This post is shared with permission from Chris Sexton. Chris plays fiddle for the VA based Bluegrass band, Nothin’ Fancy. He is a music teacher, and adjunct professor, but most importantly, a long time friend of renowned fiddle maker, Arthur Conner. Sadly, Arthur passed away recently.
I shared this picture about a year ago. The fiddles in my arms were made by the man, who was at the time, recuperating from some medical issues. He bequeathed them to me then, not knowing his fate at his then-94-years of age.
The man is Arthur Conner. Arthur made my fiddles for me (circa 2001) when he was a spring chicken of about 75 years old. He’s made fiddles for the likes Ricky Skaggs, Jimmy Arnold, and Gene Elders, just to name a few. He made a reputation for himself as a local fiddle-making legend, and I cannot underscore how important he has been to me.
He lived almost a full year after this photo. I was wondering if he was immortal. Sadly, he was not. He passed away on April 13, 2020. He was all but an extra grandfather to me. I have ended up with several of his instruments, including the ones that he gave to me the day this photo was taken by his daughter, Sandra Conner Dehart.
To all those that Arthur leaves behind, I grieve just as you do, for a man that gave so much of himself to me through his artisan-ship as a fiddle maker. He was proof that a man with a 7th-grade education can still be scholarly and be a master of his art. He was proof that one can find out a lot about themselves when they are told they can’t do something, such as the time someone told Arthur, a woodworking master, that he couldn’t build a fiddle, based only on the fact that he hadn’t done so yet. I thank the man who told him he couldn’t build a fiddle, for Arthur found out a lot about himself that day.
I mourn. The entire music community should take a moment to mourn the loss of this southwestern VA treasure. His instruments literally have made their tones heard internationally, and there is no replacing such a force of nature as Arthur. Thank you for giving this fiddler of Nothin’ Fancy a voice for so many years, and thank you for all the garlic, hot peppers, occasional shots of moonshine, and life lessons you taught me. Rest well, my sweet friend. For the amazing life of 95 years you’ve lived, it is a rest well earned.
By Chris Sexton
“Touch my arm and feel my burning
For the day you left for the elms above
To hear those birds a-singing.” – A. Washburn
You can learn more about Arthur here: http://www.keepersofthetradition.com/keeper-page/arthur/