|By Eric C. Rodenberg
KINGSPORT, Tenn. – A rare fiddle, once owned by late country music legend Roy Acuff, was unveiled at the Mountain Music Museum in Eastern Tennessee May 1, but not until almost being sold in a Kansas City Goodwill auction.
A member of family donated the instrument to Goodwill in Kansas City, without realizing its historical significance.
“I never thought, when I gave one of my granddaughters the fiddle, it would end up by accident in the auction,” said the fiddle’s owner Lamar Peek. “It’s not a glamorous piece. It shows a lot of wear. But, the sound is beautiful … it will make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”
The fiddle was one of several instruments he inherited from his brother, Bobby Peek, who was both a player and collector. Bobby had bought the fiddle in an Alabama pawn store in 2001.
“My brother really cherished this piece,” Lamar Peek said.
The fiddle received national attention in January, when bidding for the fiddle on Goodwill auction’s online site reached $8,200. When word got to Peek that the fiddle was being sold at auction, he called Goodwill executives in Kansas City.
“I just told them about the accident; how it happened,” he said. “They were really nice about it all … When Bobby gave his collection to me, I agreed that I wouldn’t let anyone, aside from the family, own it.”
Peek got his fiddle back.
“Goodwill appreciates how valuable this fiddle is to music lovers,” Kevin Bentley, interim president and CEO of Goodwill of Western Missouri & Eastern Kansas, said in a statement. “It is also a family heirloom that came into our possession by mistake. Because of that, we have honored the request to return the item.”
After learning about the fiddle, the Mountain Music Museum approached Peek, to see if he would consider loaning the fiddle to be displayed as part of an existing Roy Acuff exhibit.
“One thing I learned from this, is that there are museums interested in these things,” Peek said. “I would have never dreamed one of these fiddles would be in a museum. I would like the public to see and possibly, hear, them. I believe my brother would be pleased.”
The musical instrument was loaned by Peek, in memory of his late brother Bobby Peek, to the museum for a one-year display. Several other museums have contacted Peek about displaying the instrument, including the Grand Old Opry.
It is probably not the first time the fiddle would be associated with the Grand Old Opry.
“I believe that’s the fiddle he played on the Grand Old Opry after the war,” Peek said. “It can’t be verified, but I believe he played that fiddle on the Opry for years.
Acuff (1903-1992) was known as the “King of Country Music,” and is often credited with moving the genre from its early string band sound to a more singer-oriented format.
In 1952, Hank Williams told a music critic, “He’s the biggest singer this music ever knew. You booked him, and you don’t worry about crowds. For drawing power in the South, it was Roy Acuff, then God.”
Peek said Acuff paid $125 for the fiddle in 1945. Inside the fiddle, it is labeled Evart Acuff, No. 19. Evart was Roy’s uncle. “Evart only made 35 fiddles,” Peek said. “If you look at a log book he kept, now owned by his grandson, you’ll see that No. 19 was handmade in August 1945 and sold to Roy Acuff.”
Peek’s brother bought the fiddle in 2001 at a pawn shop in Alabama. Although Peek has the pawn ticket, showing a name and address, he’s not been able to make any contact with the person who pawned the fiddle. “He just faded away … not there anymore,” he says. “We’ll probably never truly know the journeys of that fiddle.”
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