Monday, March 20, 2017

"My Great Grandfather was a Minnesota Fiddler"

I was playing a show the other night and was told by someone that their great grandfather was a Minnesota fiddler- A hardanger player to boot!  This led to a conversation about the old man back in the day.  Eric Simpkins was kind enough to set me up with his father, Dave, who shared some stories and a wonderful picture-

" Here is a picture of my grandfather Clarence Olson taken when he was 18 year old living on the family farm near Vining, Mn. His uncle Little Knute was a traveling fiddler. He told my grandfather he would give him a very nice fiddle if he would play with him.  Grandpa jumped at the chance. BUT, they would go into a town setting up gigs at local churches and saloons. The uncle would get drunk playing in the saloon and grandpa had to play in the churches.  That wouldn’t have been too bad but they also had to share a bed and the guy had fleas. Grandpa said “da heck with dat” the uncle could play by himself.

When grandpa was learning how to play the fiddle he would climb up the windmill to practice so everyone in the valley could hear him play.

Grandpa’s farm was one of the favorite stops for the music salmon. He had what he called a combo of him and three of his daughters that played in churches and at weddings. My mother remembers them practicing in the living room on cold winter nights or under an oak tree in the summer.

Grandpa’s favorite tunes to play were waltzes. We would listen to the Lawrence Welk Show in the 1960 and he would wave hand or roll his figures or tap his foot to the music. When he was feeling good he’d sing, “Tee yunka tee, yunka tee, yunka tee."

Grandpa played at the Sons of Norway in Vining. He was playing on the edge of the stage when it collapsed and he fell to the floor without loosing the beat. The Vining Sons of Norway Hall is gone now but I know there is one in Lanesboro where there were many dances. "


  1. Very neat! The picture appears to show him playing a hardanger fiddle. My great grandfather...Ole Napper....also was in the Minnesota area playing that instrument. He was considered one of Norway's finest musical treasures.

  2. Cool Gene! Do you have any old photos or stories you want to share?