Fiddle-L Anthology 1999

A Tour 'Round The World Of Fiddling

Performer Bio


 

20.

Larry Don Holland, Hiram, Georgia, U.S. (larry.holland@gtri.gatech.edu).

Larry was born November 9, 1939, in Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia. He holds a BEE & MSEE from Georgia Tech, with additional graduate work at the University of Florida. He is a retired electrical engineer faculty member of Georgia Tech. He is a member of the Georgia Mountain Music Club of Rome, Georgia.

HERITAGE, HISTORY, LESSONS, FAVORITE TUNE

Larry's parents came from Paulding County, Georgia. His heritage includes "a little English, a little Cherokee, and a LOT of USA (since early 1600s); previous several generations in the foothills of the north Georgia mountains in Paulding County." His family included "a bunch who played fiddles (no violin): Papa (Charlie) Newman (maternal grandfather, born September 1889, died May 26, 1987) played the fiddle and banjo, and two of his younger brothers, Uncle Lon and Uncle John, played the fiddle. Lon Newman organized fiddle conventions in the Marietta, Georgia area and is mentioned in Wayne W. Daniel's book "Pickin' on Peachtree". John Newman played for dances while he was so small that they had to stand him on a straight backed chair to play. He later had a band and played on a Rome, Georgia radio station. Uncle John taught me one or two of my first tunes on the fiddle. Aunt Pauline Newman Davis (Papa's youngest daughter and a fine guitar player) gave me Papa Newman's old fiddle around 1971, and I've been trying to learn to play the darn thing ever since. Papa used to buck dance while I fiddled on his birthday each year, even as late as his 90th birthday!" When Larry began playing fiddle, "We lived in Marietta, Georgia a couple of years while planning and building our house here on the home place back in 1970-72; that's where we lived when I received Papa's old fiddle and starting fooling around with it."

Larry's informal lessons include "fiddlin' with older, experienced fiddlers like the three older fiddlers now playing with the Georgia Mountain Music Club: Roger Aycock, Curly Orr, and Gene Maxwell are all in their eighties--Curly is 88, Roger is 84, and Gene is somewhere in between. Roger used to play classical and is very smooth and especially good with waltzes (He is mentioned in Joyce H. Cauthen's book "With Fiddle and Well-Rosined Bow"). Curly is best with the fast hoedowns and plays Orange Blossom and old Skillet Lickers tunes quite well. His age doesn't seem to bother his playing once he can stand up from the chair. Gene also has played more fast tunes I believe. This bunch still plays at least once weekly at a local shopping mall food court area, and its something to hear! I'm learning from them every week."

Larry remembers his first fiddle tunes included Boil That Cabbage Down, and Get Along Home Cindy. His Uncle John Newman played both tunes at home, and Larry recorded them. "I also bought a fiddle tune book and used it all. While my fiddlin' is without formal training, I do read music and as a hobby buy & study old music theory books, with particular interest in harmony. I also use signal processing software to analyze fiddle music on the personal computer. This is where my old-time fiddlin' and my electrical engineering interests come together." Larry's favorite fiddle tunes today are Soldiers Joy and 8th of January. Rather than naming a favorite version of these tunes, Larry says "I just like to take a little from each one. But I do prefer the straighter and faster versions [of tunes]." His favorite fiddler -- you guessed it -- "Whatever genuine old time fiddler I have heard most recently."

TYPES OF TUNES, INSTRUMENTS, VENUES

In addition to the common fiddle tune styles, Larry enjoys playing hymns. He plays in various tunings: "Papa Newman played in what he called ROUND KEY; I guess that is the same as cross-key. I frequently tune a fiddle in what I have read is called sawmill tuning (AEAE) or one whole step lower in G (GDGD). On my contribution to the Fiddle-L tape, I included one tune (Cindy) which I play in Cross-Tuning GDGD while my wife, Brenda, BEATS STRAWS on the fiddle. (Actually she is using chop sticks for straws.)" In addition to the fiddle, Larry enjoys playing "mostly things with strings on them, even if they are attached to a keyboard. In time past, I have played cornet." His favorite backup instrument is either guitar or old time banjo, as well as his wife's stand up bass.

Larry doesn't play for dances, but when his Georgia Mountain Music Club performs every Tuesday in the Mall, several couples often dance. He also leads a gospel jam each second Friday night at a local church, and he also plays at various churches in the area. Other events where you can find the Music Club performing include schools, parties, and the Olympic events associated with the 1996 Summer Games in Atlanta. Larry also enjoys the pickin' parties at the homes of friends, and plays with a couple of other groups.

FIDDLE CONTESTS

Larry does not particularly enjoy fiddle contests, but he likes to jam in the parking lots of these music events.

STYLE

Larry calls his style "Old-Time Appalachian, with a touch of whatever strikes my interest. Clayton McMichen is from around here; one of his cousins lived across the road from me until his death. I still play with another of his cousins up at New Hope, Georgia once in a while. I guess the Skillet Lickers records are fairly representative, as well as John Carson, of the "style", if you can call it that." Larry's opinion of how many styles exist: "Either one or a bunch. There are not too many people playing fiddle anymore around here. Most of what you hear is radio country stuff, with a little old time mixed in."

THE INSTRUMENT

"I don't really know [who made my instrument]. It seems to be an old German copy of a Guarnerius, and it has a grafted neck and plugged/re-bored peg holes. It is Mac Compton's old fiddle. Mac is mentioned in Wayne Daniel's Pickin' on Peachtree book and was once the Florida Fiddlin' Champion. He played with the folks in Gid Tanner's Skillet Lickers band, and he once told me that he recorded fiddlin' for OKEH Records but that the cut was not released as far as he knew. Mac was a friend of my family, a customer in the little country store where I grew up, and he used to come to my house back in the 70's to show me a few tunes on the fiddle. I have a couple of tapes he made for me. When I had the chance to buy his old fiddle & bow after his death, I did so." Larry calls the fiddle's sound loud and smooth. He does not use a shoulder rest, and prefers D'Addario Helicore strings. He plays with an Otto Paulus bow, or a Coda. Larry has "unintentionally" collected several fiddles.

WHY DO YOU PLAY THE FIDDLE?

"I play for relaxation, pleasure, social-togetherness."

THE TUNES

For the tape, Larry chose to record the following:

Soldiers Joy (Larry, Tom, Joe, & Brenda); Cindy (Brenda beating straws: cross-tuned fiddle); Eighth of January (Larry, Tom, Joe, & Brenda)

"Two of the fiddle tunes, Soldiers Joy and Eighth of January, have guitar, banjo & doghouse bass as back-up. One of the tunes, Cindy, has only the fiddle and the beating of straws by my wife, Brenda Smith Holland. The guitar is played by Joe Freeman with whom I have been playing for at least 25 years. Joe is from Hiram, Georgia and is married to Jean Campbell Freeman. The banjo is played by Tom Carter with whom I have been playing for about a year at the monthly Gospel Jam sessions. Tom formally play in the Country Gospel Trio, and is married to Patsy Shelton Carter. The bass is played by the Love of My Life and wife of 40 years, Brenda S. Holland. She also enjoys playing spoons and bodhran."

Larry learned the tunes in the 1970's from "Mac Compton, books and tapes over the years; I don't play them the same as I did any previous (or future) years."

"The best thing about retirement is having more time to fiddle around!" (Larry's signature at the end of his Fiddle-L postings)