Historical Roy Acuff fiddle up for sale

Regular readers will recall a pair of stories from last year about a fiddle that had once belonged to traditional country music pioneer, Roy Acuff, being donated to a Goodwill store in Kansas City, MO. Its owner at the time had simply wanted to do a good turn for Goodwill, and may not have fully recognized the instrument’s provenance.

But the folks at Goodwill realized it pretty quickly, as the fiddle bore a label indicating it had been made by Roy’s uncle Evart from an applewood tree on a relative’s property in 1945. At this time, Acuff was well on his way as an entertainer, a member of the Grand Ole Opry, and had appeared in a couple of Hollywood movies.

Goodwill was also given letters of authenticity with the fiddle, and once they understood what they had, they returned it to its previous owner, whose brother, Lamar Peek, made a donation of $1,000 to the organization in recognition of their kindness. Another anonymous donor contributed $8,000 as well, so in the end, Peek got the family fiddle back, and Goodwill profited handsomely. The Mountain Music Museum in east Tennessee received the fiddle on loan to display it for a year in Kingsport, and with that period now transpired, Peek has decided to look for a collector or musician who might want to give it a second life.

Before heading to the Museum, bluegrass fiddler Jim VanCleve was asked to play it on television as Lamar told the story of how the instrument ended up with his family.

Here’s video of that segment on Mike Huckabee’s syndicated television program.

In our earlier piece, VanCleve shared the amazing story of how he realized that the fiddle wasn’t even in playable condition when he was called for the Huckabee show, and how a team of violin luthiers broke their backs to get it ready in very short order.

“It was VERY much an honor to be asked to play that fiddle for the last time before it goes on display!!

It was kind of crazy, I was playing an awards show the night before, filming at the Grand Ole Opry, and I was there in the Acuff Room… On the walls there are pictures of Roy holding that same fiddle. So, I’m sitting there looking at them, thinking, ‘Man… I’m going to be playing that very instrument tomorrow night… for the last time – maybe ever, on live (to tape) national TV.’ No pressure! haha.

The next day, sound check and camera blocking for the show started at 2:00 p.m. At about 2:30, Lamar arrived with the instrument. Upon my getting hold of it, I discovered that a few things had to be done (and very rapidly) to make the instrument even playable for the segment. The clock was suddenly against us.

I called longtime friend and fiddle guru, Fred Carpenter of The Violin Shop, to see what, if anything, could be done on such incredibly short notice. Also, Fred Anderson, publicist for the Mountain Music Museum took it upon himself to brave Nashville rush hour traffic and raced the instrument downtown while I was sound checking some other pieces with the band. Thankfully, as he has done so often down through the years, Fred Carpenter and his awesome staff dropped everything and came to the rescue, making the adjustments to the instrument in record time. It arrived back at the set JUST before we needed to get in place for the shots… so I didn’t get quite the time I’d have preferred to play the instrument and get comfortable with it, but I did get some very cool video and pictures!

When I finally was able to lay hands on it, I did notice that the fiddle itself looked like it had lived every one of those years it has been in existence… imagine the stories that fiddle could tell! Inside, there was a homemade label which had obviously been glued down a LONG time ago. It read: ‘Handmade by Evart Acuff, 1945 in Merryville, TN.’ So cool.

Such a historical piece of country music history, and such a humbling opportunity… Grateful for the opportunity to be a small part of it all!!”

Now that he has it back, Lamar says that he wants to ensure that the instrument is passed along to someone who appreciates its historical significance.

“I don’t feel comfortable just putting the fiddle in a closet. I think it belongs in the hands of a musician or a serious collector; someone who will appreciate it and be able to use it or display it.”

So he is offering Roy’s old fiddle for sale, complete with authentication. It’s current appraised value is set at $50,000.

Anyone interested in possibly obtaining it is invited to contact Lamar Peek by email

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.