Biography:Sam McCracken

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Sam McCracken

 Given name:     Samuel "Sam"
 Middle name:     
 Family name:     McCracken
 Place of birth:     Elkmont, Alabama
 Place of death:     Elkmont, Alabama
 Year of birth:     1888
 Year of death:     1972
 Profile:     Musician
 Source of information:

Biographical notes

"Mr. Sam" is considered the "spiritual father" of the Tennessee Valley Old-Time Fiddlers Convention He was the 1971 Tennessee Valley senior champion. He played an archaic version of "The Eighth of January," and his trademark tune, "Chuck-a Luck." The latter was later recorded by renowned bluegrass fiddler Kenny Baker, who, like many other musicians, visited Mr. Sam in his Elkmont home and learned a few old tunes. The Library of Congress has a file containing 20 fiddle tunes played by "Fiddlin' Sam" McCracken.

In the mid 1960's, it was discovered that a few old time fiddlers in the county had dusted off their instruments and were playing mostly for each other in the privacy of their homes. One of these gathering places was a few miles north of Athens at Sam McCracken's Elk River home on state highway 99. McCracken, who was born in 1888 and who died in 1972, was a master old time fiddler whose archaic style developed long before the advent of the radio and phonographs and never changed. He is represented in the Archive of Folk Music in the Library of Congress with twenty of his tunes played when he was in his eighties. This courtly old gentleman who had ceased to play his fiddle for more than two decades started to play again and found his skill swiftly returning. It was here at the Friday night fiddling in Mr. Sam's big living room that Mike Wallis, Ed Christopher, Bob Holland and Bill Harrison and others began to regularly attend and the gathering began to grow and interest to rekindle. Inspired by the skill and enthusiasm of the old fiddlers such as Lester Beck, Paisley Hagood, Dennis McGlocklin, Bill Owens, Rob Garris, and especially the rollicking and driving old time style of Mr. Sam, we began discussing the possibility of organizing a small scale fiddlers contest somewhere in the county just to see what would happen. Thus, the Tennessee Valley Old Time Fiddlers Convention was born in Sam McCracken's living room and he is the spiritual father. An abandoned schoolhouse in the Pleasant Point community a few miles west of Athens was mentioned as a possibility to hold this first contest. The community was attempting to raise money to repair the building for a community-meeting place. The community leaders were approached, an agreement was reached, and the plan was finalized. In the late summer of 1966 the first bellwether contest was held at the tiny old Pleasant Point schoolhouse. With only word of mouth promotion, there were more people than seats and the crowd overflowed into the schoolhouse yard.