Fiddle-L Anthology 1999

A Tour 'Round The World Of Fiddling

Performer Bio



Paul Tyler, Chicago, Illinois, U.S. (

Paul was born October 15, 1950, in Allen County, Indiana. He holds a Ph.D. in Folklore and Ethnomusicology and is a musician, teacher and independent scholar by trade. He holds memberships in CDSS and NAFA.


Paul's heritage is predominantly German and English; both parents were born in Allen County, Indiana. His grandfather-in-law also played the violin. Paul began playing the instrument in 1974, at age 24, while living in Detroit, Michigan. He had no formal lessons but "I spent lots of time with old-timers in Michigan, Indiana and Illinois; the most was with Lotus Dickey after I'd already been playing for eight to ten years." Paul has participated in the Fiddle and Dance Workshop, Northern and Southern weeks (1983, 1985). He has been a staff member at quite a number of workshops (mostly dance camps): Pinewoods (1984 American Week & 1986 Family Week); John C. Campbell Christmas Dance Week (1984); California Traditional Music Society New Year's Camp (1994 & 1995); Summer Stringalong (1997); Augusta Dance Week (1998); and Festival of American Fiddle Tunes (1998). The first fiddle tune he played was Irish Washwoman, which he learned from a Mel Bay tunebook. His favorite fiddle tune today is Evansville, and he likes his own version of it best. He names John W. Summers as his favorite fiddler.


In addition to hoedowns/reels and waltzes, Paul enjoys playing quadrilles, cotillions, and two-steps. He plays a few tunes in cross tuning. Besides the fiddle, Paul also plays guitar, mandolin, banjo, and piano. He prefers the piano for backup to his fiddling. Paul can often be found playing for dances and weddings. Paul's band, the Volo Bogtrotters, has numerous recordings available (see Chirps Smith's notes); Paul appears on Old Time String Band with Vocal Accompaniment, Marimac 9067D. Additionally, the band is on several anthologies and they have three tapes predating his arrival in 1993.


"I don't believe in them, though every once in a while I enter one if I think it will promote old time fiddling, or give me a chance to play tunes I would like people to hear." He first entered a contest in the early 1980's, in Indiana, where he played solo and won second place, and "a medal that looks like it once hung around Mark Spitz's neck". He believes Arvil Bird also was a winner. The biggest contest he entered was Clifftop (Appalachian String Band Festival). Paul notes he likes to attend "Only if there is a guarantee of good fiddling and fun away from the contest itself." Though it's not a favorite pastime, he has judged almost as many contests as ones he entered, including the Indiana State Fair, noting that judges' pay was always less than the top prize money. He feels an open mind and a sense of humor are important judge's traits, as well as ability to play the fiddle.


Paul describes his style of fiddling as old time Midwestern, but adds, "I don't believe in it. This here is folk music." He names Old Man Page as an early forger of this style. On how many styles exist: "That's a thread that would go on and on." Irish music is a predominant style in his area.


The fiddle Paul plays was made by Knute Reindahl of Chicago in 1910. He describes its sound as bright and balanced. He does not use a shoulder rest, prefers Thomastik steel strings, and plays a bow by a now forgotten maker (the name rubbed off).


"Because I square danced from early on and wanted to be the motor that made people move. Because it's been the reason behind my best friendships."


Paul chose to record Albert Doughterty's D Tune #2, which he learned "from Lotus Dickey of Paoli, Indiana over ten years ago. Lotus learned it from Albert, who was a retired miller living in the town of Paoli, Indiana. When Lotus was in high school (class of 1931), he stayed in town at the Dougherty's during the week and went back home to the country on weekends. Albert played the fiddle while his wife Effie accompanied on pump organ." The second selection, Blue Buggy Bounce (Riding Home in a Buggy), he learned from Hector Phillips of Petersburg, Indiana. "The tune was made up around 80 years ago by Hector's father and another local fiddler, Charlie Hill, while they were, you guessed it, riding home in a buggy." Accompaniment was provided by Rhys Jones on guitar and Chirps Smith on fiddle. "Both are fine fiddlers. Rhys is young and on his way up. He's making a name for himself in the dance world. Chirps is a fellow Volo and Midwestern tunaholic."