Buddy Pendleton in 2008 – photo © Jake Penchansky
Beloved southwest Virginia fiddler Buddy Pendleton passed away on March 24. He was 81 years of age.
Back in the 1960s, he had performed with two of the most notable and influential bluegrass bands in the country. He met The Greenbriar Boys from New York at North Carolina’s Union Grove Fiddlers Contest in 1960, which lead to an invitation to join the band. Headed by Ralph Rinzler on mandolin, the group also included Bob Yellin on banjo, and John Herald on guitar. They were extremely popular on the burgeoning folk music circuit in the northeast, and were featured musicians on an early Joan Baez album.
Before Rinzler left the band to work at the Smithsonian, he managed Bill Monroe, and used his influence with Big Mon to get Buddy the fiddle job with The Blue Grass Boys in 1962. This was the iconic band that featured Del McCoury on guitar, Bill Keith on banjo, and Bessie Lee Maudlin on bass. But the traveling life didn’t appeal to Pendleton, and he headed home after a short while.
After leaving Monroe, Buddy returned to live out his life in Patrick County, VA where he carried the mail, and played with many groups over the intervening years. He was named a Virginia Master Artist by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and was selected for their Fellowship program to mentor promising young fiddlers in his part of the state.
His many accolades included twice winning the bluegrass fiddle contest at the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, VA, and taking first at Union Grove five years in a row. Buddy’s first win was in Stuart, VA when he was only 14 years of age, having started to play at 11. Coming from a musical family, both of his parents and all of his siblings played traditional string music, as did other members of their extended family.
He was a regular at fiddle competitions and bluegrass festivals in his part of the Blue Ridge region, and was always eager to spend time with younger musicians to teach them tunes or simply share stories about the old days. Buddy continued to play his fiddle as long as his hands would allow, which began to decline in recent years.
Visitation is scheduled for Tuesday (3/28) at Moody’s Funeral Services in Stuart, VA from 6:00-8:00 p.m., with his family present. The funeral will be held at Moody’s on Wednesday at 11:00 a.m. with Rev. Danny Redman officiating. Burial will follow at the Buffalo Ridge Pentecostal Holiness Church Cemetery in Stuart, where all of Buddy’s musical friends are invited to bring their instruments for a memorial jam at the gravesite.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that memorials be made to:
Smith River Rescue Squad
P.O. Box 122
Woolwine, VA 24185
R.I.P., Buddy Pendleton.