Clyde told me: "I never did have to learn nothing. I could just pick, I could just play a piano or organ or anything that come along, I could play it first time I ever tried it. I never did have to learn how to play anything. It just come naturally. It was just a gift, what it is. Now I ain't smart at all. I'm awful dumb. But that, you know, it was just a gift for me. And I never did put it to no use. If I'd have tried to play the fiddle, which come natural to me, if I'd have tried to play and learn anything, which I knowed more than anybody else anyway, it'd have been one more sight what I could have done. But I didn't try. I never tried to learn nothing in my life. And hain't till this day. I never set down like other people and get somebody to show me how to do something. Nothing like that. I didn't have to. I could tell by the sound of the fiddle where the things was hitting and everything. And if they made ary mistake, I caught it. I never did have to learn nothing.
Jeff: And the same with the banjo, too.
Clyde: Same thing with the banjo. Nobody ever showed me nothing on anything.
Although Clyde may sound like he is bragging here, I think he is genuinely interested in why, for example, music came so easily to him, whereas his school lessons did not. That is what he is referring to above when he said, "I ain't smart. I'm awful dumb."
Jeff: Do you feel like you've used your gift to its full extent?
Clyde: No. Never did put it to no use.
Jeff: How do you feel about that?
Clyde: I don't feel bad about it. I'd rather have worked as to've played.
Having the gift of old-time fiddling, Clyde believes he should give his music away to others.
Jeff: I got another subject, and that is how do you feel about all the attention that you've been getting since Charles Wolfe came around and recorded you and W. L. Gregory, and now that fiddlers are stopping by.
Clyde: It's just like it was before it ever happened. I think nothing about it. Never did go to my head. Anybody comes here who wants my music can get it. You go other places, they don't want to give it to you. I think nothing of it. It makes me no difference.
Jeff: Are you glad that people are coming by?
Clyde: Yeah. I like company. Yeah, I'm glad people come.
Jeff: Has it changed your outlook on your music at all?
Clyde: No, nothing's changed. I never play unless they come in. Come in, I play as long as they want to hear it.
The idea of music as a gift isn't quite the same as the idea that some people have musical talent and others don't. I think a gift suggests something unmerited, mysterious, originating outside the person; talent suggests an ability that is lodged inside. Perhaps "gift" comes from a preindustrial, religious mind-set while "talent" speaks to an industrial and secular one. CLYDE DAVENPORT is not a church-goer but he was raised in a family and culture that honored religious faith.