He's bitten by the fiddlin' bug

Fred Hardin took up music later in life, but the Dallas resident has developed a knack for playing the fiddle.

DALLAS -- Radial arm saws and fiddles typically don't have much in common. But in Dallas resident Fred Hardin's case, the two are directly related.

Hardin, 82, grew up the youngest in a family with nine children. They were all musicians, except for him.

"Somehow, it escaped me," he said.

Hardin, who has lived in Dallas with his wife, Charlotte, since 1956, didn't catch the music bug until much later in life. It was the result of a hand injury involving a saw that sliced part of his left hand between his fingers. As the injury healed, Hardin found the muscles were stiff.

"I thought if I started playing the fiddle, it would be therapy for me," he said.

It wasn't just physical therapy. Hardin said he had a lifelong love of music, but hadn't found an outlet to express it. He was in his 60s at the time.

Soon after picking up the fiddle, Hardin joined the Oregon Old Time Fiddlers and found a community of musicians who shared his passion.

"It's nice to be brought in contact with a lot of great musicians," he said.

Now Hardin can probably tell a story about most association members in the state. His memory and, above all, his personality have earned him the job of emcee for the last several years at the association's Friday night performance during the Old Time Fiddlers annual convention.

"He has that enthusiasm and excitement we like," said District 8 (which includes the Dallas area) Chairman Lew Holt. "He has a very good time and involves the audience."

The convention has been held at the Polk County Fairgrounds for the last few years, and on Friday, April 9, the main building was packed for the "Fiddle and Variety Show."

Hardin was part of the lineup at the event, which featured 30 of the best performers from across the state. Part of the prestigious list of players or not, Hardin sees his role as keeping the spotlight on others.

"That's where I fit in most of the time," he said. "I try to liven up the program."

Hardin may not describe himself as a great player, but he certainly is dedicated. He attends a number of fiddling conferences each year and rises religiously at 5 a.m. each day to practice and sing for at least an hour. He often can be seen playing at senior centers in Dallas, Keizer and Salem, or wherever else Holt needs a fiddler.

"I can always call on Fred," Holt said. "He's ready and willing to go."

Hardin's play list includes "danceable Western Swing type music" and two of his favorites are "Ragtime Annie" and "Red Wing."

A teacher and principal at schools in Pedee, Rickreall and Dallas for years, Hardin said he's enjoyed watching younger fiddle players develop into good musicians over the years.

On Friday night, though, it seemed Hardin had the most fun with microphone in hand talking about other musicians.

After a short warmup jam during which the audience filtered through the doors, it was time for Hardin to take over as emcee. A fellow association member introduced him as "the man of a few thousand words."

Hardin did pepper his introductions with details about the performers and short anecdotes. In the end, though, Hardin made the music the star of the show.

"I think music should be part of everyone's life," he said.

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