Cliff Carnahan

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Cliff Carnahan is an octogenarian songwriter and fiddler who never transcribed any of his several hundred songs with paper and ink, but preferred instead to relegate them to his memory. An unusual method…
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Artist Biography by

Cliff Carnahan is an octogenarian songwriter and fiddler who never transcribed any of his several hundred songs with paper and ink, but preferred instead to relegate them to his memory. An unusual method to be sure, yet it worked for Carnahan. The roster of artists who recorded his compositions includes Hank Williams, the Whitstein Brothers, and Jimmy Martin & the Sunny Mountain Boys. His "Oceans of Diamonds" scored in the Top Ten. The Louisiana Hall of Master Folk Artists inducted Carnahan into its ranks in 1992. His festival appearances included stops at the Cloutierville Heritage Festival in Cloutierville, LA, near his hometown of Emmanual, and the Natchitoches/NSU Folk Festival.

The artist never received any formal musical training and instead drew upon various influences as his teachers. An elderly accordionist from the swamps near where he was born lent some Cajun flavor. His own Irish heritage contributed waltzes, jigs, reels, and other Celtic melodies. A prized family radio brought him the sounds of country from Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, while a black youth who had only one eye led Carnahan to the blues with his harmonica. More musical instruction filtered down from one of his uncles and his father, both of whom were fiddlers. When he went to work in the Louisiana town of Lebeau, he started performing with Joe Falcon, a pioneering Cajun accordion player. Carnahan drew more inspiration from the Hackberry Ramblers in Lake Charles during the '30s and '40s.