This is one of the first books I authored myself:
Farmhouse Fiddlers: Music & Dance Traditions in the Rural Midwest
by Philip Martin, with photos by Lewis Koch
softcover nonfiction • 128 pages • 11” x 8 1/2” • over 80 photographs
Music / American Rural History • published by Midwest Traditions
1994 • ISBN 1-883953-06-5 • $19.95 list price
If you want to find copies of Farmhouse Fiddlers, it’s available on Amazon.com. It’s not stocked in bookstores anymore, and it may appear in some databases as “no longer in print,” but I’ve still got about 200 copies left from the original print run of 7,500 copies, plus there are any number of used copies floating around, so it’s not hard to get!
I wrote the book after many years of traveling around and interviewing old-time fiddlers and their families, along with lots of archival research. The book documents a significant slice of Midwestern history that was under-reported in the written historical records (as a lot of traditional cultural heritage tends to be) and was to great degree disappearing (and in the last several decades since this fieldwork was done, has indeed mostly disappeared, replaced by popular music, with the loss of the localized, homegrown versions once found all over the Midwest.)
Personally, I am a very mediocre fiddle player, a fellow who enjoys “scratching the guts of a cat with the tail of a horse,” but I can keep a beat and play for dances or sit on a porch and have a good time with good friends. I learned to play from old-timers in Wisconsin and Minnesota, notably Edwin Johnson, and with friends at Folklore Village, a rural folk center near Dodgeville, Wisconsin. I worked for some years as business manager and workshop leader, while doing field research projects with grants from Wisconsin Arts Board, National Endowment for the Humanities, and other sources.
I’m pleased and proud to note that Farmhouse Fiddlers won an award from Council for Wisconsin Writers as the best Wisconsin nonfiction book of the year and was well reviewed in many places.
Awards & Praise for Farmhouse Fiddlers
Leslie Cross Award (for book-length nonfiction), Council for Wisconsin Writers
Outstanding Achievement Award, Wisconsin Library Association
“. . . a valuable study that preserves (through interviews with musicians themselves) and documents (in many fine and well-selected photographs) the world of these vital rural fiddlers. . . .” — Choice
“. . . this collection of anecdotes and photographs captures the cadence of the old-time fiddlers in funny and moving stories.” — Bloomsbury Review
“This is a marvelous, lovingly constructed tribute to a bygone era.” — Sing Out!
“. . . a perfect marriage of photography and spoken history.” — Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Fiddlers rejoice!” — Bluegrass Now
“. . . a lovely book about a gentler, sweeter time . . .” — Dirty Linen
“Ample quotes . . . lift this book from merely reporting on the flowering and decline of a tradition. . . . gives insight into the ways in which old-time music fits into the lives of the people who play and appreciate it.” — Minnesota History