Celebrated folk music fiddler Violet Hensley and actor, writer and musician Randall Franks have co-authored Hensley’s new autobiography. “Whittlin’ and Fiddlin’ My Own Way: The Violet Hensley Story” reveals nearly a century of experiences through the eyes of Silver Dollar City (a theme park in the state of Missouri) personality Violet Hensley.
“I never thought I would be writing about my life, my music and my fiddle makin’,” said Hensley. “I could have never dreamed coming from a farm in the backwoods of Arkansas that the things I learned on that farm would make me a TV personality and gain me fame around the world.”
The Arkansas Living Treasure Award winner from Yellville, Arkansas learned to play fiddle in 1928 and make fiddles watching her father George W. Brumley in the community of Alamo, Arkansas in 1932.
She is now entertaining Silver Dollar City visitors for her 47th year and will appear through October 26, 2014. Hensley will mark her 98th birthday during the final week of the National Cowboy and Harvest Festival at Silver Dollar City.
Hensley joined in a three-year effort with award-winning journalist and author Randall Franks, “Officer Randy Goode,” from TV’s “In the Heat of the Night,” to complete her memoir. Franks is a champion fiddler who performed with numerous legends including Bill Monroe and Jim and Jesse and guest starred for the Grand Ole Opry for many years.
“It was an amazing experience to work with Violet weekly to refine the experiences from her life and compile a book which not only reflects what many rural families endured in America in the 20th century but what was most unique about Violet as she grew artistically, to find folk music stardom at nearly 50,” indicated Franks. He said that Hensley raised a family of nine with her late husband Adren while he moved the family from town to town and state to state.
“With the advent of the folk music revival, Violet’s blossoming musical and fiddle-making talents, caught the attention of Grammy winner Jimmy Driftwood and the owners of Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri,” he said. “She joined the crafter’s cast at Silver Dollar City in 1967, becoming part of the City’s celebrities who used radio, television, and newspapers to invite visitors to the amusement park.”
Peter Herschend, Herschend Family Entertainment co-founder and owner, said Violet is one of the City’s most unique citizens. “In the early years of Silver Dollar City, Violet, Don Richardson and I, along with an interesting assortment of the City’s colorful characters, would spend weeks on the road together…all devoted to promoting SDC,” he said. “I came to know Violet for the amazing wonderful woman that she is. She would amaze us with stories of field plowing with her mules. Then a new Violet would seem to appear when she would sit for an interview with some grizzled reporter (reporters who probably didn’t believe she was real), and she would proceed to win them over with her charm, her skills as an artist, and her talent as a musician.”
Sharing her talents in front of millions, Hensley became one of the first female fiddlers to reach a large international audience appearing at the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife, festivals, colleges, and on numerous local, regional and national television and radio shows such as “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Captain Kangaroo,” and “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee.” according to Franks.
“I hope folks will enjoy getting a glimpse at what my near century on this world has been,” said Hensley. “It’s been a hoot so far and what’s even better is while the book is written – the story continues. I hope folks will join me for what is yet to come, they can start by reading the book.”
The 258-page soft cover book from Peach Picked Publishing includes 145 photos.
Author: Angel Romero
Angel Romero y Ruiz has been writing about world music and progressive music for many years. He founded the websites worldmusiccentral.org and musicasdelmundo.com. Angel produced several specials for Metropolis (TVE) and co-produced “Musica NA”, a music show for Televisión Española (TVE) in Spain that featured an eclectic mix of world music, fusion, electronica, new age and contemporary classical music. Angel also produced and remastered world music and electronic music albums, compilations and boxed sets for Alula Records, Ellipsis Arts, Music of the World, Lektronic Soundscapes, and Mindchild Records. Angel is currently based in Durham, North Carolina.