Remembering Robert C. Byrd, the Fiddler

BY Hari Sreenivasan  July 6, 2010 at 3:32 PM EDT

As longtime West Virginia Sen. Robert C. Byrd is laid to rest today, Art Beat looks back at the statesman’s musical side, which shone through in his fiddling prowess.

In this Web-exclusive video, former Byrd staffer Jim Haught, West Virginia Wesleyan professor Robert Rupp and former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens spoke with the NewsHour about how playing the fiddle kept Byrd grounded and connected to his Appalachian roots during his record-setting run in Washington:

Byrd took up the fiddle at a young age, learning to play old-time and bluegrass music from the father of his soon-to-be wife. As he entered politics, he began using his skills to attract voters to hear his campaign speeches.

In 1978, the then-Senate Majority Leader Byrd released a 14-track album, “Mountain Fiddler,” which was released for the first time on CD after his death (available here). Click here to see the original cover.

Musician Doyle Lawson spoke with West Virginia Public Broadcasting about the recording session, which took place in both a Library of Congress auditorium and the senator’s Capitol Hill office.

To sample more of the late senator’s album, click here.

Editor’s Note: Video production by George Griffin and Dave Gustafson, with editing by Justin Scuiletti.