Remembering Cleo Persinger Workshop w/ Charlie Walden
Saturday, March 31, 2018 | 12-2pm
Folk School, 3323 Washington Ave
Cleo Persinger was a contest and dance fiddler from the Missouri hamlet of Midway just west of Columbia. He was one of the giants of Mid-Missouri fiddlers. Accompanied by his partner Lillian on guitar, he went have gone head-to- head at fiddle contests in the 50s & 60s with the likes of Taylor McBaine, Pete McMahan and Jake Hockemeyer. In 1964 he took the “big enchilada” out in Weiser, Idaho, at the National Old-Time Fiddlers Contest. He was one of only two Missourians to ever snare this prize (the other was Cyril Stinnett of Oregon, MO).
Cleo played with a heavy bow and got a big sound. It’s rumored if you wanted to sell someone a less that great fiddle you’d be well served to take Cleo along as he could make any fiddle bellow like a calf. Melodically speaking, he was free-wheeling and there was an unmistakable intensity to his playing.
Now I never actually met Cleo. He had passed away a few years before I started fiddling. I did develop a friendship with his guitarist widow, Lillian, and once made a home recording of his tunes wherein I attempted to “channel” Cleo while she played her guitar.
Cleo was a recurring topic of conversation among the old fiddlers around Columbia who told a lot of stories about him. They also shared their old reel-to- reel recordings of him with me and other of the young Turks of Mid-Missouri fiddling at the time.
I’ll walk you through some of Cleo’s best hoe-downs and waltzes and we’ll listen to some old recordings of him from my “archive”. Everyone in attendance will get a CD of his tunes from home field recordings made in the 1960s, which I’ve collected from various sources.
About Charlie Walden
Charlie Walden has been called the major Missouri fiddle stylist of his generation. He learned his craft directly from the great Missouri fiddlers of the previous generation and cut his teeth at fiddle contests and square dances all over the state. His playing emphasizes clean noting, is highly melodic and uses a direct and driving approach to bowing to generate rhythm for dancing. Charlie’s latest “claim to fame” is to have been the last fiddler standing at the Pembroke, ON, Pure Laine competition, not once, but twice, and the only non-Canadian fiddler ever to finish.
Charlie will be ably assisted by his partner in music and life Patt Plunkett on keyboard. Patt is the “real” musician of the two. She has a master’s degree in vocal performance (that’s opera singing, by the way) and taught general music in Illinois public schools for almost 30 years. But traditional music is her real love having grown up hearing her grandfather playing the fiddle in rural Illinois. She’s led ceili bands, called square dances and accompanied fiddlers in contests, jam session and at dances.
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