Fiddle-L Anthology 1999

A Tour 'Round The World Of Fiddling

Performer Bio


Larry Kyle Hartsfield, Durango, Colorado, U.S. (

Larry was born April 23, 1953 in Haskell, Haskell County, Texas. He holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Texas (Austin) and is currently Professor of English/Chair of English & Communications at Fort Lewis College, a public liberal arts college in Durango, Colorado.


Both of Larry's parents were born in Haskell, Texas. His heritage is originally British Isles/German. His ancestors moved from north-central Tennessee, southwest Virginia, and western North Carolina areas to Texas in mid-late 19th century. To his knowledge, Larry is the first in his family to play the violin, which he started learning 2 1/2 years ago while in Durango. He took 1 1/2 years of Suzuki lessons (through Book 6), and 4 months of fiddle lessons with Erik Hokkanon. He has participated in workshops at bluegrass festivals with Richard Greene, Barbara Lamb, and Laurie Lewis. The first tune he learned on the fiddle was an old country song, Fraulein; the first fiddle tune was probably Red Wing. Larry says he learned both tunes by ear and from memory, although he uses sheet music and recordings to learn tunes as well. It's hard for him to name one favorite fiddle tune, but he notes Drunken Hiccups is a favorite. He most enjoys Bruce Molsky's version (through Tommy Jarrell); his favorite fiddlers are John Hartford, Bruce Molsky, and J.P. Fraley. Larry enjoys playing many types of tunes, from hoedowns, and waltzes to hornpipes, airs, hymns, jigs, marches, two-steps, and rags. He also plays guitar and mandolin "(but not very well; of course the same "not very well" goes for the fiddle, and I just started messing with the mandolin a few months ago)". His favorite backup for fiddling is either banjo or guitar. Most frequently Larry can be found playing fiddle in homes and garages, and he has also played some weddings.


In describing his style, Larry says, "[I'm] just trying to get by as best I can, but I listen most to old-time, bluegrass, and western swing." He has been listening to a lot of Major Franklin, Clark Kessinger, and Ed Haley recordings. When asked how many styles he believes exist, Larry answers, "How many players are there?" Where he lives, he finds Celtic, bluegrass, and new age music to be most common.


Larry owns two violins. "One (Alegria) has a Grancino 1702 label; I've taken it to three appraisers and all three agree that it's probably an English fiddle made around 1750-1770. The other has a label that reads "Richard Rubus, Petersbourg, Vr" and was probably made in the mid 19th century sometime (this one is "the dark lady"). The first one is a tiny bit larger than standard and has a very high arch to it; it's probably an Amati style; the second one is flatter. Alegria is penetrating and sweet with a slightly nasal quality; the dark lady is mellow and woody." Larry uses a Kun shoulder rest and usually prefers D'Addario Helicores, although he currently uses Prims on the dark lady fiddle. He uses a Coda bow.


"It was something I always wanted to do and I finally decided I'd better try it if I was going to when I was 42; I also thought it would be a stress buster and relaxing -- now I know why it's called the devil's box."


Larry recorded Redbird and Bonaparte's Retreat; he learned Redbird in January, 1998 ("and it shows in the tune's roughness and tentativeness") from a Clark Kessinger recording and Stacy Phillips' American Collection of Fiddle Tunes; "Bonaparte's Retreat I figured out by ear [in the summer of 1997) from memory of what I'd heard as a kid in west Texas and then Erik Hokkanon helped me put it together."