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Clifford Hardesty Fiddle Maker

     1921 - 2008

I want to once again thank The Ohio Arts Council and everyone involved for allowing grants that help me pass on the tradition of building the violin. Among them are my grandson, Jeremy Timmons, and most recently William Arnold from West Lafayette, Ohio. I have taken two years' vacation from applying for any grants for other reasons. ..I just felt that I could not do enough to support the grant. While writing this, I am pleased to have been asked to take a part in MUSIC AT HAND, to be held in downtown Dayton, June 15-17, 2001. I also want to thank Cityfolk, Tim Lloyd, Judy Sacks, and anyone who is involved with this year's celebration.       Clifford Hardesty, - Fiddle Maker

   I was born in Coshocton County, Ohio, in the year 1921. My father, John Hardesty, was a coal miner, farmer and blacksmith; if he had to have something, and he could make it, he did just that. My father was also a pretty good carpenter, and could work with wood. I believe that is where I may have learned a lot of what it takes to have learned to build the violin. I grew up on the old farm of 87 acres, where I helped work and raise most of our living from the ground. I might add that I always seemed to be in my Dad's way when he was doing a job; I always wanted to be a part of it, learning what it takes to work with one's hands.

   I was one of five brothers and four sisters, most of whom grew up on the same old farm. My mother, whose name was Florence, kept care of the house and helped in the fields and garden, milking the cows and, of course, doing most of the cooking to feed all who lived in the Hardesty house. I remember part of the time around our house there were sixteen people around our kitchen table (some table) and we all had plenty to eat.

   My first six years of school were spent in a one-room schoolhouse called The Powell's School. I was then sent to Fresno, Ohio, where I attended The White Eyes Rural Grade and High School. Here I went through the twelfth grade and graduated in 1940 in a class of 13: eight girls and five boys. There are still at this date 12 of us remaining - quite an honor. From this graduating class, there were farmers, railroaders, grocery store operators, preachers, housewives, and, of course, last but not least, a fiddle player and violin maker.

   I learned to play the fiddle in 1931 on my older brother's fiddle. The first tune that I played was Red River Valley, after grasping that, I learned two others: Coming 'Round The Mountain and Can I Sleep In Your Barn Tonight, Mister?

   After graduating from High School, I did a lot of work helping to operate the old farm for my father before he passed away in 1942.1 lived on with my mother until later, when she sold the farm to one of my older brothers. My first job for myself was hauling coal, lime, and anything else that I possibly could in my 1939 Chevrolet truck. After that, I went into the gasoline hauling business, driving a tank wagon hauling gasoline and fuel until 1961. I then leased a Service Station in West Lafayette, Ohio, which I ran until 1974. After selling out, myself, my wife, Lela, and my two daughters, Mary and Cindy, moved onto a half acre of ground near West Lafayette, Ohio, where we lived until fall of 1999, when Lela and I moved to Canal Lewisville, Ohio, near Roscoe Village and Coshocton, Ohio. I have set up a new violin shop within my garage on the back of our house, which is located at 106 Jackson Street, Coshocton, Ohio.

   In 1973, I made my first fiddle, and to date I have completed 142 fiddles, including three violas. I might add that I am a self-taught violin maker as well as a fiddle player. In 1973, I purchased the book How To Build Your Own Violin, by Leroy Geiger, one of the last in print. From this book, I read and followed instructions on how I could build my first violin. Most of my fiddles are made of Curly Maple for the back, side bouts and neck; the top, or sound board, is made of spruce or cedar. I have used native maple as well as European wood, which I purchased from supply houses.

   I believe I have already said enough about my life and making the violin, so I will make this my conclusion, and make my next report on some of my affiliations and exposures. My affiliations are the F. & A. M. of Ohio; Plainfield Lodge #224; Life Member American Legion of Ohio Post #466 West Lafayette, Ohio; Amvets Post 36, Coshocton, Ohio; retired Member of A. F. of Musicians, Local No. 404, Dover, Ohio; and Member Loyal Order of Moose Lodge 1337, Newcomerstown, Ohio.

   I helped on the following recordings: Touch of Grass, produced by Len Shryock, Canton, Ohio; Seems Like Romance To Me, Traditional Fiddle Tunes From Ohio, which was made possible by grants from The Ohio Arts Council/Ohio Humanities Council Joint Program and The National Endowment for The Arts, project direction and field recording by Howard Sacks and Jeff Gohring. My own cassette recording, Clifford Hardesty: Ohio's Master Fiddler (Volume 1.) is available from the address below. I was also a part of The White Eyes Township Music Club, and Traditional Music In Southeastern Ohio, produced by the National Endowment For The Arts, project director David Taylor. The many demonstrations of my craft include Festival Of American Folklife at Washington, D. C. in 1988; Gambier Folk Festival at Gambier, Ohio; Old Worthington Folklife, Worthington, Ohio; Kent State Folk Festival; National Folk Festival, Akron, Ohio; National Folk Festival, Dayton, Ohio; City Folk Festival, Dayton, Ohio; Hale Farm and Village; and Cuyahoga Valley Folk Festival, to mention a few.

Thank you for your time.