Ralph BlizardMarch 06, 2012
Given Name: H. Ralph Blizard
Date of Born: December 5, 1918
Place of Birth: Kingsport, TN
Married: Mildred Inez Bowman, 1951
Children: David, Mark
Date of Death:: December 3, 2004
Place of Death: Blountville, TN
Ralph Blizard is a legendary old-time long-bow fiddler. He epitomizes the musical legacy of the Appalachian region; he learned to play the fiddle from his father and expanded that tradition to live radio entertainment and a lifetime of musical achievements. He grew up in a musical home where frequent visitors that influenced young Ralph included the Carter Family, Arthur Smith, Dudley Vance, and Charlie Bowman. Beginning in 1932 at the age of 14, Ralph and his band, The Southern Ramblers, played on station WOPI in Bristol, Tennessee, with continued stints on station WJHL in Johnson City, Tennessee, and WKPT in Kingsport, Tennessee, that lasted into the early 1950s. He later put down his fiddle for twenty-five years in order to raise a family. Upon his retirement from Eastman Chemical, Blizard picked up his fiddle again and became an icon of traditional fiddling, bringing back the magic which had thrilled so many during the golden age of country radio. Ralph founded The New Southern Ramblers — a first-rate old-time band that over the years has included musicians John Lilly, John Herrmann, Gordy Hinner, Phil Jamison, and Meredith McIntosh. Ralph became associated with Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina and was a founder of and instructor at the annual Swannanoa Gathering old-time music feastival. In 2002, Ralph was awarded an National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, the highest accolade an artist can receive in the US, and the equivalent of being recognized as a national treasure. Ralph has also been a strong influence upon Reeltime Travelers Thomas Sneed and Martha Scanlan. Blizard continued his fiddling with concerts, dances and workshops around the world and at his weekly jam session at the historic log Anderson House in Blountville, Tennessee. Ralph Blizard struggled with a heart condition for the last two years of his life which forced him to cease the playing he loved so much. He passed away peacefully at his home on December 3, 2004.
Click here to read an interview with Ralph on the National Endowment for the Arts website.