Lonnie Robertson - His Unheard Recordings
Lonnie was born on the family farm at Longrun, in the green folds of Taney County, some fifty miles southeast of Springfield and near the Arkansas line. The Robertson family in Missouri began with Lonnie’s grandfather coming from Georgia to Webster County in 1860. He began learning guitar as a child from local dance musicians and played for square dances and house parties. Lonnie began playing fiddle at thirteen when he inherited his father Jarrett's violin and began picking up tunes from radio broadcasts and records as well as participating in jam sessions and fiddling for dances. Born on January 8, Lonnie enjoyed fiddling the ironclad American square dance tune, "The Eighth of January," every year on his birthday. Lonnie's first fiddle tunes were the big breakdowns for square dancing that every fiddler is expected to be able to play -- “Arkansas Traveler,” “Tennessee Wagoner,” and “Soldier’s Joy.” He also learned to play tunes from his father in "dischord" (scordatura, cross-tuning), such as “Arkansas Traveler,” “Fisher’s Hornpipe,” “Drunkard’s Hiccups,” “Cluck Old Hen,” “Dry and Dusty,” “and “Cotton-Eyed Joe.”
Robertson's old-time square dance repertoire was vast and
varied, and an important feature of his musical life, typical of most old-time fiddlers of his
generation, is that he embraced a variety of styles and genres, from Jazz Age rags and foxtrots
and the old-time square dances and waltzes of his youth, and the emerging genres of western
swing and bluegrass music in the 1940s and 1950s.
Collector-scholar R.P. Christeson, who published two landmark books of fiddle tunes,
considered Lonnie Robertson "the best Missouri fiddler I ever heard." Historian Charles Wolfe
wrote that, for many people in south Missouri, “the name Lonnie Robertson has become
synonymous with old-time fiddling.” Robertson is among the most-documented and recorded
Midwest fiddlers, featured in Drew Beisswenger and Gordon McCann’s Ozarks Fiddle Music
(Mel Bay Publications, 2008), Howard Marshall's Fiddler's Dream (University of Missouri Press,
2012), and other publications. Christeson said of Robertson: “He knew an inordinate number of
good tunes, could play them all well, and probably took more tunes to the cemetery than any
other Missouri fiddler.” When I recorded Lonnie Robertson at his home in Springfield for the
Smithsonian Institution in 1975, he was in his prime and performing in festivals and making
records. His favorite venue remained the "music party" (jam session) with friends in the comfort
and conviviality of a front parlor, porch, or kitchen."
- Cited from this online post about Missouri fiddling HERE.
I think this music should be accessible to anyone and everyone interested, so I've compiled 20 tunes that Lonnie never released on his Caney Mountain Records nor was released by Rounder on "Lonnie's Breakdown" available here.
As the "Dean of Missouri Fiddling" stated in his book, "The Old-Time Fiddler's Repertory", Lonnie probably took more tunes to the cemetery than any other Missouri fiddler. Here's hoping these 20 tune selections get passed around and keep the Lonnie Robertson legacy alive.