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How I Met Art Stamper

Posted by bsed55 on Friday, November 16, 2007

In February 1999 I was at the U. of Chicago Folk Festival. A bunch of us were sitting in the circle. After I played 1 or 2 tunes this gentleman walked over to our circle, asked if we knew a particular tune. Don't think we knew it. This gent asked to see the fiddle of another guy in the circle. Up to this point I thought this gentleman was one who appreciated fiddle tunes, but maybe didn't play a lot. I have met many such people who play a little. Anyhow when he put bow to fiddle I could tell this was not only an experienced musician, this was somebody special. After returning the borrowed fiddle to its owner, he allowed as he might go get his own & return in a little bit. We allowed that we would like it if he did, and we'd save a chair for him. Shortly he did return, this gentleman of my father's generation, hair falling in curls to not quite shoulder length from his cap. He led off a tune, & afterward I just had to know what his name was, where he's from. I asked him. He said his name was Art Stamper. I wondered if I was the only one in the circle who didn't know this guy. I suspect there were some there who knew him, others who didn't. So during the rest of the session I engaged in dialogue with him. I was really wowed by this experience. He was ready with a laugh, wanted to play those tunes that everybody could join in on. I wasn't going to let him off that easy, telling him I wanted to hear more of his 'knowledge'. So he obliged, not playing tunes readily associated with his roots in Kentucky. He played Woodchopper's Reel, a couple tunes from the Shetland Islands (he really liked Ally Bain). He also played several tunes by Howdy Forrester. After the jam broke up he played a few more for me, "Hey, you gotta hear this one" and we talked some. He said he knows a guy from Milwaukee I should give a call to.

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