b. Ralph Meadows, 31 December 1934, Basin, West Virginia, USA, d. 8 February 2003, nr. Washington, DC, USA. As a small child Meadows heard early country music on radio and was especially taken by those musicians who played the fiddle. Taking up the instrument, by the time he was in his mid-teens he had become sufficiently proficient to play professionally with the Goins Brothers. After two years with this band he joined the Stanley Bothers, where he spent another couple of years. During this spell he appeared on record, attracting particular attention with his playing of ‘Orange Blossom Special’, the test piece for virtuoso fiddlers. He was then with the Lilly Brothers, Jim And Jesse and Bill Monroe. After a year with Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys, Meadows returned to West Virginia. It was now 1957 and for the next 20 years he played in the region with artists such as Bill and Mary Reed and Buddy Starcher. Among other artists with whom he worked are the Lonesome Pine Fiddlers, Buddy Griffin, Carl and Judie Pagter, and Bill Emerson. From the mid-70s, Meadows had return spells with the Goins Brothers and with Jim And Jesse. From the early 80s, Meadows lived near Washington, DC, continuing to play until shortly before his death.
Meadows’ own-name albums were re-released in 2006 and on them can be heard fine examples of his repertoire, which includes ‘Cotton Eyed Joe’, ‘Sally Gardens’, ‘Indian Springs’, ‘Battle Of Bull Run’, ‘Herman’s Rag’, ‘Southern Aristocracy’, ‘Kansas City Railroad Blues’ and ‘Cruel Willie’. His grandson, Brandon Farley, plays mandolin and appears with his grandfather on Cotton Eyed Joe, as do banjo player Dick Bowden, guitarist Jack Leiderman and bass player Victoria McMullen. Others who played on his late albums are banjo player Mike Munford and mandolinist Jimmy Gaudreau. On Meadows’ own-name records he uses both Ralph and Joe as his forename, while on some he uses both.