Famous Fiddler Violet Hensley

Violet Hensley, center, appearing on The Art Linkletter Show; circa 1970. Photo care of the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture.

Famous fiddler Violet Hensley, who was born near Mount Ida and who will be playing a much anticipated show at the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View tomorrow ( August 16--more details on the show can be found here) is known as an Arkansas Living Treasure, named so by the Arkansas Arts Council in 2004.  She is almost 100 years old now and along with playing music, she makes fiddles too.  More details about this interesting lady can be found at her website here, where she dubs herself ‘The Whittlin’ Fiddler of Yellville.’

According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, “Violet Brumley was born near Mount Ida on October 21, 1916, to George Washington Brumley and Nora Springer Brumley. The Brumleys had two other daughters. She followed in her father’s footsteps as a musician, and at the age of fifteen, Brumley told her father, who crafted his first fiddle at age fourteen in 1888, that she wanted to make a fiddle of her own. By observing her father’s fiddle-making technique, she cut the pattern and dried the wood by the fireplace. She learned how to split the wood with a hatchet and use hand planes, homemade curved knives of her father’s design, and other hand tools to carve and create her first instrument.”

I had a chance to learn more about her father George Brumley at a visit to the Heritage House Museum in Mount Ida a few years ago, where one of his fiddles was displayed. Here is a link to that venture if there might be an interest. Below, is a video on Violet Hensley by Joe York that was part of the Arkansas Made, Arkansas Living Treasure Film Series, which was a project of the Department of Arkansas Heritage. Enjoy!

74 Fiddles from Joe York on Vimeo.