Archive for the ‘Melvin Wine’ Category

Music in the Air Somewhere

December 3, 2012

from “Music in the Air Somewhere,” by Erynn Marshall:

Due to Melvin [Wine's] growing spiritual beliefs, and his unhappiness over the amount of drinking and fighting that took place at square dances, he stopped playing fiddle for more than twenty years.

“Things I once done I didn’t want to do no more…I did not want to get back into square dances and I just quit. I thought I’d seen people killed there, I’d seen people just fall off their feet dead at the square dances and things like that..”

In the late 1950s, Melvin began playing music again.  This change in attitude came about when he and Etta found themselves having to look after their ten-day-old granddaughter…The baby started to cry and he couldn’t get her to stop.  Eventually, he pulled out his fiddle and started to play for her.  Kelly stopped crying at the sound of the music, and Melvin decided that playing the fiddle must be a gift rather than a sin and resumed playing it.

Melvin Wine (1909-2003) remains one of the most recorded, documented, and respected fiddler in West Virginia.  [He] was awarded the prestigious National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts Foundation.

He made three solo recordings: Cold Frosty Morning, Hannah at the Springhouse, and Vintage Wine.

Fiddling Way Out Yonder

October 14, 2012


From a small mountain town in West Virginia, elder fiddler Melvin Wine has inspired musicians and music enthusiasts far beyond his homeplace.

Music, community, and tradition influence all aspects of life in this rural region. Fiddling Way Out Yonder: The Life and Music of Melvin Wine shows how in Wine’s playing and teaching all three have created a vital and enduring legacy.

Wine has been honored nationally for his musical skills and his leadership role in an American musical tradition. A farmer, a coal miner, a father of ten children, and a deeply religious man, he has played music from the hard lessons of his own experience and shaped a musical tradition even while passing it to others.

Fiddling Way Out Yonder examines the fiddler, his music, and its context from a variety of perspectives. Many rousing fiddlers came from isolated mountain regions like Melvin’s home stomp. The book makes a point to address the broad historical issues related both to North American fiddling and to Wine’s personal history.

Wine has spent almost all of his ninety-two years in rural Braxton County, an area where the fiddle and dance traditions that were strong during his childhood and early adult life continue to be active today. Utilizing models from folklore studies and ethnomusicology, Fiddling Way Out Yonder discusses how community life and educational environment have affected Melvin’s music and his approaches to performance.

Such a unique fiddler deserves close stylistic scrutiny. The book reveals Wine’s particular tunings, his ways of holding the instrument, his licks, his bowing techniques and patterns, his tune categories, and his favorite keys. The book includes transcriptions and analyses of ten of Melvin’s tunes, some of which are linked to minstrelsy, ballad singing traditions, and gospel music. Narratives discuss the background of each tune and how it has fit into Melvin’s life.

While his music is tied to community and family traditions, Melvin is a unique and complex person. This biography heralds a musician who wants both to communicate the spirit of his mountains and to sway an audience into having an old-fashioned good time.

Drew Beisswenger is a music librarian at Southwest Missouri State University. His work has been published in Tennessee Folklore Society Bulletin, the EMIE Bulletin, Mid-American Folklore, and the Arkansas Review: A Journal of Delta Studies.

248 pp.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 224 other followers