Old-time fiddling refers to a time when fiddlers learned their music from family and neighbors. Old-time fiddle traditions in the United States were largely local traditions, with each region bearing the stamp of its most influential fiddlers down through the years. Local Irish traditions could be found in Chicago and Boston, for example, while French traditions took hold in Louisiana, Missouri, and Maine, and various Scandinavian traditions left their mark in the upper Midwest. Of course, some of the best fiddlers were itinerant and left their mark on several local and regional styles.

With the advent of records and radio, and increasingly since the 1920s, the products of the music industry gradually came to supplant the local traditions. Since about 1920, most fiddlers in the southeastern United States learned not only from family and neighbors, but increasingly from radio programs like the Grand Ole Opry and from recordings; and they absorbed a variety of styles and techniques and increased their repertoires in the interests of innovation. One of the most important modern fiddle styles is associated with BLUEGRASS, which began shortly after World War II and has spread from its origin in the southeast to become an international music.

CLYDE DAVENPORT learned first from his father and neighbors, absorbing a local old-time fiddle repertory. He also greatly admired Leonard Rutherford, a fiddler from Monticello, Kentucky who made several 78-rpm records and played in a very smooth style. Clyde successfully copied Rutherford's sweet tone. Later he was drafted into the infantry, and after his discharge he played semi-professionally on a radio station in Muncie, Indiana. During that period he absorbed some of the more modern ways of playing the fiddle and some modern tunes, but CLYDE'S AESTHETICS remained largely the same.