Fiddle-L Anthology 1999

A Tour 'Round The World Of Fiddling

Performer Bio


Lew Holt, Salem, Oregon (

Lew was born April 11, 1929, in Vernonia, Columbia County, Oregon. He holds a Master's Degree, with an additional 60 hours, and is a retired teacher and elementary principal. He is a member of Oregon Old Time Fiddlers Association, Hardanger Fiddle Association of America, National Old Time Fiddlers Association, and North America Fiddle Association.


Lew's heritage is English/Irish/German; his parents were both from Missouri. His grandfather was an old time fiddler. (Lew's wife, Alice Holt, also plays fiddle and is a fellow tape participant.) Lew himself began playing in 1979, while in North Bend, Oregon. He had no formal lessons, but learned informally from friends, playing with them in their homes. He has participated in Booher workshops, with Carol Ann Wheeler, and Dale Morris. Soldier's Joy was the first tune Lew learned; he got it from sheet music. Today, his favorite fiddle tune is Sierra Swing, and he feels it's best played by Lew Standiford. Lew's favorite fiddler overall is Leonard Maahs.


In addition to hoedowns/reels, and waltzes, Lew enjoys playing two-steps. Lew plays a number of instruments besides fiddle: guitar, mandolin, piano, and banjo. He prefers guitar as a backup for fiddle tunes. He plays for dances, in church, nursing homes, and of course jams. He has also played wedding parties and funerals.


Lew enjoys attending contests, and has also entered although not regularly. He first competed in 1990, at a contest in Canyonville, Oregon. The tunes he performed were Chinese Break Down, Sheguiandah Bay, and Just Because; he was accompanied by a guitar. He was awarded fifth place in the Senior Division at this contest. Lew also competed at Weiser: "Didn't win a thing. Didn't faint either." He judged at the Canyonville contest in 1996 and 1997, for a $50 stipend. Lew enjoys the judging experience and says a good judge is "somebody who likes fiddle music and who has experience [with] it... [it is best] if he or she does play."


"I call it "nursing home style... cowboy tunes, waltzes [etc.]" Lew names Les McLeod as an early influence in forging this style of fiddling. On how many styles exist: "As many as there are fiddlers." In Lew's home region, old time tunes, old time cowboy tunes, and old time dance tunes seem to predominate. Though not an official band, Lew plays with "the nursing home gang." He notes that he has no recordings available "formally". (Perhaps informally?)


Lew plays a "nice Guarnerius copy". As to when and by whom it was made: "I don't have any idea. [Its sound is] deep, rich, very easy to play." Lew uses no shoulder rest, prefers Prim strings and plays a "nice 'no name' octagon bow with an ivory frog." He enjoys collecting violins, and also handles his own maintenance, set up and repairs; he has rehaired over 400 bows. He sells violins, too: "I 'wheel and deal' with friends or anybody that might want a fiddle. I retired 14 years ago to build fiddles and dulcimers but have been too busy playing, rehairing bows, setting up fiddles, repairing fiddles to get to actually building one. I aspire to build bows someday. Have been state president 4 terms, contest chairman 6 years, Hoedowner editor, you name it so it all adds to being busy and not building."


"I enjoy the sound of the fiddle. I inherited my Grandfather's fiddle, which motivated me. I had played the mandolin a bit before as well as the steel guitar and piano so I always have enjoyed the music. Some of my earliest memories are being put to sleep behind the piano at country dances."


Lew learned Blue Darling about four years ago, from a friend who played it. She did not know the name so she called it "Rainbow." A mutual friend heard us playing it and told us that was Blue Darling, written by Jimmy Patton from Portland. Jimmy was later killed in a car accident. He learned Sierra Swing several months ago from Lew Standiford, brother of Marvin Standiford, who wrote the tune. Marvin has since died of lung cancer.

The tunes were recorded at a District 8 - informally. The backup included Thelma Shephard - piano; Chuck Gates - bass; Bob Church, Norman McGrew, Lee Jones - guitars.