b. Robert C. Byrd, 20 November 1917, North Wilkesboro, North Carolina, USA. His mother died when he was a baby and he was raised by an aunt and uncle in Raleigh County, West Virginia. Byrd taught himself to play the fiddle when he was 12, mainly by listening to recordings of old-time fiddlers. After graduating from high school, he worked at various projects in West Virginia. In the early 40s, he played for a time with a hillbilly band at WJLS Beckley and during World War II, he worked as a welder in the Baltimore shipyards, before buying a grocery store in Sophia, West Virginia. His political career began in 1946, when he was elected first to the State Legislature and then to the State Senate. During the 50s, he served three terms in the US Congress, before gaining election to the US Senate in 1958. He was re-elected for further terms five times, the last being in 1988. His fiddle playing often attracted interest at rallies during his early political career and undoubtedly became something of a gimmick to attract the voters. He became a noted member of the Government and Democrat leader in the Congress. During his time in government, Byrd played at party rallies and music festivals, gaining respect from not only fellow politicians but also from professional musicians for his playing. He even guested on the Grand Ole Opry. He became a regular performer at functions in Washington and made some recordings for the Library of Congress and in the late 70s, he recorded an album for County. During the 80s, he maintained his popularity around Washington, often appearing with bluegrass fiddler Joe Meadows. While many politicians have been accused of fiddling, Byrd may well be the only one that can actually claim to have become famous for his ability to fiddle.
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