I have been playing traditional old-time fiddle music for over forty years now, most of that time with my current band, Uncle Henry's Favorites. We perform at concerts, dances, and festivals and have appeared on the public radio program "A Prairie Home Companion."
While I play a lot of traditional music learned from other contemporary players and from recordings of older players, particularly from Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky and North Carolina, I have for many years also been interested in writing tunes myself. From about 1977, I have been making tunes up and recording them so that I did not lose them. By 2004, I found that I had enough material to put together a CD, and that year I recorded Turkey Sag with Uncle Henry's Favorites, Rick Epping, Jimbo Cary, and my wife, Barbara Payne. Road to Malvern, Turkey Sag, Halfway Pond and some of the other tunes from that recording generated enough interest to encourage me to stick with it, and in 2014, I released a new collection of original fiddle tunes called Free Union, this time with Uncle Henry's Favorites, Arnie Naiman and Barbara.
I have thought about the incongruity of writing new old-time fiddle tunes. Traditional tunes have been passed down and molded into music that by definition has withstood the test of time. Just as in the natural world, there is an evolutionary process by which weak tunes fade from the scene and good tunes survive, because fiddlers do or do not want to play them. Perhaps the versions we hear today are greatly changed from the originals, but those tunes had to start somewhere. I cannot claim that my tunes are "authentic" in any way or represent any style of playing other than my own. If people like them and want to play them, that seems like enough.
I have heard many other people play tunes I have written, both in person and on recordings, and it is fascinating to hear each person interpret a tune in a slightly different way. The folk process is both inexorable and surprisingly fast. This seems good to me. I am happy to launch them and let them go where they will.