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Fiddler of the Opry - The Howdy Forrester Story The ONLY book on Howdy Forrester ever written ! Fiddler of the Opry, the Howdy Forrester Story contains 250+ pages, detailing the life of Big Howdy Forrester (1922-1987), the doyenne of Nashville fiddlers, and longest-running fiddler on the Grand Ole Opry. The book contains 9 chapters, all named for original Forrester compositions; the first eight tell the story of Howdy’s work and life, while the last chapter analyzes his music and his playing style. The information is substantiated with nearly 500 foot notes. The book opens with a Foreword by Robert Cogswell, Director of the Folk Life Division for the Tennessee State Arts Commission. Also included are lead- sheets from all 12 of the tunes on Howdy’s United Artist album, tunes he wrote himself, along with note-for-note transcriptions of ten other tunes and arrangements of Forrester. There are dozens of photographs portraying Howdy’s life, a discography of all the albums on which he played, and a substantial bibliography, clearly enough information and music to keep scholars busy and musicians playing for a long time to come. Available EXCLUSIVELY from ViewPoint Press !

Here’s a sample from the book

By now the school year had ended, and Joe Forrester had finished the 11th grade, which was all the formal schooling he was to receive. The Forrester family had no money so Joe quit school and began looking for a job to help support the family. Luckily, he didn't find one right away, because Herald Goodman had booked the band to go on a tour of east Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina.       Howard and Joe’s mother did not want them to go on the road. Howard was only 16, and Emmie feared for his safety, his sanity, and his health. She knew there would be many temptations out on the road, alcohol and loose women among them. But Herald Goodman reassured her, saying “I will take good care of your boys for you, as if they were my own sons.” And according to Joe, Herald made good on that promise, keeping them out of trouble and gainfully employed. For years after, he would introduce them to people as “his sons.”   They were in mining country for most of this tour, and John L. Lewis, President of the United Mine Workers, was king—or God, as the locals said. Lewis had just forced the mine owners to shore up the mines, which saved many miners’ lives. Herald Goodman was a big jokester and was always threatening to lampoon Lewis at one of their performances. This gave Arthur Smith fits, as he was sure Goodman was going to get them all killed! Fortunately, Goodman never carried out his threat. In any event, Arthur Smith was the “featured performer” in their group, doing the solo work. Howard played backup to Arthur. By this time, Herald Goodman, with his penchant for naming things, had changed Howard’s name to Howdy, and more specifically, Big Howdy. Howard never liked his new name much, but it stuck to him. Howard’s family continued to call him Howard, but to audiences across the country, he would become Big Howdy Forrester.   The band traveled in a 4-door 1937 black Chrysler Royal, with their name, Tennessee Valley Boys, painted on each door. Sometimes, when they stopped along the road to ask for directions, people seemed afraid to talk to them. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was young in those days, and Joe Forrester opined, “Maybe they thought that we were government men!” In any event, most of the time there were seven people plus instruments in that car, not very comfortable for a long trip.   The schedule Goodman worked out for them was daunting, and probably only their youth and their dreams of fame and fortune kept them going. According to Joe Forrester’s journal he kept, their itinerary for May was as follows:    Date / Location / Earnings May 5 Ritz Theatre, Livingston, TN $ 2.00 May 6 High School, Waynesboro, TN Expenses Only May 7 Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, TN $ 3.00 May 8 Allen Theatre, Liberty, KY $ 2.00 May 12 Highland Theatre, Kingsport, TN $ 3.00 May 13 Star Theatre, Salyersville, KY Expenses Only May 14 Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, TN $ 3.00 May 15 Strand Theatre, Dawson Springs, KY $ 3.00 May 16 Northcuts Core School, McMinnville $ 2.00 May 19 High School, Red Boiling Springs $ 2.50 May 20 School, Pelham, TN $ 0 May 21 Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, TN $ 1.00 May 22 Gate City Theatre, Catlettsburg $ 1.50 May 23 Gate City Theatre, Catlettsburg $ 1.50 May 27 Grand Theatre, Ironton, OH $ 0 May 28 Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, TN Monthly Total - $ 24.50 As Joe’s ledger book shows, the Tennessee Valley Boys could wander far from Nashville during the week, but they had to be back in town each Saturday night to play the Opry. The great entertainer Roy Acuff once said of the Opry: “I mean, once you got on [the Opry], you stayed. It was that simple. And you played every Saturday night, no matter where you went during the week; you got back to Nashville on Saturday night, and only a death in the family—say, your own—would excuse an absence.”
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