Charles T. Smith (1922-2016)

Old-Time Fiddling, Tupelo

Charles T. Smith was born in 1922 in Webster County and began fiddling in childhood. He got started on an old fiddle that his father had brought broken and pieced back together. After teaching himself his first tune, his father (who had played the instrument as a younger man) showed him the basics of the instrument. Smith also learned from an older fiddler in the community named Jim High.

He began performing in front of audiences when he was eleven or twelve years old. His older brothers took him along to country dances where he would play, sometimes earning two or three dollars a night. Smith also began competing in local fiddle contests.

Smith served in the Army during World War II and was stationed in Germany. He got some opportunities to perform with others. Louis “Grandpa” Jones was in the same battalion as Smith and he got to meet and play with the future Grand Ole Opry star.

After returning to Mississippi, Smith lived and worked in the Delta for several years. During this time, he performed on the radio in Greenville with the Uncle Pat and the Sunshine Boys, a group from Clarksdale. Smith later returned to Webster County to live and began playing with various groups in the area. In the late 1980s, he began competing in contests again, winning first place twice at the fiddling contest at the State Fair in Jackson.

Smith also served as a Master Artist in the Arts Commission’s Folk Art Apprenticeship Program, working with many young fiddlers. The musician moved to Tupelo in 2003 but continued to teach younger fiddlers in his home. Smith died on March 30, 2016.

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