KINGSPORT, Tenn. - A rare fiddle once owned by the late country music legend Roy Acuff was unveiled this week at the Mountain Music Museum.
The fiddle is on loan to the museum for one year, courtesy of its owner, Lamar Peek, in memory of his late brother, Bobby Peek, who purchased it at a pawn shop in Alabama. The fiddle received national attention last January when a member of Peek's family donated it to a Goodwill in Kansas City without realizing its historical significance.
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› What: Mountain Music Museum, 316 Broad St., Kingsport, Tenn.› Admission: $5.› Phone: 423-765-2552.
Goodwill initially placed the fiddle in an auction online. Bidding reached $8,200 before Peek contacted Goodwill about the mistaken donation and Goodwill returned the fiddle to him. Peek gave $1,000 to Goodwill. The organization also received an $8,000 donation from Stacy Harris, a Nashville-based country music journalist.
After learning about the fiddle, the Mountain Music Museum approached Peek to see if he would consider loaning the fiddle to be displayed as part of an existing Roy Acuff exhibit. Peek agreed, and in April, he and museum Executive Director Rick Dollar met in Nashville to sign the paperwork and transfer the fiddle.
"Roy Acuff is one of the great musical artists from East Tennessee, so we thought it would be great to include the fiddle as part of an exhibit," said Dollar. " We are grateful to Mr. Peek for his generosity."
Peek discussed the fiddle during an interview with former presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on his weekly program, "Huckabee," on the Trinity Broadcasting Network. The interview can be seen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DU_VyQ9wTo.
Grammy-winning fiddler Jim VanCleve, a member of country star Josh Turner's band, played the fiddle on the show.
"The night before taping 'Huckabee,' I was in the Roy Acuff dressing room backstage at the Grand Ole Opry, where there are multiple pictures prominently displaying this instrument," VanCleve said. "To have the opportunity to simply play the instrument would be a great honor. But to be asked to be the last person to play it in that setting, before it goes into a display case at the Mountain Music Museum is certainly something I'll never forget. It was a great thrill and an honor to play one last tune on Roy's fiddle."
Acuff (1903-1992), known as the "King of Country Music," became famous for such songs as "Wabash Cannonball," "Great Speckled Bird," "Wreck on the Highway" and "Fireball Mail." He was the first living inductee of the Grand Ole Opry Hall of Fame and the first country artist to receive a lifetime achievement award from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
The fiddle was made in 1945 by the singer's uncle, Evart Acuff, in Maryville, Tennessee, just south of Knoxville. Evart Acuff was an acclaimed fiddle maker in the region. The Associated Press has reported that the instrument was fashioned from apple wood, apparently from a tree on a family farm.
Musician Tim White, president of the nonprofit Appalachian Cultural Music Association, and businessman James Bryant founded the Mountain Music Museum and its weekly live music offering, The Pickin' Porch, 20 years ago in Bristol, Tennessee. The museum relocated to Kingsport last fall and celebrated its grand reopening in January.