Uncle Bunt Stephens

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One of the most amazing fiddlers of his era, Uncle Bunt Stephens won contests galore during the '20s and later appeared on the Grand Ole Opry as the "World Champion Fiddler." Born John L. Stephens in…
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One of the most amazing fiddlers of his era, Uncle Bunt Stephens won contests galore during the '20s and later appeared on the Grand Ole Opry as the "World Champion Fiddler." Born John L. Stephens in Bedford, Tennessee in 1879, he was orphaned early in life and raised in nearby Flatcreek. Stephens had played harmonica for several years before he bought his first fiddle from a hobo at the age of eleven. He began playing dances soon after, and became one of the most popular fiddlers in the state. In 1926, while working road construction and occasionally farming his own land, he entered a fiddling contest sponsored by Henry Ford, and soon progressed to the national finals in Detroit. There, he won the finals with his version of "Old Cacklin' Hen" and took home $1000 plus a new car (Ford also paid to have Stephens' teeth repaired).

Stephens began recording for Columbia just over a month after winning the contest, and he eventually released four sides, "Candy Girl"/"Left in the Dark Blues" and "Louisburg Blues"/"Sail Away Lady." He also toured the eastern United States, appeared on the Grand Ole Opry several times, and played on many regional radio programs. He never recorded again, though he continued to perform around Tennessee during the 1930s and '40s. He died in 1951.