Noted North Carolina fiddler J.B. Prince died early Wednesday morning (7/8/15). Early reports indicate that he passed peacefully in his sleep. He was 58 years of age.
Prince grew up as a child prodigy, winning prizes at fiddler’s conventions in his native North Carolina while still a young teen. Before he was out of high school he was performing with professional bands, and recorded at age 16 with the Green Valley Ramblers with Tony Williamson.
He is remembered for his remarkable facility on not only fiddle, but mandolin, banjo, and guitar as well. Prince was a particular student of the fiddling of Kenny Baker, and combined Baker’s smooth bow with a wit and playfulness that made him a favorite on stage.
Friends also recall his proficiency as a fiddle set up man, turning average instruments into monsters in his hands.
A high point of his pre-adult career was an opportunity to appear on the 1960s television program, To Tell The Truth, in which celebrity competitors try to correctly identify which of three contestants has the identified special talent or career. He was 13 at the time.
He played for a time as a member of The Bluegrass Cardinals in the late 1980s, but seemed to prefer a more unstructured life teaching, working on instruments, and doing occasional performances with regional groups.
Perhaps J.B.’s greatest legacy will live on in his many successful students, several of whom have come to prominence. Daniel Greeson, a very talented young artist studied with Prince for nearly a decade, and credits him as the greatest fiddler he ever heard. Another is Dewey Brown, current fiddler with Ralph Stanley & the Clinch Mountain Boys.
Details about arrangements have not yet been announced, but will be handled through the Wilkerson Funeral Home in Reidsville, NC.
R.I.P., J.B. Prince.