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blues singer, songwriter, guitarist, and fiddle player, was born in Vinton, Louisiana, and moved across the Sabine River with his family to Orange, Texas, when he was a few weeks old. He began playing the fiddle when he was five, learning the instrument from his father, Clarence Brown Sr.—a railroad worker who played and sang everything from traditional French songs to German polkas—and taught himself to play the guitar when he was ten. Brown's mother, Jenny, played the piano.

As a boy Brown would hang outside the local jazz clubs, and once when he was listening to Duke Ellington practice the musician invited him to sit with him on the piano bench Brown claimed he acquired his nickname when a high school teacher said he had a voice like a gate though he long promised to reveal the true account of how he became ...


William E. Lightfoot

guitarist and fiddler, was born in a mining camp near Cromwell, in Ohio County, Kentucky. He was the firstborn son of David, who was born into slavery in 1844, and Elizabeth, a freeborn sixteen-year-old.

In 1900 when Shultz was fourteen, his half brother Ed, who worked on one of the many riverboats that cruised the Green River, gave him a guitar and a few lessons. Shultz honed his skills by becoming a member of the Shultz family band, playing guitar and fiddle in old-time British dance tunes. The region was quite rich musically, and one imagines that he also learned from such other notable black musicians in the area as Jim Mason, Amos Johnson, and Walter Taylor as well as from traveling tent medicine and minstrel shows and the wide variety of music performed on the showboats that docked at cities along the ...


Tony Thomas

perhaps the last traditional African American fiddler, was born Joseph Aquilla Thompson in the High Rock community equidistant from Mebane, Efland, and Cedar Grove, in northern Orange County, North Carolina. He was the son of Rosa Crisp Thompson (1882–1960) and John Arch Thompson (1878–1968), a farmer and fiddler who later worked as an elementary school janitor. John Arch Thompson's father, Robert Thompson (1849–?), had moved his family from Person County, North Carolina, to Cedar Grove by 1900. By the time of Joe's birth, John Arch Thompson on fiddle and his brothers Jacob (1876–1950) and Walter (1882–1949) on banjos played for white and black dancers six nights a week. At age five Joe Thompson obtained a small fiddle and mastered the tune Hook and Line so well that his father who had forbidden Joe to touch his violin ...