I am honored to come to know some of the most amazing fiddlers in American history.
Over the past three years, I added to that list someone that when I was a little boy, I saw perform on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” and “Captain Kangaroo.” That fiddler is America’s first woman fiddler of note known to millions through the advent of television and live performances and demonstrations of her craft of making fiddles – Violet Hensley.
On October 21, 2014 she marked her 98th year and throughout that week she greeted fans and friends at theNational Cowboy and Harvest Festival at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo. where she has held court for the past 47 years.
Violet Hensley signs a book for Silver Dollar City visitor James Roach in Branson, Mo.
I am privileged to share this occasion with her in a way as many who have stopped to see her this month carried home her new autobiography “Whittlin’ and Fiddlin’ My Own Way: The Violet Hensley Story” which I helped pen.
“I never thought I would be writing about my life, my music and my fiddle makin’,” she said. “I could have never dreamed coming from a farm in the backwoods of Arkansas that the things I learned on that farm would make me a TV personality and gain me fame around the world.”
The Arkansas Living Treasure Award winner from Yellville, Arkansas learned to fiddle in 1928 and make fiddles watching her father George W. Brumley in the community of Alamo, Arkansas in 1932.
It was an amazing experience to work with Violet weekly to refine the experiences from her life and compile a book which not only reflects what many rural families endured in America in the 20th century but what was most unique about Violet as she grew artistically, to find folk music stardom at nearly 50.
She raised a family of nine with her late husband Adren while he moved the family from town to town and state to state.
With the advent of the folk music revival, Violet’s blossoming musical and fiddle-making talents, caught the attention of Grammy ® winner Jimmy Driftwood and the owners of Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.
She joined the crafter’s cast at Silver Dollar City in 1967, becoming part of the City’s celebrities who used radio, television, and newspapers to invite visitors to the amusement park.
Sharing her talents in front of millions, Hensley became one of the first woman fiddlers to reach a large international audience appearing at the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife, festivals, colleges, and on countless local, regional and national television and radio shows such as “To Tell the Truth” and “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee”
“I hope folks will enjoy getting a glimpse at what my near century on this world has been,” Violet said. “It’s been a hoot so far and what’s even better is while the book is written – the story continues. I hope folks will join me for what is yet to come, they can start by reading the book.”
The 258-page soft cover book from Peach Picked Publishing includes 145 photos and is available for $25 including shipping.
For more information about Violet, visit http://violethensley.com. Order the book above. The book can also be liked on Facebook.