This Place in History: Old Country Fiddler


AMANDA : AT THIS PLACE IN HISTORY, 3 WE’RE IN NEWBURY, VT WITH EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE VERMONT HISTORICAL SOCIETY STEVE PERKINS.STEVE: WE’RE GOING TO TALK ABOUT THE OLD COUNTRY FIDDLER, THE MAN FROM VERMONT CHARLIE TAGGART. AMANDA: THAT SOUNDS FUN. WHAT BRINGS US TO THIS SPOT RIGHT HERE IN PARTICULAR?STEVE: WE’RE AT THE SITE OF ONE OF HIS HOMES, ELMBANK. WHEN HE MADE HIS NAME IN THE MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT INDUSTRY HE BOUGHT THIS HOUSE IN NEWBURY. HE LIKED IT BECAUSE HE COULD SEE THE CONNECTICUT RIVER. HE COULD BE RIGHT NEXT TO THE DEPOT, SO WHEN HE RODE ON THE TRAINS BACK AND FORTH TO BOSTON AND THEN ON TO THE REST OF THE U.S., HE COULD ALWAYS MAKE HIS WAY HOME.AMANDA: DO WE KNOW A LOT ABOUT HIS EARLY LIFE AND HOW HE GOT INTO MUSIC AND ENTERTAINMENT?STEVE: WE DO. HE WROTE ABOUT HIS LIFE IN A VERMONTER ARTICLE IN 1927, WHICH WAS THE PRECURSOR TO VERMONT LIFE AND THEN IN A LATER UNPUBLISHED ARTICLE FROM THE 1940S. THEN, THERE’S A WONDERFUL BIOGRAPHY THAT WAS JUST WRITTEN ABOUT HIM. SO I ENCOURAGE ANYONE TO GO CHECK OUT THE NEW BIOGRAPHY FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT HIM. HE WAS BORN IN WASHINGTON, D.C., BUT HIS MOTHER WAS FROM TOPSHAM, VERMONT. HIS FATHER DIED ACTUALLY RIGHT BEFORE HE WAS BORN. SO HIS MOTHER MOVED BACK. HE GREW UP IN TOPSHAM. HE WENT TO THE ACADEMIES AROUND HERE. HE WENT TO THE NORTHFIELD MOUNT HERMON SCHOOL FOR ONE YEAR, BUT IT DIDN’T QUITE WORK OUT FOR HIM. HE ENDED UP COMING HOME, BUT HE REALLY HAD A LOVE OF MUSIC. HE LEARNED HOW TO PLAY THE BANJO AND CORONET AND FIDDLE. HE REALIZED THAT HE COULD HANG A SHINGLE UP, METAPHORICALLY SPEAKING AND I SUPPOSE IN REALITY IN TOPSHAM TOWN HALL. HE HUNG UP A SHINGLE AND SAID COME SEE MY PLAY, I CAN BE AN ENTERTAINER. SO HE STARTED OFF DOING THINGS LIKE CLASSICAL REVIEWS, BUT SOON WHEN HE WAS PICKED UP BY THE LYCEUM CIRCUIT OUT OF BOSTON, HE HAD THIS KNACK FOR VOICES AND FOR TELLING JOKES. HE REALLY SORT OF BECAME THIS GREAT ALL AROUND ENTERTAINER AND BECAME VERY FAMOUS, TRAVELING ALL AROUND THE UNITED STATES, PLAYING FUN MUSIC ON HIS FIDDLE AND TELLING SILLY STORIES WITH THIS GREAT PERSONA AS THIS GUY FROM RURAL VERMONT. AMANDA: AND MADE A FORAY INTO FILM, RIGHT?STEVE: HE ABSOLUTELY DID. HE WAS IN SOME EARLY TALKIES AND THEN RECORDED A LARGE NUMBER OF RECORDS. AMANDA: SO DID HE THEN SPEND THE REST OF HIS LIFE HERE?STEVE: HE ENDED UP LEAVING LATER ON IN LIFE. HE HAD KIDS AND THEY LIVED IN OTHER PARTS OF THE COUNTRY SO HE SPENT TIME IN NORTH CAROLIN AND THEN ENDED UP IN COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS. HE PLAYED THE CIRCUITS DOWN THERE AND ULTIMATELY THE END OF HIS LIFE WAS IN MAINE. HE’S BURIED IN MAINE. THAT’S WHERE HIS KIDS WERE LIVING AT THE TIME, BUT HE’S ALWAYS REMEMBERED AS THE OLD COUNTRY FIDDLER AND THE MAN FROM VERMONT.AT THIS PLACE IN HISTORY. 3

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