Jehile Kirkhuff was an extraordinary old time fiddler from Lawton, Pennsylvania who lived from 1907 to 1981. He’s not in the picture, but you can see pictures of him in the links below.
Who Was Jehile Kirkhuff?”
He was born into a musical family, where his grandfather, father, and uncle were all old-time fiddle players. Jehile began playing at the age of five and won his first fiddle contest when he was 19 years old, and went on to win the World Championship Fiddler’s Contest in Texas in 1954.
During his teenage years he started to lose his eyesight and eventually became blind. He continued to play and live a very active and influential life despite his ailment.
Jehile was known to be very lively and have many friends. He was an active member of his community as both a student and teacher of music. He was very involved in encouraging others and helping them learn to play. He played at many local dances, weddings, funerals and special events. He also traveled for gigs and picked up a broader style of playing that was said to include both Northern as well as Southern influences. As an adult, he made a living playing and teaching music and raising bees with his wife, Lola who was 25 years his senior. Because of his musical training, he had a unique clarity of tone that is not always present in the genre. In addition to being a fiddle player he was also a talented poet.
One of Jehile’s biggest contributions to Old Time fiddle music was the vast collection of songs he learned and passed on to others. He had an immense repertoire. Some have claimed that he knew over 1500 songs. He also wrote many of his own songs. Ed & Geraldine Berbaum, friends of Jehile, and fellow musicians, recorded over 400 songs with him for the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress. This work was done through the Jehile Kirkhuff Old-Time Fiddle Music Fund.
Other recorded works featuring Jehile include Jehile Stands Alone, Autumn Breeze, and Winans Family Collection of Fiddle Tunes. To learn more, and for links to other great sources, see Jehile-The Blind Fiddler from Lawton, Pennsylvania.
Because Jehile Kirkhuff is one of the cornerstones of the old-time fiddle tradition, we at Red Desert Violin and Red Desert Fiddle are doing our small part to keep his legacy alive. Check out the Red Desert Fiddle YouTube channel where you can hear some audio recordings of Jehile Kirkhuff playing.
And then click here to read how a precious collection of recordings by Jehile Kirkhuff landed in Lora’s lap, then download the recordings so you can enjoy them whenever and wherever you like.
Had a lot of fun sitting and listening to Jehile in his living room as a teenager. I will never forget it.
My Fiddle Band Website!!
My Name is Dan Fassett, I met Jehile in the early 70’s. I played w him at his house once he changed my life, I’ve been fiddling ever since. I have a web site Jehile.org please visit. We are putting a Jehile Celebration event together this year at the Wyoming County Fair. Sept. 6, 2021 from 11 – 2, at the Vetran’s Pavilion.
please feel free to call me or text at 978-337-6130, my email is Daniel.Fassett@gmail,com. I will reply to everyone that commented here eventually as well.
Got to run,
Yours Dan Fassett
Lora, I too have some 100 or more copies of the original recordings of Jehiel’s songs. They were recorded for my Uncle John Winans in 1963 and 64. The tapes were inherited by my mom after John passed away in 1979. My mom gave me the tapes in the late 80’s to have them copied to cassettes which I returned to her since she did not have a reel to reel machine to play them on. She loved playing those tapes before she passed away. I now have the cassettes and donated the original recordings to the library at Apalachian State University in Boone, N.C. Uncle John grew up in Auburn, Pa and was friends with Jehiel.
I’ve seen a post about a Jehile Kirkhuff fiddle contest at a county fair in Pennsylvania. I’d like to be a registered contestant. What do I need to do to get signed up? My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
I was about 5 years old when I first heard Jehile play. He came to visit my grandpa Conrad – Ray Conrad – who lived in a cabin, wood stove, pump at the sink, outhouse- outside of Penn Yann, NY. Grandpa was also a fiddler but didn’t gig, just played for himself and us kids when we went for Sunday dinner. Jehile came and played with him on occasion. I’ve played grandpa’s fiddle now for 50+ years
Beverly, your grandpa must be so proud! What a way of keeping his legacy alive!
And what a rich childhood you must have had! I’m glad to see that it took root in you.
His fiddle has played a lot of music!
Oh yes, if that fiddle could talk…..my my! 😉
I’m SO pleased to have found Jehile’s music! I’m a fiddler born, raised, and living only a few miles from where he lived. He truly is a treasure from this area and I hope to learn many of his songs so as to get his name much better known in the Binghamton, NY area.
I was in your neck of the woods two summers ago at the Grassroots festival. Discovered my new favorite band there, Driftwood, of Binghampton.
Lora, I know that I have gone on about this before, but I just can’t stop 🙂 I started to play the fiddle about 1981 after I found my husbands’s grandfather’s fiddle, and I had the good luck to come across some of Jehile’s recordings in north central Pennsylvannia. From the beginning of my connections to his music, I have felt as though the spirit of Jehile was guiding me. I have lived by his comment, “you learn to play the fiddle by falling in love with one fiddle tune at a time.” I am delighted by the serendipity that YOU have taken on the task of maintaining his heritage.
Thanks for writing. I love that quote of Jehile’s. And I am happy to know a fellow Jehile torch-bearer!
Do keep in touch! Love hearing from you.