As we wait for West Virginia Secretary of State Natalie Tennant to speak on the Byrd seat at 4:30 today, here's a little something about Robert Byrd's famous fiddle playing. Above is a shot of him in 1976 with fellow U.S. Sen. Jennings Randolph and his wife of 67 years, Erma, two years before releasing his record, "Mountain Fiddler." There's a full history of Byrd and the fiddle -- which he started at age 10 after convincing his father Titus to go to Beckley and buy him one -- here in the book "Mountains of Music."
Playing it actually helped Byrd in his first run for office in 1946, and was something he had in common with none other than Thomas Jefferson. From pages 63-64 of the book (click pages for larger view):
Below is video of him playing at the Grand Ole Opry, followed by one in his Capitol Hill office doing "Country Roads." Here's West Virginia's Christy Hardin Smith at Firedoglake:
The Sen. Byrd that you see playing his fiddle at the Grand Ole Opry is the Sen. Byrd that I remember most from my childhood. A man of energy and spunk, and a love of fiddle playing that transcended politics.
My first memory of him is him playing the Orange Blossom Special (YouTube) on the stage at the Wood County Fair. He was brilliant, with a twinkle in his eye that said he loved every minute of the challenge.
It wasn’t until after he finished that I found out the great fiddler on the stage was also my state Senator.