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Wisconsin Fiddlin'

Posted by bsed55 on Sunday, September 9, 2007

Wisconsin traditional music is closely linked to the ethnic groups that settled the state. Between the Italians in Kenosha, Danes in Racine, Germans hispanics Poles in Milwaukee, Scandanavians in the NW, Finns in the north, the Dutch in the Fox Valley (need I go on?)..... Fiddle tradition is probably most closely associated with the Scandanavians (e.g. Norweigians). Those of you who get the Old Time Herald will have read the article in the current issue about Norweigian fiddlers in Minnesota. The article mentions Leonard Finseth, a Norweigian fiddler from near Eau Claire, WI. When I was just beginning to fiddle I decided I'd like to meet Mr. Finseth, so I looked him up in the phone book...found him...and he was very accomodating. We sat in the kitchen of his farm house (the one he'd been born in nearly 80 years before) and he played some of the traditional Norweigian tunes and explained what they were for. He mentioned another fiddler who was influential to him, one Otto Rindlisbacher, who lived up in the lumber camps around Rice Lake, WI. But he also cross-pollinated with others, like Pete McMahan (sp) who came up that way for visits. I have learned 2 of Mr. Finseth's tunes, both of which came through Otto Rindlisbacher:The Lumberjack's Polka and The Swamper's Revenge on the Windfall. The Swamper was the guy in the lumber camps that had to free up log jams on the river, which was brutally hazardous work. I met Fiddlin' Marty Birch near Rhinelander. He played a lot of the standard tunes like Soldier's Joy, Ragtime Annie. I was looking for Finnish fiddlers when I ran into him. Never did find any Finns.

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