We mourn the passing of Ava, MO fiddler Bob Holt:
It is with great sadness that I report Bob Holt passed away on Friday morning, March 19 at home.
Bob received a National Heritage Fellowship in 1999, and he was selected as a master in Missouri’s Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program ten times. He’s known for his exemplary fiddling and a tireless devotion to sustaining old-time fiddling AND dance traditions in the Ozark region. In 2002, the West Plains Council on the Arts named the jig dancing contest at the Old-time Music, Ozark Heritage Festival in Bob’s honor. On top of all that, he was a sweetheart.
–Lisa Higgins, director, Missouri Folk Arts Program
A note from Rusty Marshall:
I remember Bob Holt very well, although I can’t claim to have been a close friend. I admired his approach to music and I admired his unflinching honesty in his observations about traditional fiddle and dance. Bob was a key figure in the nourishment and continued interest in his brand of “Ozark” fiddling. I tried to play fiddle for a few square dances with Bob and his gang, and the terrifically rapid pace at which they went at it just about did me in (I’m from Little Dixie, where we tend to dance a bit slower). Later, I came to understand Bob’s extra speed playing squares as an important ingredient and hallmark in his well-forged personal style, an ingredient that responded directly to the needs and desires of dancers like Edna Mae Davis and her circle of jig dancers and square dancers in his part of the Ozarks region. Bob had a delightfully mixed repertoire of tunes from many sources, styles, and geographies that defied the stereotypes and simplistic categories of some of the scholars. He played a number of superb tunes that are seldom heard, and he had a very generous and open approach to sharing his music and his knowledge. I am thankful that a variety of forces came into play to encourage Bob to pass along his special music to others and often to younger musicians, not the least of which was Bob’s role as a master fiddle teacher in the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program and the many festivals big and little where Bob (with his gifted backup guitarist, the great Alvie Dooms) held the stage — they represented beautifully the deep legacy of old-time fiddle and dance in their section of the Ozarks. Bob Holt will be missed, but his music will endure through the fiddle bows and dancing shoes of others.
Dr. Howard Wight Marshall
Department of Art History and Archaeology
University of Missouri-Columbia
A notice from the Missouri Traditional Fiddle and Dance Network
A Profile: Play Me Something Quick and Devilish
Bob plays the fiddle in 1982. That’s MFS’ Gordon McCann beating time with knitting needles.