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Howdy Forrester
Born:  March 31, 1922
Died:  August 1, 1987
The National Fiddler Hall Of Fame (2015)
WSM Grand Ole Opry
KRLD Dallas, TX
KVOO Tulsa, OK
KWFT Wichita Falls, TX
WSIX Nashville, TN
WSM Nashville, TN

About The Artist

Howard "Howdy" Forrester was one of the all-time great country fiddlers. Although a native of central Tennessee, he is credited with being a major figure in developing what became known as the "Texas Style." Today, he is probably best remembered for his long service with Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys.

Forrester hailed from Hickman County, Tennessee. By age ten, he was already playing the fiddle. When his family moved to Nashville, he and brother Joe soon joined the Tennessee Valley Boys band of vocalist and former Vagabond Herald Goodman. One of the earliest articles seen on Howdy Forrester was from Song Exchange News in 1938 that wrote a short piece on the group. Howdy and his brother Joe were just teen-agers when they joined the group - Howdy was 16, his brother 19. At sixteen, in September 1938, he was part of the band that journeyed to Rock Hill, SC and recorded eight numbers for Victor's Bluebird label. Other young members of this aggregation included future Ernest Tubb lead guitarist Billy Byrd (then only 18), Joe Forrester on bass, banjo player Virgil Atkins, and veteran fiddler Arthur Smith. Goodman did the singing.

Red Sovine - Howdy Forrester - Circa 1940's sNot long after their recording debut, the band shifted to KVOO where Howard met his future wife Wilene (later Sally). The Forrester soon split from Goodman and went to KWFT Wichita Falls, TX where Wilene joined them and the two were married. Later he hooked up musically with Georgia Slim (Robert Rutland) as part of Gus Foster's Texas Roundup at KRLD Dallas where they perfected the art of "twin fiddling." It was in Dallas that Forrester received the nickname "Big Howdy."

With war clouds gathering in 1941, the Forresters returned to Tennessee where Howdy fiddled mostly with Bill Monroe until he was called to military service in 1943. Sally Ann remained with the Blue Grass Boys playing accordion. After Howard returned, both stayed with Monroe until March 1946 when they returned to Texas and spent more time Georgia Slim and the Texas Roundup where they worked at KRLD until 1950. They recorded several numbers for Mercury from 1947 until 1949. They also backed Dewey Groom who sang with the Texas Roundup on some singles. Slim and Howdy also did some fiddle transcriptions, which came out on a Kanawha LP in 1969.

Promo Ad - Tivolio Theatre - Kaw City, OK - Herald Goodman - Tennesse Valley Boys - Curt Poulton - Little Orphan Girl - August 1939
Promo Ad - Rex Theater - Seminole, OK - Cousin Herald Goodman - Little Orphan Girl - Mango Red - Vagabond Cowboys - November 1939

Promo Ad - Tilghman High School - Paducah, KY - Bill Monroe - Clyde Moody - Cousin Wilbur - Stringbean - Big Howdy Forrester - DeFord Baiely - Minnie Pearl - February 1943
Promo Ad - Sydney Stadium - Sydney, New South Wales, Australia - Roy Acuff - Tex Morton - Reg Lindsay - Brother Oswald - Shot Jackson - Jimmy Riddle - Melba Montgomery   - Johnny Ashcroft - Wilburn Brothers - June Webb - February 1959
Promo Ad - Grand Ole Opry - Armory - Klamath Falls, OR - Roy Acuff - Kitty Wells - Johnny and Jack - Benny Martin - Big Howdy Forrester - Shot Jackson - Robert Lunn - May 1955

Hal Horton's Original Deluxe Edition Folio - 1946 - Howdy Forrester and Bob Rutland (Georgia Slim)
Best Band - Professional Class - Lawrence Timon's Riverwood Riding Academy Band - Howdy Forrester - Wilene Forrester - Joe Forrester - C. L. Harris - Lawrence Timon - April 1950

The Devil's Box - Fall 1997 - Volume 31 No. 3 - Howdy Forrester
The Devil's Box - June 1, 1974 - Newsletter XXV - Howdy Forrester - Georgia Slim - Bob Rutland

Promo Ad - Tiger Field - Corsicana, TX - Hal Horton and his Texas Roundup - Johnny Hicks - Georgia Slim - Howdy Forrester - Sally Ann - Miss Ludy - Dub Hendricks - July 1948
Promo Ad - Grand Ole Opry - Las Cruces Football Field - Las Cruces, NM - Roy Acuff - Kitty Wells - Johnny and Jack - Big Howdy Forrester - Pap and Jug Band - Brother Oswald - Smoky Mountain Boys - Tennessee Mountain Boys - August 1956

Then later in 1949, the Forrester's returned to Nashville. Howdy fiddle briefly with Cowboy Copas and then in 1951 joined Roy Acuff & the Smoky Mountain Boys for what became a lifetime job. He worked with the Acuff group on the Opry, in the studio, and on the road until 1964. After that his road work slacked off but he continued recording and playing the Opry and doing recordings with Roy. The slack in road work was replaced by his work booking shows for the Acuff-Rose Artist Bureau. A response to a reader about how to get music published included a note to perhaps try contacting Howdy Forrester in 1968, then said to be manager of the Acuff-Rose Publishing Company in Nashville.

Unlike Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs, Roy Acuff had no objections to his band members recording on their own. Big Howdy did his first in 1959 for a small firm called Cub, which in 1962 came out on M G M as Fancy Fiddlin' Country Style. He followed it up the next year with Fiddlin' Country Style on United Artists. However, his main solo record work started in 1973 when he followed in the footsteps of Chubby Wise on the Texas-based Stoneway label where he turned out five long play albums including one where he and Chubby twin-fiddled. In 1983, he did another twin-fiddle project for County with Bill Monroe's fiddler Kenny Baker.

Not long afterward, Forrester began to slow down. Nonetheless, his reputation as a quality fiddler was assured. He died at age 65.

Howdy Forrester and Onie Wheeler - Chicago Concert - October 14, 1979

Credits & Sources

  • Hillbilly-Music.com would like to express its thanks to Ivan M. Tribe, author of Mountaineer Jamboree — Country Music in West Virginia and other books that can be found on Amazon.com and numerous articles in other publications for providing us with information about this artist.
  • Action-Line: On Getting Music Published; May 7, 1968; Birmingham Post-Herald; Birmingham, AL
  • Thumb-Nail Sketches Of Radio Artists; Song Exchange News; Vol. 1 No. 2; 1938; Arlie Kinkade; Graysville, OH
  • Family Gossip; Peggy Stewart; November 1938; Rural Radio Magazine; Vol. 1 No. 10; Rural Radio, Inc.; Nashville, TN

Related Web Links

Howdy Forrester, Fiddler of the Opry

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