Liner Notes


VRCD 334

Bob Simmons was born in Herrin, Illinois in 1915, the oldest son of ten children, and passed away in 1995, having played fiddle professionally for 27 years. His dad was a coal miner and a good fiddler, and Bob played guitar and fiddle in the family band. For his fourteenth birthday his dad gave him the fiddle that he played throughout his musical career. He met Arthur Smith and learned a lot of tunes from him, was a guest artist with Peewee King, and appeared with the Crook Brothers.

After high school Bob went to Chicago and for two years worked seven nights a week in a night club, playing popular standards in a three-piece band called the “Smiling Cowboys.” He went to St. Louis in 1939 and won a fiddle contest which got him a job playing on the radio. He played on every radio station but one in St. Louis.

In the early 1940s he joined Cousin Emmy’s group, playing a network radio show. Then he played for a while with Wade Ray, Little Jimmy Dickens, and T. Texas Tyler.

In 1944 Bob joined the Renfro Valley Tent Show while they were touring in Flint, Michigan. On New Years Day of 1945 he went to work for John Lair at the Renfro Valley Barn Dance in Kentucky, playing on the radio every Saturday night and touring in several states. Bob was their principal fiddler, both as a featured soloist and backing up all the singers, including the Coon Creek Girls.

In 1950 he quit Renfro Valley and played with Clayton McMichen’s Georgia Wildcats in Louisville for two years. He was also guest fiddler with Pee Wee King in Nashville.

In addition to his show fiddling, Bob was a great dance fiddler, playing everything from square dance breakdowns to sweet waltzes, foxtrots, and other couple dances. He also played church music.

Bob quit full-time music in 1952 although he still played from time to time in bars. He moved west to Wyoming, then to Montana, and eventually to Northwest Washington, where he stayed active in the music scene, sitting in occasionally with local bluegrass groups, giving lessons, and playing festivals and other events. For several years before his death in 1995, he played music regularly with his good friends and neighbors Tex Freeland, Zeke Wilson, and Joe Yarborough, with whom this recording was made.

The tunes Bob chose to record present a good cross section of his fiddling career. They range from the hoedowns he played for square dancing, to the couple dance tunes, the “show tunes,” and the church tunes.

Bob Simmons - fiddle, Zeke Wilson - mandolin, Tex Freeland - guitar, Joe Yarborough - bass

1. Ragtime Annie 1:57
2. Fiddler’s Dream 1:47
3. Roxanne Waltz 2:34
4. Liberty 2:07
5. Dill Pickles Rag 2:02
6. Pride of the Ball 3:17
7. Leather Britches 2:10
8. Turkey in the Straw 2:07
9. Lone Star Rag 3:09
10. What a Friend We Have in Jesus 3:37
11. Tennessee Wagoner 2:23
12. Back Up and Push 2:08
13. Over the Waves 3:19
14. Tom and Jerry 2:20
15. Pan Handle Rag 2:55
16. Wednesday Night Waltz 2:47
17. Stone’s Rag 2:30
18. Red Apple Rag 2:17
19. Orange Blossom Special 4:17

Recorded October 1987 at Voyager studios by Dave Huber. Cover photo by Jack Newsome. Production assistance: Barbara Wilson, Lloyd and Mavis Anderson, Vivian Williams

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