If you have followed the bluegrass or fiddle scene for any length of time, you have heard of Jehile Kirkhuff. And if you haven’t, you’ll want to.
He was a legendary blind fiddler who lived in rural Pennsylvania in the first half of the 20th century. Learn more about him here. Ed Berbaum has done a lot of work to preserve and honor Jehile’s legacy. Poke around his site for Jehile’s history, photos, recordings, and sheet music.
This post is to share with you the story of how Red Desert Violin acquired, quite by happenstance, a treasure trove of original Jehile Kirkuff recordings, and we would like to share them with you via download, to honor the oral tradition of music which is part of the human experience–to teach and to learn from others, passed freely from person to person.
One of my students had direct contact with Larry Downey, a well known New York fiddler and a dear friend to Jehile Kirkhuff. One day the student gave me a pile of cassettes, asking me to take good care of them and to “show them the respect they deserved”.
I started to listen and was blown away. The cassettes featured Jehile talking and fiddling, Jehile and Larry twin fiddling, and Larry giving recorded lessons to someone named “Brenda”.
The cassettes are a treasure trove of information and musical history, and I am finally keeping my promise to that student by making them available publicly.
My friend Mike Thorsen (MT Studios) donated his time, equipment, and most importantly his expertise in restoring these old tape recordings. They had a lot of distortion, pitch change, and deterioration which we painstakingly corrected at 30 second intervals. We then generated digital copies of the restored audio, and that’s what you can get here.
To download your copy, right-click on the link below and select “save as” to save to your device.
Jehile Kirkhuff recordings
This zip file contains about 35 tunes played by Jehile Kirkhuff. (Larry Downey recordings will be coming soon!) The songs in this file include:
|Teatotallers Reel||Buckwheat Batter||Irishman’s Heart to the Ladies|
|Patty on the Railroad||Miss McLeod’s Reel||Fireman’s Dance|
|Kelton Catillian||Half Penny Reel||Little Stack of Barley|
|Money Mosk||The Old Cuckcoo’s Nest||Road to the Isles|
|Larry O’Gaff||The Sheath of Barley||Done Gone|
|Fox Hunters Reel||Bummer’s Reel||St Patricks Day in the Morning|
|St Ann’s Reel||Cotton Eyed Joe||Fishers Hornpipe|
|Dill Pickle Rag||Irish Washer Woman||Ragtime Annie|
|Arkansas Traveler||Soldiers Joy||Turkey in the Straw|
|Ides of January||Leather Britches||Lark of the Morning|
|Clarence P Crows/Kraus||Charley Mac’s Jig|
As you can see, it is an absolute gold mine. I hope you enjoy this gift as much as I have!
A dear old friend, when ever I hear my most favorite song,(dirt band) rippling water. I drift back to sitting with Jehile, in a old chair and pulling out the stuffing. I enjoyed every visit.
I am so glad to see Jehile will always live on.
Joe Reynolds Montrose pa.
Yes! People are writing to me in pretty impressive numbers (considering the small niche). Jehile is a historic American treasure.
I am envious that you basked in his company!
Jehile Memorial Fiddle contest and celebration of the ORAL TRADITION in NE. PA. is in the Planing stages as part of the Wyomiing County Fair, 2021. The Date is for Sat Sept. 4, 2021. Anyone wanting to be a part in any way please contact me at 978-337-6130, call or text or email @ Daniel.Fassett@gmail.com
Hi Joe, Dan Fassett from Meshoppen here, would be great to be in touch w you or if you want, I am available by call or text, my cell # 978-337-6130. Also you can email me at Daniel.Fassett@gmail.com. We are in process of getting together a Jehile Kirkhuff fiddle day together at the Wyoming County Fair Sat Sept. 4, 2021. The days objective is to not only promote Jehile and his music but also promote local music and the oral tradition. Throughout the day we plan to feature, local musicians playing at the fair , and have a fiddle contest, a Barn Dance and and finish the day w a concert by nationally known musicians that knew and were associated with Jehile. Am hoping to meet you and get the joy of playing with you someday soon. Would you be open to playing that day at the fair?? Looking forward to hearing from you!!! I currently live in Ma. but expect to be in Meshoppen at the end of March would be great to catch you then.
Best Dan Fassett
I have forwarded your into to Todd Snover-O’huigin.
HOpefully you guys can collaborate and do something amazing!
My name is Lynn Winans and now live in Williamsburg, VA but graduated from Montrose High School in 1960. My uncle John Winans was friends with Jehiel while growing up in Auburn, PA. He was born in 1903 and died in 1979. John lived in Lemon Grove, CA and in 1963 paid Jehiel to record his music on reel to reel tapes. The tapes were inherited by my mom when John passed. Mom gave me the tapes and I took them to an audio place where they were filtered and copied to cassettes. Mom loved listening to the cassettes in Franklin Forks, PA before she passed away. I now have the cassettes and play them here. I had no idea that there is so much interest in Jehiel’s music until yesterday when I happened to find this site. My grandfather Elmer Winans was born in Meshoppen in 1869 and I played baseball there a few times when I was a teenager. My dad was born in Auburn the youngest of the four brothers and sons of Elmer, and passed away in 1983. I would come to Messoppen on Sept. 4th, if I am well enough to travel, and bring my tapes with me.
I have forwarded your comments to Dan’s email! I hope he reaches out to you! This is so exciting to hear from MANY people who knew Jehile and were impacted by him!
