Photo of Bill Driver, date unknown. Photo courtesy of Driver family.
William “Bill” Anderson Driver, Jr. is my 2nd great grandfather. He was known to be one of two African American traditional fiddlers of Central Missouri. He played at dances and competed in competitions (and won) during the 1920s to the 1940s. I first learned of Bill when I was starting my genealogy research on my family some years back. I remembered hearing about Bill and I vaguely (I might have imagined this) remember seeing him at our 1985 family reunion (I was 4 at the time), but I didn’t know his history. One night, I googled Bill Driver and surprisingly stumbled upon a fiddlers forum. I couldn’t believe that fiddlers and fiddle enthusiasts were discussing Bill’s music and technique. I quickly joined the forum and let the members know of my relation to Bill. In a way, they were introducing me to my great great grandfather. It was quite amazing!
The members told me stories about Bill and asked me questions about my family. One member from the forum emailed me some MP3s of Bill playing his fiddle. I had no idea they existed. I later discovered that the recordings were recorded by R.P. Christenson, a documenter of Missouri fiddling. He transcribed Bill’s music and recorded him playing on a wire recorder in the 1940’s. My great aunt has the actual 78 of all of Bill’s recordings.
Listening to my great great grandfather’s music felt like I had teleported and was sitting across from him on his front porch in Centertown, Mo. Being a musician myself, hearing him play validated my own passion. I was gaining a piece of myself! I was finally discovering his blood inside of me.
Check out a 1940’s recording of my great great grandpa, Bill Driver: “Iberia Breakdown”
Story from Raffeal Sears, @joeacollege
Read more here: He went searching for his roots, and found the most popular black fiddler in 1920s Missouri (Submitted by @joeacollege)
And listen to Episode 4 of our new podcast, Historically Black. You can download here on iTunes or wherever else you listen to podcasts.
Source: Washington Post