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Obit: Ralph Blizard (5 Dec 1918-3 Dec 2004)

GLoux 04 Dec 04 - 04:54 PM
Murray MacLeod 04 Dec 04 - 05:35 PM
BanjoRay 04 Dec 04 - 08:07 PM
kytrad (Jean Ritchie) 04 Dec 04 - 08:26 PM
Fortunato 04 Dec 04 - 09:13 PM
GUEST,Arnie 04 Dec 04 - 10:50 PM
Arkie 05 Dec 04 - 12:21 AM
KT 05 Dec 04 - 02:02 AM
GUEST,cookieless Nickp 05 Dec 04 - 06:58 AM
GUEST,Art Thieme 05 Dec 04 - 01:26 PM
GLoux 06 Dec 04 - 12:23 PM
GLoux 06 Dec 04 - 12:53 PM
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Subject: Obit: Ralph Blizard
From: GLoux
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 04:54 PM

From Phil Jamison:

I'm sorry to report that Ralph Blizard died yesterday evening at his
home in Blountville. Ralph was born on December 5, 1918, and he would
have been 86 years old tomorrow. He enriched many of us for these many
years with his music, his friendship, his great wisdom, and his unique
insights on life. He was a musical genius and an endless promoter and
advocate of old-time music. We will miss him very much.

There will be a visitation and service for Ralph tomorrow, Sunday,
December 5, in Kingsport, TN at the Hamlett Dodson Funeral Home. The
visitation will be from 4-6 pm followed by a service at 6 pm. The
funeral home is located at 117 East Charlemont Ave. (behind the First
Broad Street United Methodist Church off Church Circle).

Directions from Asheville: Take 181 (new I-26) to the first Kingsport
exit (57B). The exit leads onto South Wilcox Dr. After about 4 lights,
pass the Eastman Credit Union (on right), go under a railroad underpass
and turn left on Sullivan St. At the second light, turn right on
Charlemont Ave. The phone number there is 423-378-3134.

On Monday there will be a graveside service at the Gunning Cemetery in
Blountville at 1 pm. (Gunning Cemetery is one exit west of exit 69 on
I-81 near the Blountville high school)


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Subject: RE: Obit: Ralph Blizard
From: Murray MacLeod
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 05:35 PM

This is sad news indeed.

I was privileged to see Ralph Blizard perform in Edinburgh in the early nineties, and I can honestly say I enjoyed his performance more than that of any other fiddler I have ever seen. It is one of my great regrets that I never did get the chance to see him again during my time in the US. "Musical genius" he certainly was.

RIP Ralph Blizard

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Subject: RE: Obit: Ralph Blizard
From: BanjoRay
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 08:07 PM

I saw him at Clifftop in 2000 with the New Southern Ramblers - a fine longbow fiddle player, and a great old time musician.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Ralph Blizard
From: kytrad (Jean Ritchie)
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 08:26 PM

Farewell to a quiet man, soft-spoken, unhurried. We met and visited for the first and only time at the National Heritage Awards (2002?) in Washington, D.C. We said ordinary things, made small talk as old neighbors will; I felt I had known him all my years. But when he went out and played his music, it sang, danced, shouted, listened, healed. Real music, profound communication from one of God's good ones, among us for too little time.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Ralph Blizard
From: Fortunato
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 09:13 PM

It was my privelege to be at the National Heritage Awards here in Washington that year and I had gone to see kytrad. An added pleasure was my first introduction to Ralph and his style of fiddling. If I had heard longbow before, it had not been differentiated for me, and I greatly enjoyed his performance.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Ralph Blizard
From: GUEST,Arnie
Date: 04 Dec 04 - 10:50 PM

I had the pleasure of taking Ralph's fiddle class at Ashokan many years ago. He was a great fiddle player and a special talent - I was in awe of his capabilities. I also introduced Rick Fielding to him and He went down to pay him a special visit. Unfortunately Rick is no longer with us either. Ralph was a great admirer of Arhtur Smith and played many of his tunes in a similar style - not many play like him anymore - He will be missed in the Old Time Music community.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Ralph Blizard (5 Dec 1918-3 Dec 2004)
From: Arkie
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 12:21 AM

Ralph Blizzard was indeed a fine fiddler and wonderful person. His technique was unique among old time fiddlers. I brought him and his band to Arkansas on several occasions and he was well received here. His band consisted of Phil Jamison and other top notch old time musicians who were in the band because of their appreciation and admiration of Ralph. Though he was known for his fiddling, his singing also added immensely to his concerts.   He was truly one of the greats of old time music and he brought much pleasure to folks through his music. He left a significant and valuable legacy and will indeed be missed.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Ralph Blizard (5 Dec 1918-3 Dec 2004)
From: KT
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 02:02 AM

Ahhh, sad news. When Ralph played, he and his fiddle were one! And he made it look so easy! And he did have a talent for making you feel like you'd known him all your life. We're richer for his having been here. Thanks, Ralph.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Ralph Blizard (5 Dec 1918-3 Dec 2004)
From: GUEST,cookieless Nickp
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 06:58 AM

As secretary for FOAOTMAD (Friends of American Old Time Music & Dance) over here in the UK, I'd like to add to our chairman (BanjoRay)'s comments and say that Ralph's death is a great loss to all of us who had heard his music, either live or on recording.