This is Todd who you’ll remember from the days when I stayed at William Brotzman’s and helped Jehile and all cutting firewood and learning to play tunes from Jehile.
I’ve been in Texas
For nearly 8 years and found this site.
I contacted Gerry last Christmas 2020 and found that Eddie died three years ago!
Hope you and Randy and all are well !
“Jesus is the way!“
If anyone would like to contact me and know some background about Jehile, contact Toddsnoverdesign.com
I knew the late Ed and Gerry Berbaum as well
Larry Downey was a friend of mine too.
I lived with Jehile and William Brotzman for some time gathering old time fiddle tunes and remarkable stories !
Well Done! I started to learn to play fiddle when I was 12. That was 1975. My dad and I knew Larry Downey from the NYSOTFA and from a few contests. Another friend of ours – Claude Millard from Rochester – showed up one day at our house in western NY with some tapes. These were live recordings, probably much the same as you received, of Jehile playing while accompanied by Pete Krauss on guitar in 1974. I learned several tunes from those tapes, have saved them for all of these years, and have now made the effort to digitally capture most of those tapes to preserve them. This priceless history of our musical heritage is better for your efforts, and I have enjoyed listening on YouTube and Spotify.
I have been surprised by the number of people who are interested in these recordings, and people such as yourself who have had personal contact with Jehile. What a force of nature!
Thank you for sharing these great recordings of Jehile. I had the great pleasure of spending several afternoons and evenings with him at his little place (can’t remember the exact year… probably about 1974), and especially remember playing guitar behind him at the local grange hall once. As much as I loved his fiddle playing (and still do, thanks in part to you), I was completely enchanted by his poems, recitations, stories and those great introductions to his tunes.
This is incredible. I have heard from about 12 people since doing my Jehile project, and his impact is still being felt across the country! I’m honored! Thanks for sharing. YOu are very fortunate!
I’m from Meshoppen Pa.and had the pleasure of meeting and playing with Jehile in my early 20’s. A not to be forgotten experience which has motivated me to be a life long fiddler, form a Band the Contra Banditos and play Contra Dances and Old time music for the last 30 plus years!!! Our web site was hacked and is currently down, but check us out on facebook. The Contra Banditos
I happened across Kirkhuff’s music by chance, and locating your site was the fruit of a more determined search. Kirkhuff’s playing was a rare treasure – comprising a combination of distinct articulation, accurate intonation, clear rhythmic embellishment, and a good sense for what a tune should sound like. Thanks for doing your part to preserve and promulgate this wonderful treasury of music.
FYI – the tune labeled “Clarence P Crows/Kraus” is in fact Durang’s Hornpipe. It is not clear on the recording what the speaker (Kirkhuff?) is referring to – but I doubt it is the tune; it must be a friend or acquaintance – possibly the person who taught it to Jehile. The name Kraus/Krause (German) would have been extant in Pennsylvania during Kirkhuff’s lifetime. So my banjo version of Durang’s is based predominately on Kirkhuff’s rendition. I particularly like his use of triplets – he gives them almost a percussive dynamic. I have never heard anybody else play them in this particular tune.
Personal history factoid: I worked one summer all over Bradford and Sullivan Counties in the late ’70s. Never knew a thing about Jehile Kirkhuff . . . wow. All was not lost, however – I did hear of Lewis Lamb.
Thank you for the helpful info on the tune titles! I had a hard time deciphering the language on the recording. And then, as you know, tunes can go by many different names, and it gets confusing. Thanks for your input. Such a fascinating fiddler, Jehile.
Thank you so much for preserving Jehile’s music. My parents have some reels of his music too that they don’t know what to do with!! Get in touch with me! Jehile lived next to my Grandmother, Inez France, in Lawton. She used to call Jehile and turn on her radio so he could listen to music at his house. The funny thing is, this was on an old “party line” telephone!! I’m sure the neighbors weren’t too happy!!!
Hey Cheryl,Dan Fassett from Meshoppen Here, I am a fiddler and live in Mass. now but come down to Meshoppen quite often. Have you been able to get the tapes to someone who could digitize and use them. I may be able to help. My # 978-337-6130 call or text me if you want.
I am jealous that you got to drink from the well of Jehile! Those experiences do indeed feed you for a lifetime.
My friend has an extensive recording studio (and the knowlege to go with it) and we restored, and digitized the recordings.
I have them somewhere, and so does the LIbrary of Congress, if you want a copy, they are FREE!….but you probably already played all those tunes with him!
This is exciting! I have been playing Irish Washerwoman and love it also some hornpipe but probably not this one. Can’t wait to hear them and take it from there, in the event I downloaded it correctly.
I hope your download worked properly! I love these recordings…..and I want to learn every tune! So many tunes, so little time!
Thanks for these. My Morris Dance team camped by Jehile’s one room shack back around 198o. A number of us gathered in his one room while he played us some tunes.
Hi Mitch. Thanks for sharing that! What a great experience and memory!
Great Gift!! I didn’t know him , thank you very much
Hi Lora! What an amazing fiddler and what a great opportunity you have offered us here! Thanx so much to you and your crew. I unfortunately don’t seem to be able to download this zip file on my IPad. Any other way of obtaining this music luv? Cheers!
forwarded this to firstname.lastname@example.org
I know nothing of this! 😉