Bill Mitchell: High Level Fiddling
- Billy in the Low Ground
- High Level Hornpipe
- Ragtime Annie
- Katy Hill
- Blackberry Blossom
- Leather Britches
- Sally Goodin
- Fisher's Hornpipe
- Orange Blossom Special
- Sally Ann
- Down Yonder
- Sweet Bunch of Dasies
- Twinkle Little Star
- Missouri Waltz
- Turkey in the Straw
The red clay hills of Northeast Mississippi have produced many fine country musicians, Bill Mitchell included. Bill was born in 1928 near Tupelo, started fiddling at an extremely early age and won his first contest at the age of seven. Taking up the fiddle came quite naturally for him since his father, grandfather and great grandfather were old time fiddlers. Many a time Bill rode a mule with his fiddling uncle to square dances and box suppers when he was a boy.
As Bill grew up he started listening to fiddlers on the radio and began to get an idea of other styles. As a result he began developing a smoother style departing somewhat from the jig bow of the square dance fiddler. However, he retained the old time flavor in his playing. He lists fiddlers Tommy Magness, Arthur Smith, Mac McGar and Curly Fox as influential forces on his present mature style. Bill grew up with Merle (Red) Taylor who became one of the finest bluegrass fiddlers in the business and as boys they learned new tunes and improved on the ones they already knew, working out new licks and improvisations together. They played against each other at local contests and school socials during their formative years. They have remained fast friends over the years and still jam together frequently “turning each other on.” The excellent twin fiddling of Bill and Red on the album is an example of this.
During the 1940’s and 1950’s when old time fiddling was on the wane, Bill never laid his fiddle down as did the majority of his contemporaries. He still played at every opportunity and as a Tupelo city policeman, he entertained civic groups and formed jam sessions whenever he could, thereby keeping fiddling alive in his area. When interest in the art reawakened in the early 1960’s Bill was ready with a sharp skill and definite style. Contests reappeared on the scene and he swept most of them clean of first prizes.
Then he began to travel afar in search of new conquests, eventually arriving at the big annual National contest at Weiser, Idaho. There he was runner up to the National champions in 1965 and 1966 in that important event. In 1967 he was adjudged the “Tennessee Valley Fiddle King” at the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Association’s first annual meet in Athens, Alabama.
Early in 1967 Bill joined the Doc Williams show at WWVA in Wheeling. West Virginia as a featured performer and toured Canada and the Northeast for seven months. It was during this period that he was exposed to Canadian fiddling which he liked and its influence can be heard in this album. Bill is a well known and respected musician in Nashville and has made guest appearances on the Grand Ole Opry. He was invited to the 1974 Smithsonian Folklife Festival taking with him a group of North Mississippi old time musicians.
Bill ran for sheriff of Lee County in the latter part of 1967 and campaigned with his fiddle from innumerable flat bed trucks and tiny courthouse squares. He won his bid in a landslide and became known as the “fiddling sheriff”. During his unsuccessful bid for re-election in 1971 he had a call one day from an old friend in Nashville. Roy Acuff wanted to know if he needed some help in his campaign. Bill replied that he did and, as a favor, Acuff brought his entire troupe down to Tupelo and appeared at the Fairgrounds in his behalf.
Bill remains very active musically, attending and competing in many contests. He is also nationally known as an expert fiddling judge and he has served in that capacity at many major contests including the National contest at Weiser. He continues to live in Tupelo and currently works in the Mississippi State Revenue Department.
The fine bluegrass accompaniment to Bill Mitchell’s and Red Taylor’s fiddling is composed of Doug Cole on rhythm guitar, Robert Bowen, banjo with Red Taylor and Robert Bowen filling in on bass and mandolin respectively. This album was originally released in 1967 on the Trace label.
Merle (Red) Taylor was born in Saltillo near Tupelo, Mississippi in 1927. He started playing the fiddle when he was nine being tutored by his father and grandfather who numbered among the best old time fiddlers in the area. He entered into the professional ranks of country music in 1948 when he joined Paul Howard. He later worked with Cowboy Copas, Jimmy Dickens and was a member of Hank Williams band when Williams died.
But Merle regards his stint with Bill Monroe as the most creative in his entire career. He recorded such Monroe classics as Blue Moon of Kentucky, Little Georgia Rose and Put My Little Shoes Away. He wrote the fiddle parts to Monroe’s famous Uncle Pen, Wheel Hoss, Cheyenne and Rawhide. Merle quit the road in 1958 and returned to Tupelo where he is a songwriter.