Liner Notes

MYLLIE BARRON: FIDDLER ON THE LOOSE

VRCD 331

Myllie Barron was born in 1910 and grew up in the Swan River Valley district of Manitoba. His father, Oliver Barron, repaired instruments, and when he finished repairing and tuning one, would play a few tunes. Myllie says “I thought it was the most beautiful, sweetest sound I ever heard.” Oliver played jigs, reels, waltzes, polkas, and schottisches on the fiddle at dances in the school house or community hall, and for weddings, anniversaries, and parties. Myllie started playing at around age nine. He did not have a fiddle then, but played on instruments belonging to friends.

When he was 16 years old, he sent for a set of 48 lessons from the Slingerland School of Music in Chicago, which included a free violin. He says “I nearly drove my folks crazy. Being in a family of 10, it was a job to do any practicing, so I did my music practicing after all had retired for the night. I did hear a few remarks now and then, like, ‘that boy is going out of his mind, we talk to him and he doesn’t answer. He should stop that nonsense and go to bed.’” In 1928 he bought a violin for $75 from the T. Eaton Company in Winnipeg.

His brother Percy played Hawaiian guitar, brother Phil played Spanish style guitar, and younger brother Dave played the banjo. In 1935 Myllie and Percy played for 8 months on the radio in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. In 1938 and 1939 all four brothers had a weekly radio program on CFAR in Flin Flon, Manitoba. His son Ray, then age 4, was the vocalist.

In 1949 Myllie entered his first fiddle contest. The contest was broadcast on CKY radio in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on the “Red River Barn Dance.” He played Angus Campbell’s Reel and Sterling Castle, and won. In 1950 he won the Manitoba fiddle championship in Winnipeg.

Myllie then moved to British Columbia and worked in construction. He gave up fiddling until 1977, when he moved to 70 Mile House, B.C., and started fiddling again. He won the senior class in a fiddle contest in Rutland, B.C., and in 1981 won the British Columbia Provincial Championship at Williams Lake. In 1982 he won the U.S.A. Western Regional Seniors Championship at Spokane, Washington, and also was the Grand National Senior Champion at the National Oldtime Fiddlers’ Contest in Weiser, Idaho.

Myllie’s hobby is hand-crafting fiddles, and he is currently working on number forty-five.

He learned tunes first from his father, and then from other musicians at dances, concerts, and other events. Don Messer, who had a long running radio program in Canada, was a major influence. He also learned tunes from books such as The Robbins Collection of 200 Jigs, Reels and Country Dances, the Harding Collection of Jigs, Reels and Country Dances, Cole’s One Thousand Fiddle Tunes, and the Don Messer Anthology of Favorite Fiddle Tunes. Myllie adds his own interpretation, variations, and sparkle to the tunes he has learned from these books.

1. Farewell to Erin - a traditional Irish reel found in Cole’s.
2. Vals Italiano - Myllie’s friend Bill Blowie, who played the mandolin, ordered the music from Italy.
3. Buttermilk Mary Jig - a traditional Irish tune also in Cole’s.
4. Erie Hornpipe - an American hornpipe found in Cole’s.
5. Wood Lake Waltz - written by Bob Montgomery, many times Western Canadian fiddling champion.
6. Angus Campbell - a classic reel written by Scottish composer and fiddle virtuoso J. Scott Skinner.
7. Myllie’s Own Jig - written by Myllie.
8. Shannon Waltz - a traditional waltz well known to fiddlers in the U.S. and Canada.
9. Bonnie Kate - a reel found in Cole’s and well known in the British Isles and North America.
10. Buckley’s Reel - in Cole’s under the title Buckley’s Favorite.
11. Tina’s Schottische - written by Alfred Bernowich, a Serbian-born musician whom Myllie knew in Flin Flon, and named after Alfred’s daughter.
12. Blanche’s Reel - written by Myllie and named for his wife, who was an excellent step dancer.
13. Orvetta Waltz - written by E. B. Spencer and published in Boston in 1892.
14. Village Hornpipe - an American hornpipe found in Cole’s.
15. Light & Airy Jig - a Scottish jig found in many fiddle tune collections.
16. Goodbye Sweetheart - an American reel found in Cole’s.

Recorded at Voyager Recordings studio in Seattle, Washington, August, 1982, Dave Huber, recording engineer. Cover photo by Lenore Barron. Produced by Phil and Vivian Williams. Production assistance by Ray and Audrey Barron.
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