Fred Price Bronze Memorial
To be located in
Mountain City Tennessee
I met Fred Price a fiddle player who preserved and played “Old Timey Music” worldwide when I moved to Mountain City TN in 1985. When he died in 1987 hundreds of people came to his funeral. He was so famous locally and internationally that I felt very strongly that he deserved a bronze statue in a prominent location in Mountain City. I sculpted a maquette (a miniature model) of Fred in 1989. I wanted to do this project with my own money but then I worked all over the world until I retired in 2016. At 79 years of age I realized that I would need help to make this dream happen.
Born on July 16, 1915 in the remote mountain community of Shouns in Johnson County, Tennessee, Fred Price heard his mother sing old time mountain songs and pick the banjo when he was a baby. When he was still a little boy, Fred's father encouraged him to take up the fiddle, which he carried in a sack when he visited his sisters on Sundays. When Fred joined the US Army during World War II, he was already a skilled fiddler who entertained his fellow soldiers with old time fiddle tunes.
When he returned from the army, Fred married Mattie Howard, a first cousin of his friend and future playing partner Clint Howard in 1948. Their children, Lois and Kenneth, began playing music when they were still very young. Fred encouraged Clint to take up the guitar and sing. They began playing with other musicians in the area, including Arthel "Doc" Watson from Deep Gap, North Carolina.
One of their neighbors in Shouns was Clarence "Tom" Ashley (1895-1967). who had recorded
"The Cuckoo Bird" and other songs for Columbia Records in Johnson City, Tennessee in 1929. In
1952 Ashley's recordings of "The Cuckoo" and "The House Carpenter" was reissued on the
Folkways Anthology of American Folk Music. In 1960, folk music researcher Ralph Rinzler met Ashley at the Union Grove North Carolina old time fiddlers contest and convinced him to play at folk festivals and concerts in the North.
Ashley wanted a band, so he recruited his neighbors Fred Price and Clint Howard. They urged Ashley to add their friend Doc Watson to the group. This proved to be a very wise choice. Urban folk music fans immediately fell in love with the beautiful singing and virtuoso instrumental work of Ashley's band.
Fred Price, Clint Howard and their sons did not achieve the widespread fame of Doc and Merle Watson. Nonetheless, they recorded several fine albums for Rounder Records and performed at major folk music events, including the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Never a fulltime professional musician, Fred Price made his living by farming and driving a school bus. When Clint Howard and Clarence Howard formed their own band, Fred Price and Kenneth Price continued to play together on a semi-regular basis until Fred passed away on September 13,
1987. Always modest and soft-spoken, Fred Price nonetheless achieved an international reputation as a great soulful mountain fiddler.
To see where Fred Price was born and spent his life as an East Tennessee mountain farm and a great old-time fiddler, go to:
Fred and Clint lived just down the road from Laurel Bloomery, home of the blind fiddler and singer G.B. Grayson, who recorded "Going Down The Lee Highway" (better known as "Lee Highway Blues") for Victor Records in 1929. Fred., Clint and Doc played a brilliant version of "Lee Highway Blues" on Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest TV show: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NsM5mktVvQ&feature=channel
Fred, Clint and Doc also performed a rousing version of "Way Down Town" on that same TV program: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpOvuYgEG9Q&feature=channel
Fred , Clint and Doc also sang a stirring unaccompanied hymn, "Daniel Prayed“. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdQd1frZVkY&feature=channel_page
To hear Fred Price, Clint Howard, Doc Watson and Jean Ritchie sing a beautiful unaccompanied version of "Amazing Grace," go to:
This is an excerpt from the publication:
“Birthdays Of Famous Fiddlers” edited by Richard Blaustein
A strong, clear singer as well as a smooth, subtle mountain fiddler, Fred Price made an important contribution to the unique sound of this group. They appeared at concerts and folk festivals across the United States and recorded several excellent albums for the Folkways and Vanguard labels.
When Ashley teamed up with Tex Isley,one of his old playing partners, Clint, Fred and Doc continued to play together through the mid-60s. Doc and his son Merle began playing together, which prompted Fred and Clint to form a band with their sons. Clarence Howard on lead guitar and Kenneth Prince on 3-finger bluegrass banjo.