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Riddle, Harold Vernon

Harold Vernon Riddle
Harold Vernon Riddle

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Harold Vernon Riddle played the fiddle for well over fifty years. He was first exposed to the rural folk music of upstate South Carolina in the mill village of Glendale where he was born. He heard traditional music played by local mill workers. Riddle also listened to the Grand Ole Opry radio show on Friday nights.

At 17, he first auditioned for the “Dixie Jamboree,” a popular live country music show on Saturday night in Spartanburg. He played guitar at the time, not the fiddle. Riddle took up the fiddle when his wife gave him the instrument in the early 1950s. His early bowing style was greatly influenced by the older fiddlers from the Upstate. A few years later, Riddle joined the United States Air Force and was stationed in Amarillo, Texas. There, he learned the “long bowing” technique similar to some of the more fancy fiddling styles that he heard on the Grand Ole Opry. After retiring from the military, Riddle returned to South Carolina. Once again, he was a familiar face at jam sessions in the Spartanburg area. With the death of his wife, Riddle played less frequently but gradually returned to the music scene.

In 1989, Riddle married Ruth Stewart, a guitar player from Spartanburg. The musical duo entertained all over the western Carolinas. Riddle continued to keep his fiddling skills sharp by playing competitively. He placed first in the 1989 South Carolina State Fair Fiddling Contest and went on to place sixth in the Southeastern Fiddling Contest. Riddle’s old-time Southern bowing techniques combined with the fancier long-bowing style that he acquired in Texas made him one of the finest fiddlers in South Carolina and a musical treasure of our state. Riddle passed away in the summer of 2011. Riddle received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 1999.

Audio   (View Transcript)

bullet icon Riddle Intro (00:58)

Riddle discusses his Texas connection and influences. Recorded in 1989.

bullet icon "Soppin' the Gravy" (01:33)

From the recording "Vernon Riddle & His Fiddle." Features Riddle's wife Ruth on guitar.

bullet icon "Twin Reel" (01:19)

Traditional dance tune or "reel" from the recording "Vernon & Ruth Riddle: Hornpipes & Reels."

bullet icon "Apple Blossom" (01:35)

Riddle learned this tune from legendary Texas fiddler Eck Robertson. From the recording "Vernon & Ruth Riddle with John Fowler: Pickin' Partners String Band." 1999.

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