Fiddle-L Anthology 1999

A Tour 'Round The World Of Fiddling

Performer Bio


48.

B. Starr McMullen, Corvallis, Oregon, U.S. (mcmulles@hotmail.com)

Starr was born in the United States on December 20, 1951. She is currently a professor of economics, and is a member of Texas Old Time Fiddlers' Association, Oregon Old Time Fiddlers' Association, and the National Old Time Fiddlers' Association.

HERITAGE, HISTORY, LESSONS, FAVORITE TUNE

Starr's heritage is Irish, English, French, and German. Both parents were born in New York, New York. She names Erin and Sean McMullen as other family members who play the violin. Starr began playing violin at about 10 years of age, while in New York; she took three years of classical lessons. She started playing the fiddle at 35, after moving to Oregon, and has taken some fiddle lessons. She has also learned by sitting with fiddlers and listening to recordings. She participated in a Portland State University fiddle workshop. The first fiddle tune Starr learned was Ragtime Annie, which she learned from Joey McKenzie. She prefers not to choose one favorite fiddle tune, but names several of her favorite fiddlers: Joey McKenzie, Tony Ludiker, Tim Hodgson, Danita Hartz, Bethany Dick, Jenny Bulla, Roberta Rast, Matt Hartz, Jimmie Don Bates, Major Franklin, and Benny Thomasson.

TYPES OF TUNES, INSTRUMENTS, VENUES

Starr enjoys playing many types of tunes beyond hoedowns, waltzes, reels, etc., including rags, blues, polkas, two-steps, swing tunes, and show tunes. She uses cross tuning to play Black Mountain Rag. She also plays the guitar, and prefers Texas style guitar backup. Starr enjoys playing for dances, at jams, and has played for weddings, funerals, and wakes, and sometimes plays in a band.

FIDDLE CONTESTS

Starr likes to attend and compete at fiddle contests. Her first entry was at the Crescent City Fiddle Contest, in April of 1987. She played in three rounds: Liverpool Hornpipe, Ragtime Annie, Woodchoppers Reel, Over the Waves, Cowboy Waltz, Tennessee Waltz, Hot Foot Rag, Red Apple Rag, and Rocking Chair Jig. Her accompanists were Joey McKenzie and Tim Hodgson, both on Texas style guitar. She won first place in the Intermediate Division; second place was Ron Anglin from Crescent City, California. Joey McKenzie won the open, and Laura Weber won the Junior Division. In the 1997 National contest, Weiser, Idaho, Starr won 5th place, Adult Division. She judges contests (and sometimes likes it), and has done so numerous times, including the NW Regional Fiddle Contest in Spokane (1995), the Pend Oreille International Fiddle Contest, Newport, Washington (1994 and 1997), and the Canyonville Fiddle contest, Canyonville, Oregon (1992 and 1997), the Dillon Fiddle Contest, Dillon, Montana (1998), and the Willamette Valley Fiddle Contest, Corvallis, Oregon (1998). The pay usually ranges from $100-$200 plus a place to stay and often some meals. Starr feels that a good contest judge is "someone with a good ear who is familiar with fiddle music and who has experience playing in contests. Also someone who is capable of being objective and basing scores on what they hear not how they think a player usually plays. [It is] usually a good idea [for a judge to be a fiddler]. It also helps if a person regularly plays in fiddle contests so they understand what the pressures, etc. are and also how good the technique is. Very rarely you find a great backup guitar player who could probably do a good job. People like Royce Franklin or Bobby Chrisman probably have played enough backup in contests and heard enough fiddlers that they could do a good job."

STYLE

Starr describes her style as oldtime fiddling with a Texas style influence. She names Major Franklin and Benny Thomasson as earlier players who helped develop that style. She feels that there are as many fiddle styles as there are fiddlers. In her home region, American old time fiddling is dominant, as opposed to British Isles styles.

THE INSTRUMENT

Starr's fiddle was made by Heberlein in 1928. She enjoys its sound: "[it's] great for me". She uses a Bonmusica shoulder rest and steel Prim strings. Her bow is an octagonal pernambuco. While she is not a fiddle collector, she does collect fiddle-shaped bottles.

WHY DO YOU PLAY THE FIDDLE?

"Because I love it!"

THE TUNES

"I learned Leather Britches from listening to a variety of players including Rudy Booher, Matt Hartz, Laura Weber, and Terry Morris. Same with Crafton's Blues. The background is a guitar (Texas style) played by Frank Moore of Newburg, Oregon. Frank has received the state organization's accompanist award for 5 straight years. They have also awarded him for being the backup musician who helps out more other players than anyone else in the state. He is always encouraging fiddlers and is always willing to play."