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Jehile, An Old Time PA fiddler

Posted by bj on Tuesday, August 26, 2008

On one of the forum threads awhile back Fiddlepogo had dropped a link to a collection of Oldtime Fiddle Tunes by Jehile Kirkhuff of Lawton PA. They're great tunes and a spirited delivery by someone who was obviously a master fiddler, and who won the World Championship Old Time Fiddler Title in Crockett Texas in 1954 (the year I was born) and who knew the history of each and every tune in his vast repertoire. I've been listening to Jehile's fiddling almost every day since. There's something incredibly grounded and at the same time very uplifting in these tunes, and the versions aren't at all what I've heard from others, they're for the most part very original, while still being recognizable as the songs that most people consider "Old Time".

Lawton is probably only around 70 miles from me, as the crow flies, and this was the closest I've found to any local fiddle tradition in this area. So I wanted to find out more about Jehile, and googled his name. It took digging through a dozen or so pages of links to everyone trying to sell what's in that link above for free, before I found mention of the book. I wondered too about what was up with that and who these people were who made these mp3s of Jehile (pronounced Ja-Hyle) readily available. Turns out that Ed and Geraldine were good friends of his. At least that's what it says in the book I received today.

The book is entitled "Jehile, The Blind Fiddler From Lawton, Pennsylvania", written by Ken Oakley, and available from him if you want a copy. Just drop me a personal message and I'll send you his phone number.

The book starts out with Jehile's own words. "Prosperity and times of great affluence. You don't get music from that. You get discord. You get dissonance. You get a breakdown of the rules. You get chaos. No, it takes tragedy, revolution, war, heartbreak, famine, earthquake, floods, volcanoes. Things like that give us our music."

I've only read the first chapter and it's incredibly touching, though I knew this was going to be worth the read just from the cover picture, which shows Jehile tuning up, with his sightless eyes at half mast and the fiddle up near his ear.

I already know that Jehile was an individual who touched a lot of lives with his music.

This weekend I'm headed to my first Oldtime Jam, and it's located in the heart of Jehile Country. I invited Ken Oakley, the book's author, and I hope he comes.

Coincidence? I have to wonder about that . . .



2 comments on “Jehile, An Old Time PA fiddler”

fiddlepogo Says:
Friday, August 29, 2008 @9:24:32 AM

Glad to be part of this chain of events!
Great quote from Jehile!

Check out the Vermeers, the Hollywoods, the Hamburgs, and the Flesch
chinrest designs. I'm attracted to the first three because (in addition to being higher) they have something over the tailpiece so you can get your
chin closer to the tailpiece.
The Flesch (two designs- hump and no hump!) are right over the tailpiece.

bj Says:
Friday, August 29, 2008 @9:32:56 AM

Thanks, fiddlepogo!

One of the problems with the Guarnari was the high profile in combination with the Kun shoulder rest. The Dresden is low profile, but just shy of where I need it to extend. I think I have to find a relatively low profile that extends at least a bit over the tailpiece.

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