Ralph Blizard, renowned Tennessee fiddler, passed away December 3 at his home in Blountville, TN, two days shy of his 86th birthday. Ralph was a popular musician and a pioneering performer in the Tennessee/Virginia border region, forming his first band, the Southern Ramblers, in 1932. After more than 20 years, the group disbanded in the 1950s, and Ralph hung up his fiddle to work and raise a family. Retiring in 1980, Ralph returned to the fiddle and formed the New Southern Ramblers, enjoying another 20-plus years of performing, recording, and travel. He was a featured showcase performer at the 1991 Folk Alliance conference in Chicago. Ralph was known as an inspirational musician, both for his challenging
“Appalachian Mountain Longbow” fiddling style (as he called it) and for his
warm, ingratiating personality. He was a frequent guest and instructor at
workshops including the Swannanoa Gathering, Augusta Heritage Workshops,
Festival of American Fiddle Tunes (Port Townsend, WA), and elsewhere. He was
awarded the 2002 National Heritage Fellowship, the first Master Music Maker
Award from the Swannanoa Gathering, the Tennessee Governor’s Award for the Arts,
and many other honors.
Mostly, Ralph Blizard will be remembered as a kind, humble man, who had
boundless enthusiasm, untold energy, and a tremendous gift for making other
people feel comfortable and welcome. -John Lilly
[Obituary courtesy of the Folk Alliance].
[Editor’s note: the Swannanoa Gathering will establish a Youth Scholarship in his name and next year’s Old-Time Week will feature a special remembrance of Ralph.]