Old-Time Fiddlers Hall of Fame

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  Bruce GreeneBruce Greene
1951-Present - Yancey County, North Carolina


Let me preface this biography by saying that Bruce Greene is my favorite contemporary fiddler. In the 70s and 80s, Bruce immersed himself in Kentucky fiddling, tracking down as many surviving musicians as he could. This foundation helped him build upon a style and repertoire unlike any other. 30 years ago, Bruce's playing more closely mirrored the sources he learned from, but today, it's developed into his own unique style, which still retains many of the traditional elements that make his fiddling sound authentic and ancient. His incredible technique is camoflaged by his relaxed style of playing. There have been many tunes which at first seemed easy enough while watching Bruce play them, but turned out to be quite challenging as I tried to learn them. Bruce's repertoire includes a vast number of obscure and crooked tunes, as if opening a previously locked door to a room rich with old-time music most people didn't know existed.

Bruce Greene was born in 1951, and grew up in New Jersey. He learned to play the guitar and five string banjo in his teens, mainly from listening to records. His interest in traditional music started during that time and led him to the fiddle, inspired by the New Lost City Ramblers and some of the field recordings that were starting to become available. In 1969, Bruce left home for college in Washington state and met the first traditional fiddler he would come to know, a man originally from Missouri. By that time, Bruce's interest in traditional Appalachian music had grown quite a bit, and he moved to Kentucky to study folklore, especially the music. Bruce began to meet some of the local Kentucky fiddlers, and as it turned out, he spent more time seeking out and studying the old time fiddlers than he did learning the discipline of folklore!

After a number of years living in different parts of Kentucky, Bruce met his present partner, fine artist and singer Loy McWhirter, and moved to North Carolina in 1978, where he still lives. Bruce has continued his work of preserving and learning the traditional music of the area, when he can find time aside from family life and his job at a local book business.

Bruce has taught fiddle classes on and off for some years, at festivals and gatherings including Augusta, Swannanoa, Mars Hill and The Festival of American Fiddle Tunes. Bruce specializes in Kentucky fiddling, and has performed as an artist in residence at Brown University and Amherst College.

Bruce's greatest influences have been Jim Bowles, Gusty Wallace, Hiram Stamper, John Salyer and his sons Grover and Glen, all Kentucky musicians.

 

Sing Out Magazine writes:

"Another player whose style and repertoire are almost entirely reflective of one region is the legendary and somewhat reclusive Bruce Greene. Evidently, we all owe Greene a giant debt not only for preserving scores of archaic central and eastern Kentucky fiddle pieces from fiddlers now passed on, but also for choosing to adopt the gently, rolling bow of some of his teachers as his own. To hear him play...is to take a trip back in time. It is hard to imagine that this is a man in his (forties) playing for us in the (nineties)."

Many of my fiddling friends had told me I "needed" to listen to Bruce's music, so I introduced myself to him via Fiddle Magazine's Appalachian fiddling video. I was instantly mesmorized my Bruce's gentle style and authenticity. I was amazed by his economy of graceful movement, and the great amount of expressive tone it elicited from his fiddle. From a fiddler's viewpoint, I find there is much to learn and enjoy from Bruce's fiddling.

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You can order "Five Miles of Ellum Wood" as well as the cassettes: "Vintage Fiddle Tunes" and "Fiddler's Dozen" directly from Bruce by writing him at 1115 Patton Thicket Road, Burnsville, NC 28714.

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