Biography:Manon Campbell

Find traditional instrumental music

MANON CAMPBELL. 1890-1987, Linefork, Hallie, Letcher County, southeast Kentucky, near the border with Virginia, who was from an old established family of Scotch settlers who came to the region in 1809. Campbell's first instrument was a gourd banjo. He learned tunes from his father’s sister, “Viney” Lusk and her son, “Dandy” Lusk and Will Christian (born c. 1872), an older African-American fiddler and a contemporary of Manon's father who had a reputation as a dance fiddler. In 1920 Christian was living in adjacent Knott County, where black banjo player Cullie Williams also resided. Campbell was recorded by several collectors: Mark Wilson in 1973, and Bruce Greene and John Harrod later in the decade; Wilson had been directed to Campbell by Roscoe Holcomb, who described him as "the best fiddler around here." When Wilson arrived at his house there was a birthday party going of for his granddaughter, and the recordist thought it prudent not to intrude too much, but he did record a few tunes from Campbell on a cassette recorder, before thoughtfully withdrawing. Unfortunately, Wilson did not find the time to return to record Campbell more extensively. Harrod characterizes Campbell's playing as the "dive and duck" style of old southeastern Kentucky, which Wilson observes can be found on the Lomax fiddle recordings from the region. Wilson writes that is is different from the styles of the northeastern part of the state, "and it is intriguing that Manon credits it all tho the radiating influence of a single African-American musician named Will Christian" [1] Campbell apparently preferred to dampen the sound of his fiddle with a clothespin; he used it when Wilson visited, and again when Harrod recorded him a few years later.

  1. Liner notes to Musical Traditions MTCD341-2 and MTCD343-4, "Meeting's a Pleasure, vol. 3 & 4." (2007).