Looking Back Briefly at Benton Flippen

Benton Flippen made a career out of fiddling for many prominent old time bands in America. Benton, born and raised in North Carolina, gained his art by learning from close family relatives. He played the fiddle different from anyone during his long career spanning from the early 20th century all the way up to the later part of the last decade. Benton had large hands, which made it quite hard to grip the instrument like his peers, so he made some adjustments. Benton discovered the that best way for him to get around the neck was to slide his index and middle fingers, rather than fingering up and down the scale with all four fingers. This allowed him a very unique sound in comparison. To quote Paul Brown on Benton’s sound “It cries the blues, shouts a spiritual message, resounds with the celebration of a square dance or house party. It’s full of syncopation and stretch, yet solidly down-to-earth” He also played the banjo with only two fingers.

Here’s a video on his fiddle style

Benton was highly accomplished and has won many fiddlers conventions all over the Appalachian mountains. He hand played with bands such as The Green Valley Boys, Camp Creek Boys, and the Smokey Valley Boys  He has played for the Smithsonian Institution, The Worlds Fair, The Library of Congress, and many other famous venues. He ended up being one of the last performers from the early 20th century to still be playing music up until his death in 2011.

Here’s a song called Susananah Gal, by Benton Flippen and the Smokey Valley Boys 

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