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Subject: RE: Obit: Ralph Blizard (5 Dec 1918-3 Dec 2004)
From: GUEST,Art Thieme
Date: 05 Dec 04 - 01:26 PM

At the University Of Chicago Folk Festival he was one of the great ones. So sorry to hear this.

Art Thieme

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Subject: RE: Obit: Ralph Blizard (5 Dec 1918-3 Dec 2004)
From: GLoux
Date: 06 Dec 04 - 12:23 PM

A nice retrospective article on Ralph posted on the old-time newsgroup by Jim Nelson:

--- Robert Cogswell wrote:

As reported below in the Kingsport paper, National Heritage Fellow Ralph Blizard passed away Friday:

BLOUNTVILLE - Ralph Blizard, a nationally known master long-bow fiddler who specialized in traditional Appalachian music, died Friday at his home here.

Blizard, 85, was a 2002 recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship by the National Endowment for the Arts and was inducted into the American Fiddlers Hall of Fame in 2002.

The fiddler was a co-founder of the Traditional Appalachian Music Heritage Association, an organization to preserve the musical heritage of the region. Blizard also was a recipient of the Tennessee Governor's Award for the Arts and had served as a member of the Tennessee Arts Commission for five years.

Blizard learned to play the violin, or fiddle, at an early age. During a 2003 interview, he said he was playing the instrument by age 7.

But learning to play the fiddle was not easy for Blizard, not because of lack of talent, but because his father, Robert Blizard, did not want   him to tear up his fiddle. So, he taught himself to play using a mandolin, and doing much of his initial practicing in secret.

Blizard said the mandolin had the same noting and he added the bowing movement with the help of his mother, Jennie Blizard.

Learning how to play the fiddle did get easier. Once Blizard's father discovered that his son was seriously following in his footsteps, he became a supporter of his efforts. But his father wanted Blizard to learn to read music, something his son spent little time on.

"Traditional old-time music is authentic, and to me, playing by note instead of by ear, was unnatural," Blizard said during a 2002 interview.

Blizard said his earliest influences were three local fiddlers - Charlie Bowman, John Dykes and Dudley Vance.

"They were my dad's age. They were the three best-known old-time fiddlers in the region. I played music will all three of them as a kid," he said.

Blizard began playing music at local radio stations in the early 1930s, appearing on Bristol's WOPI in 1932 and playing with his band, the Southern Ramblers, from 1938 to 1940 on WJHL, Johnson City. The band moved over to WKPT, Kingsport, where Blizard played until joining the military in 1942. Following his time in service, he became part of WKPT's Saturday night show, "Saturday Night Hayride."

But following marriage and the birth of two sons, Blizard put music on the back burner in the mid- 1950s while he worked on a small farm and took a full-time job at Tennessee Eastman Co., in Kingsport. After retiring in 1980, Blizard took up the bow again, but said he had to re-learn how to play.

"I sort of scratched around. I practiced four, five, six, seven hours a day," he said. "I developed a fast method of re-learning by using a stereo with headphones. I'd play the tape and copy it."

Following his re-education, Blizard also got together with a new band.

He met up in 1982 with the Green Grass Cloggers, and together they formed the New Southern Ramblers.

In the mid-1990s, Blizard helped start a weekly jam session at the Anderson Townhouse in Blountville. The sessions allowed musicians, no matter what their expertise, a chance to come together and play.

"It's all acoustic music," Blizard said. "We have the traditional music, and we have the bluegrass. The idea is for young people to come and learn music."

Blizard's funeral is scheduled for tonight at 6 p.m. at Hamlett-Dobson Funeral Home in Kingsport.

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Subject: RE: Obit: Ralph Blizard (5 Dec 1918-3 Dec 2004)
From: GLoux
Date: 06 Dec 04 - 12:53 PM

My first memory of Ralph was at his first Brandywine Mountain Music Convention, back in the '80s (1983?) when there was this red hot jam session in the campground that drew in listeners like a magnet. I was one of the curious listeners that had to go see who was causing such a commotion. At the center of it all was Ralph, who was clearly delighted with all of the attention he was getting. I'll never forget him staring right at me while he played and seeing the sparkle in his eyes. As I recall, the Brandywine Friends folks were so blown away by him (I'm pretty sure Phil Jamison and Gordy Hinners were with him) and his band, that they made room for them on the stage show, something I never saw them do before or since Ralph.

He could take classic Arthur Smith tunes, breathe new life into them, and make them all his own.

I saw him win at Fiddler's Grove three times, so they had to retire him from competition, declaring him a Master Fiddler, in order to give others a chance to win.

I know a lot of people who feel priveleged to have known him and will treasure the memories he so freely gave to everyone.

Rest in peace, Ralph.


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