Jilson Setters

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Presented in true carnival side-show fashion as a blind mountain man just recently plucked from obscurity to perform for the civilized world, Jilson Setters recorded several sides for RCA Victor and the…
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Presented in true carnival side-show fashion as a blind mountain man just recently plucked from obscurity to perform for the civilized world, Jilson Setters recorded several sides for RCA Victor and the Library of Congress, and appeared around the world including New York society functions and in front of England's King George V. Born James William Day in Cattlesburg, Kentucky, Setters first gained fame at the hands of Jean "Traipsin' Woman" Thomas, the organizer of Ashland's American Folk Song Festival. Thomas presented him at the festival as "the Singin' Fiddler of Lost Hope Hollow," a man who'd been blind from birth until just before his emergence. (The story goes that his new-found eyesight, courtesy of a medical operation, made the appearance of civilization that much more surprising for him.) Several academics apparently confirmed the story, and Setters made the rounds of folk festivals and society balls. Also the subjet of a book, Setters eventually presented himself to the king as well. He recorded sides during the late '20s, and continued to perform into the early '40s until just before his death -- apparently without any suspicions concerning his background.