Frank Reed - Randolph County Fiddler

The following is taken verbatim from back cover of LP.


Frank Reed was born on April 20, 1904 near the central Missouri town of Huntsville, in Randolph County.  Frank's father was James Thomas Reed and his mother was Mattie Specie Reed.  The Reeds came to Missouri from England by way of Pennsylvania, while the Specie side of the family was French Canadian and settled in Grundy County, Illinois.

Frank's father was a native born Missourian and was farmer all his life.  Frank spent his early days helping his father raise the crops of oats, wheat, barley, and corn.  He learned how to split rails, make shingles, fish, hunt, and trade furs.

From his father, Frank also learned the art of old-time fiddling.  Although Thomas Reed would never play out for dances or affairs, he would frequently play in his home with family, friends, or relatives.  Mattie Reed would join in on piano, pump organ, or accordion.  Frank also had several uncles on his mother's side of the family who were 5 string banjo players as well as fiddlers.  Some of Frank's earliest and fondest memories are of musical get togethers at home on long winter nights.

At the age of seven, Frank began to teach himself to play 5 string banjo.  At the age of nine, he started playing for square dances.  He bought himself a fiddle with money he earned by selling soap.  When he learned a few tunes well enough, his father got a better instrument for him, and the fiddle has been his main musical instrument ever since.

Frank modeled his fiddling after two people, his father and Clate Ransdale, a native of Moberly, Missouri, and a good friend of Thomas Reed.  Clate Ransdale would visit the Reed house and frequently play all night.  Frank was always close by watching everything he did and learning his tunes.

When Frank grew older, he left the farm and traveled extensively throughout the Middlewest for several years, working odd jobs and fiddling whenever the opportunity arose.  Over the years, Frank has played for a wide variety of audiences and situations.  He has played at private parties on the banks of the Kankakee River Chicago.  He has also played on radio stations.  Frank has also provided half-time musical entertainment for audiences at wrestling matches and, most recently, he has been playing for college students and other young people in the St. Louis area who are becoming interested in old-time fiddling.

Frank Reed is the father of seven children, grandfather of forty-two children, and great-grandfather of twenty-two children.  He is presently living with his third wife, Ann, in Overland, Missouri.  He has finally begun to settle down, but as long as he continues to play music, he will never grow old.  

- written by Jim Olin - December, 1976


  1. Knoxville Rag (Key of D)
    Frank learned this tune from a Kentucky fiddler by the name of Jim Campbell.  In the late 1920's and early 1930's, Jim Campbell played in Columbia, Missouri, at Radio Station KFRU.
  2. Cindy (Key of A)
    "Cindy" is one of the most popular and widespread fiddle tunes in the country today.  According to Frank, all the old-time fiddlers played it when he was a boy.
  3. Kentucky Blues (Key of D)
    This piece also comes from Jim Campbell.  I have not heard any other Missouri fiddlers play this one.
  4. Sailor's Waltz (Key of G)
    Frank learned this waltz in the early 1950's while living in Chicago from an Illinois fiddler named Bill Brown.  It is a favorite of Frank's wife, Ann, and one that Frank usually plays at fiddle contests.
  5. Rocky Road To Georgia (Key of D)
    According to Frank, this is another of the old-time tunes that all of the old fiddlers in Randolph County used to play.
  6. Fox Chase (Key of G)
    Frank learned this tune from Clate Ransdale of Moberly, Missouri.  Ransdale was an old-timer when Frank was just a boy.  His nickname was Peggy because he had a peg leg that he carved for himself.
  7. Mossy Bill (Key of G)
    Frank learned this tune from a black fiddler named Walt Dougherty who lived and died in Higbee, Missouri (Randolph County), years ago.  I'd wager that the original title was "Massa Bill."
  8. Darkie's Curley Hair (Key of C)
    Also from Clate Ransdale.
  9. Drunken Sailor (Key of G)
    This piece of music comes from Frank's Uncle Bob Specie.  Uncle Bob used to play in clawhammer or frailing style on the 5 string banjo and sing it while he played it.  Frank can also play this one on the banjo although he no longer remembers the words that used to go with it.
  10. My Darlin' Waltz (Key of G)
    Frank's mother played this piece on the accordion.
  11. Oklahoma (Key of C)
    Frank learned this tune from Rolly Polgue of Huntsville, Missouri.  Pogue moved to Oklahoma to homestead but did not stay.  When he returned home, he brought this tune with him.
  12. Devil's Dream (Key of A)
    This is another extremely popular tune that Frank's dad and all the other old-time fiddlers used to play.

"Frank is very ably assisted on this record by John Philbrick on guitar and Bill Thomas on banjo." 


You'll be taken to the Google Drive file location where you'll be able to download the high quality .WAV files.  This should go without saying, but here it is - these recordings are provided as an educational resource and a window into the past, do not use these for commercial purposes and ruin this for everyone.

I'd love to hear some feedback from y'all.  Email me HERE if you're so inclined.  

John P. Williams


  1. Frank Reed was my Great-great uncle. At family gatherings when I was a child, they would always play musical instruments, usually a banjo, harmonica and fiddle, and everyone would sing. A big portion of us still reside in the area.

    1. Frank Reed was my great grandfather! My grandmother,on my mom's side was his daughter. I can tell you he passed his love of music on!

  2. He was my Grandfather, I have many great memories of him. He was so talented.


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