Louis Beaudoin

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Considered one of the great Quebec fiddlers, Louis Beaudoin actually lived in Burlington, VT most of his life. Wherever he lived or went, he seems to have spread great love and joy with his music, as…
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Considered one of the great Quebec fiddlers, Louis Beaudoin actually lived in Burlington, VT most of his life. Wherever he lived or went, he seems to have spread great love and joy with his music, as there are few departed musicians who are spoken about with such great rapture. A late '70s recording with the popular Irish band the Boys of Lough was something of a lovefest for musicians and audience alike during an era when a younger generation of listeners was beginning to discover that folk music was about much more than stories about Tom Dooley hanging down his head. Beaudoin recorded several superb projects for the Philo label, the second of which was entitled Beaudoin Family and highlighted the talents of his daughter Sylvia Beaudoin on piano and brother Wilfred Beaudoin on guitar.

Fiddler Beaudoin was born in Lowell, MA, also the birthplace of the writer Jack Kerouac. Many of Beaudoin's earliest memories involve his father playing fiddle. His father played fiddle at home, he played fiddle at parties and weddings for the same Lowell French Canadian community that the Kerouac family was part of, he came home very late at night because he was off playing fiddle at friends' houses. At 15, Beaudoin seems to have finally gotten the message: he would play fiddle, too. So much for teenage rebellion. He began a quite typical learning relationship with both his father and mother, based completely on the oral tradition. He also learned the correct way to tap his feet, an extremely important part of the entire French Canadian fiddle tradition, in which it is common for fiddlers to play sitting down so tootsies are free to create complicated clogging rhythms. Beaudoin remembered his grandmother elevating the hem of her floor-length skirts to better knock out rhythms in her high boots.

The family moved to Vermont in 1937, and it was soon after this that the young Beaudoin first came in contact with Joe Danis, an older Canadian fiddle maestro who became Beaudoin's tutor. This made Beaudoin's French Canadian orientation toward fiddle music rock-solid. In the meantime, he became a fairly normal part of the Burlington, VT, community. During the second World War, Beaudoin served in Africa and Europe as a member of General Patton's tank division. In the '50s he began serving at the Burlington police department, wearing the blue uniform for 11 years before opening his own automotive radiator shop in 1964. The latter business was no doubt one of the few such shops at which so many fiddlers tended to gather, no doubt leading some prospective customers arriving with wounded radiators to wonder what on earth was going on. If someone had said "Oh, the shop's manager is a professional fiddler," then perhaps an argument would have broken out.

While Beaudoin certainly had the ability to perform professionally, and did, he looked at himself as more of an individual who was dedicated to sharing his beloved musical traditions with others. He was very active in the state's Council of Arts, recognizing that such an institution's activities could greatly benefit younger players. He served as chairman of the board of trustees of the Northeast Fiddlers' Association up until his death in early 1980. Professional or not, he received a huge career break after being selected to play at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. for a square dance on the eve of President Jimmy Carter's inauguration. He passed on his love of music to his own children just as his own family had done with him. Three of the Beaudoin daughters play the piano and clog.