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Fiddler Earl White finds his footing in Floyd

Floyd County musician Earl White
Randy Walker
Floyd County musician Earl White

Earl White represents something of an anomaly. He’s one of a very few Black old-time fiddlers, living and performing in the Floyd area.

He was once a full-time ‘starving clogger’, part of the Green Grass Cloggers in the early 1970’s. He had dropped out of college to dance full time.

The Cloggers started performing at bluegrass festivals, including the Old Fiddler’s Convention in Galax. It was then the group became exposed to ‘old time’ music, and members of the ensemble started accompanying themselves.

“I call (old time music) the music of the people, who played who played basically for their own personal enjoyment,” White said. “It was the music that was more closely associated with Scottish Irish music, and coming from Appalachia, where you had a people of Scottish Irish descent.”

In an interview for the online journal Cardinal News, freelancer Randy Walker says White has always found a way to pursue his passion, even while working as a respiratory therapist.

“When I got that fiddle, it basically became appendage,” White said. “Every opportunity I had to play, I played it.”

Earl White
Earl White Stringband

White’s passion nearly got him in some trouble while driving from New York to Virginia on Interstate 81.

He was playing his long-bow fiddle while driving, practicing with the tune on the radio (and steering with his knees) when a patrol car pulled him over. “At which point, I was shaking in my boots, I figured he was going to make sure I got put under the jail.”

But after he was pulled over, the officer asked White to play the fiddle for him. He was ticketed for ‘defective equipment’ – but was warned never to play while driving again.

Today, he and wife Adrienne Davis, a fellow musician, live on a farm in Floyd County, operating a baking business on the side.

Jeff Bossert is Radio IQ's Morning Edition host.
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