Monday, August 29, 2011

Dan Radford

Dan Radford has been playing fiddle for 75 years. He has been in symphonies, bluegrass bands, and Irish bands. He was lucky to have a symphony teacher who took him under his wing and taught him how to play. He then joined the army where he grew to appreciate hillbilly music but had no fiddle. He had his father carefully mail his fiddle, but when it arrived at the base it was in pieces. When he got it properly repaired he started playing with folks on the base, and he said they made some great music back then.

He has been in the same Irish band for 42 years. They have played all over the country, and he has won 1st place in many contests. Now that he is in his 80's he takes particular pride in talking about the young fiddlers he has mentored. He still enters contests but his hearing issues have made it so he doesn't place much any more. He really likes to tell stories of old days at the Yankton, South Dakota and Cotton, Minnesota festivals.

Dan Radford and Paul Andrews playing Ashokan Farewell at the 1994 fiddle contest in Yankton, South Dakota.

The house he built for he and his wife Orpha is one of the most beautiful open homes I have ever been in. It took him 3 months just to build his rock chimney that must be 30 feet high. One of his last construction projects was to build that 5,000 square foot house in Inver Grove Heights. Within moments of Orpha letting us in the door, he is showing us all the details of his house with great pride. He says he built the house by himself with the help of three other people. Their beautiful basement has a wonderful old bar that they reclaimed out of another building he was doing work in. Their beautiful music room is big enough to seat 44 guests for Christmas dinner. His wife of more than 25 years talked about how it gets harder to hold Christmas gatherings now that their extended family has hit 100.

Orpha is obviously very proud of what Dan has accomplished in fiddling and in construction. There are the fiddle trophies on the wall to prove it. She has organized a lot of old Minnesota tapes of fiddlers and fiddle contests. She has graciously let me digitalize a large part of this collection and I will be sharing a portion of it with all of you as time progresses.

Even though they live in the suburbs of Saint Paul, their home in Inver Grove Heights is in the middle of some beautiful country- hills and trees everywhere. As we left a giant falcon flew down in front of us and ripped a rodent out of a tree. Just the kind of setting you would expect to find a good fiddler.

You can buy some of Dan's Irish CD's at this website.

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