The Old Country Fiddler
At right is a scan from a photocopy of a 1927 issue of The Vermonter—"The State Magazine"—which featured a lengthy story about Charles Ross Taggart, my maternal grandfather—"Grandpa" to me. The caption under the photo reads, "The Old Country Fiddler Hears His Own Voice." (The title "Going Thro Hell and High Water" refers to another story about a serious flood the region had experienced, as noted at the bottom.)
He made several records for Victor, or Victrola, plus a few for Columbia and I gather a couple of others. I have most of them somewhere, I believe. In the 1960s my brother and I had several of them taped for a set of LPs that we distributed among family members; I don't know what's happened to them, either, though I have the tapes (reel-to-reel), and may have one set of the LPs in my collection, if I can find it. I've sebsequently found a number of MP3s of the originals online, including a few on YouTube.
The caption reads, "'The Man from Vermont' in his back yard at Elmbank trying out a jig-tune." This picture, also scanned from the same photocopied article as the above, would have been taken about 10 years before I was born, and while I did eventually get to see from the street the to-me legendary house called Elm Bank, in Newbury, Vermont, while in my mid-teens, it had long been sold and occupied by a new family.
|Here is my grandfather in front of his beloved home, ElmBank, in Newbury, VT, on his last visit in 1953. He passed away on July 4 of that year, in Kents Hill, ME.|
Some portions of these performances are available on You Tube, such as this video clip which brings to modern audiences a routine my grandfather did for Lee DeForest's PhonoFilm shorts in the 1920s.
Mr. Boyce found a version of this page early in his researches, and I was able to help him track some of the information and provide some recollections. He also was instrumental (no pun intended) in getting a day proclaimed in my grandfather's name in Vermont, and historical markers placed at Elm Bank in Newbury and at the town hall in Topsham, where Charles Ross Tagart first appeared as an entertainer.
Adam Boyce has written a biography of my grandfather, titled The Man From Vermont. It has a lot more information about Charles Ross Taggart's life and background, with many photos, some of his poems (he was a real fan of the style of Longfellow's Song of Hiawatha) and transcriptions of some of his monologues. I wrote a preface for it as well, which I had also recorded for Mr. Boyce to use in connection with his Living History presentations on occasion.
For more information about the book, or if you'd like to get it (please do! It's definitely a picture of an era you're unlikely to find elsewhere!), click on the cover shot.