Final Notes, Art Stamper

Born in east Kentucky in 1933, the great Kentucky fiddler Art Stamper, 72, lost his long battle with throat cancer on January 23, 2005. He had been battling the disease for some four years, but he continued fiddling as long as he had strength and made many appearances. He cut a final record for County with long time musical friend and historian Harry Bickel just last year (Wake Up Darlin’ Corey). Stamper was a major figure in bluegrass music, serving stints with both Bill Monroe and the Bluegrass Boys, and with the Stanley Brothers, with whom he started his professional career in 1952 at age 19. He also played with the Osborne Brothers, with the Goins Brothers, with Larry Sparks, Bill Clifton, and J.D. Crowe. He grew up in east Kentucky and lived near Louisville. To support his family, he worked as a hairdresser at his own business, Louisville’s “The Way of Art.”

Last year, Stamper received the Distinguished Achievement Award from the International Bluegrass Music Association, joining the likes of Earl Scruggs, Lester Flatt, Kenny Baker, and Bill Monroe. His dad Hiram was an old-time musician, and Stamper bridged the current chasm between old-time and bluegrass with a vast repertoire of tunes and the ability to improvise as he wished and when he wished. He could play smooth fills behind singing, but he also knew what cross tuning was all about, and had a great effect on many budding fiddle students at places like Augusta Heritage Workshops, Appalshop, and Swannanoa Gathering. After his time of “day-jobbing” he resumed a more full-time musical life in 1978, producing two highly regarded albums, The Lost Fiddler, and Goodbye Girls, I’m Going to Boston, as well as occasionally touring with Bill Monroe.


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