Bards Bluegrass Fiddle Tunebook Supplement/Uncle Pen

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James Pendleton Vandiver (1869–1932) was a Kentucky fiddler, born there shortly after the American Civil War.[1] He was uncle to bluegrass musician Bill Monroe, who immortalized him in a song, Uncle Pen.[2]

Monroe used to hear his uncle playing fiddle on the hilltop where he lived, while Monroe put away his mules at night.[3] He later said that Vandiver was "the fellow that I learned how to play from."[4] Vandiver played fiddle at local square dances and social events, and his nephew backed him up, playing mandolin.[5] Monroe's parents had both died by the time he was 16, and he lived part of the time with his Uncle Pen, in his two-room hilltop house in Rosine, Kentucky.[6] Vandiver had been crippled earlier, and he made some money with his music.[7] Bill Monroe's biographer, Richard D. Smith writes, "Pen gave Bill more: a repertoire of tunes that sank into Bill's aurally trained memory and a sense of rhythm that seeped into his bones. Sometimes Bill played guitar behind his uncle, sometimes the mandolin."[8] On September 13, 1973, a monument in honor of Uncle Pen was unveiled by Monroe at the Rosine Cemetery.[citation needed]

Bill Monroe left Vandiver another memorial, in the words of his song about his uncle:

Late in the evenin' about sundown
High on the hill and above the town
Uncle Pen played the fiddle
Lord, how it would ring
You could hear it talk
You could hear it sing

References[edit]

  1. Woodside, Donice. "Uncle Pen". http://www.lovelycitizen.com/story/1237513.html. Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  2. Dawidoff, Nicholas, In the Country of Country (1997) p. 87
  3. Woodside, Donice. "Uncle Pen". http://www.lovelycitizen.com/story/1237513.html. Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  4. Dawidoff, Nicholas, In the Country of Country (1997) p. 87
  5. Woodside, Donice. "Uncle Pen". http://www.lovelycitizen.com/story/1237513.html. Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  6. Dawidoff, Nicholas, In the Country of Country (1997) p. 104
  7. Woodside, Donice. "Uncle Pen". http://www.lovelycitizen.com/story/1237513.html. Retrieved 2009-01-06. 
  8. Smith, Richard D., Can't You Hear Me Callin': The Life of Bill Monroe, Father of Bluegrass, Chapter One online: New York Times Books: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/s/smith-callin.html Hardcover: Little, Brown and Company (Warner), July 1, 2000. Paperback: Da Capo Press, October 2, 2001.

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