Fiddle-L Anthology 1999

A Tour 'Round The World Of Fiddling

Performer Bio


18.

Francis LeRoy Bradham, Jr. ("everyone calls me Bo"), Charlottesville Virginia, U.S. (bradham@virginia.edu / http://www.people.virginia.edu/~flb3c/)

Bo was born Oct. 8, 1957, in Kingstree, Williamsburg County, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor of Arts from Furman University (Greenville, South Carolina) and works as a computer programmer.

HERITAGE, HISTORY, LESSONS, FAVORITE TUNE

Bo's family is Irish on one side, English on the other. Both sides have been in the U.S. long enough that there is no identification with either as an ethnic group (i.e., his mother's family do not consider themselves "Irish Americans"). Both parents are from Sumter, Sumter County, South Carolina. None of Bo's family played fiddle, to his knowledge. Bo started fiddle as a senior in college at Furman University. He never took formal lessons but sought out fiddlers who lived near him, asked a lot of questions, and observed many fiddlers. After a few years of that he went to some fiddle camps.

He has attended Augusta Heritage Center, John C. Campbell Folk School (Brasstown NC), Mark O'Connor Fiddle Camp, and several others. Bo already knew a lot of tunes on the mandolin & guitar before he took up the fiddle. "Soldier's Joy would be a good guess for my first tune on the fiddle; I probably [learned it] off a record. Right this minute, I'd say Dusty Miller [is my favorite fiddle tune]. My favorite recording of it is by Sam Bush on "Poor Richard's Almanac."" Bo says if he absolutely had to name one favorite fiddler, it would be Johnny Gimble. In addition to fiddle, Bo plays guitar, and he used to play mandolin and banjo but says he hasn't touched either of them in a long time. Favorite backup instruments: guitar and bass, although lately he enjoys having piano accompaniment. Bo plays primarily for square and contra dances, and once played in church. He also plays lots of weddings.

FIDDLE CONTESTS

Bo enjoys attending fiddle contests, and is starting to compete again after avoiding them for a long time. His first contest entry was at Fiddler's Grove (North Carolina), circa 1981 or 1982. He had guitar backup, but has no idea what tunes he played. "I used to go to Fiddler's Grove a lot. In 1986 I was first runner-up in the Old-Time division (Bruce Greene won) and Mac Snodderly & I were 1st runners-up in Twin Fiddle." Bo believes that a good contest judge "has to know good fiddling, and must be able to evaluate fiddling without letting stylistic prejudices get in the way. [A person probably doesn't have to play the fiddle to be a competent judge], and I'll wager that there are non-players more qualified to judge than some players."

STYLE

Bo describes his fiddling style as "idiosyncratic". In addition to hoedowns/breakdowns and waltzes, Bo plays hornpipes, a polka or two, and jigs, as well as one or two marches. He also plays swing fiddle. In the past, he has played tunes in cross tuning. Kevin Burke was Bo's main inspiration when he started playing, as he was mainly interested in Irish fiddling. "[There are] at least as many [playing styles] as there are players." Where Bo lives, there are multiple styles to be found. "You can find anything you want. The old players play what a lot of people would call "bluegrass." There are young players who play bluegrass, and "revival" types who play whatever you call what they play."

Bo plays in a band, Adam's Housecat. He has a CD (or cassette) available, entitled "Moving Clouds" (Bo Bradham with Peter Jung, guitar & bass). Another release, "Belle of Brattleboro" (Bo Bradham & Mary Cay Brass, piano & accordion), is out of print.

 

THE INSTRUMENT

The label on Bo's violin says Eduoard Reichert 1880. It also has the number 220 and the name of his city, which is in Germany. The instrument is a Maggini copy. It has double purfling (including some ornamental inlay on the back) and flowery carvings on the headstock. The scroll does not have the "extra turn" that some Maggini copies have. Bo says its personality and tone are very even from low to high -- well-balanced. "It's not particularly loud but it's not wimpy. There is a sweet quality to the tone, which I really like." He has been using a Kun shoulder rest, and lately uses D'Addario Helicore strings. Bo does not collect violins: "It takes a while for me to get used to one, so I tend to stick with it. I'm only on my third one in 20 years of playing!"

WHY DO YOU PLAY THE FIDDLE?

"I can't stop."

THE TUNES

Bo learned Wild Hog in the Woods from Pete Sutherland about 12 years ago. He says there is another tune by that same name, and this isn't it. He learned Pike's Peak even longer ago than that, from some people he used to play with. Both of these tunes are in the Philips Collection. Bo's version of Grey Eagle is not the familiar "A" tune, nor is it either of the two "C" versions in the Philips Collection; he learned it from Mack Snodderly and has not heard it played by anyone else.

Craig DuBose provided backup on the guitar. He & Bo were in college together, and they have played together for the last 12 years or so.