By Robert C. Byrd
Most Americans know Robert C. Byrd as the distinguished longest-serving member of the Senate. Those who have had the opportunity to hear him play and sing know that he is also a fine musician. The collection of songs on this CD represents the wide repertoire of fiddle tunes from the heart of West Virginia from traditional mountain tunes to Gospel. Songs include: Turkey in the Straw, Roving Gambler and Will the Circle Be Unbroken.
Well known as the longest serving member of the U.S. Senate, the late Robert C. Byrd had another fascinating side: a love of fiddling that he acquired at an early age growing up in the mountains of West Virginia. Originally influenced by Clark Kessinger and other great musicians in his home state, he had a lifelong passion for old-time rural string music and usually kept a fiddle in his office for moments of relaxation amidst a very heavy legislative workload which included an 11 year stint as U.S. Senate Majority leader in the late 1970's and most of the 1980's.
In 1977, after recording some fiddle tunes for the Library of Congress, the Senator was persuaded to make a commercial recording of some of his music. Producer Barry Poss (later to become founder and president of Sugar Hill Records) brought in three members of the popular Bluegrass band the Country Gentlemen to provide backing for Byrd - Doyle Lawson on guitar, James Bailey on banjo, and Spider Gilliam on bass fiddle. The record which originally appeared as a long-play album - came out as County 769 and was well received.
The Senator and his record received a considerable amount of immediate publicity, leading to interviews with famed newscasters Bob Schieffer and Roger Mudd, as well as gaining nationwide exposure as an honored guest of Roy Acuff on the Grand Ole Opry among other noteworthy appearances. This current CD release includes all 14 of the songs and tunes that appeared on the original "Mountain Fiddler" LP, plus the addition of notes by producer Barry Poss and Alan Jabbour, the director of the American Folklife Center, who was instrumental in getting Senator Byrd recorded.