notes that are too low. So, I just jam on it instead. A little recording is below, so that my family can hear my great-grandfathers fiddle being played once again.