My Violin Obsession - a brief history

When I was a kid I was surrounded by music. Almost everyone in my family played guitar or fiddle. I don’t remember having an overwhelming interest in it back then as I was still focusing on drums and then finally guitar when I turned 7, but it was always present.

I started playing in nursing homes and dinner dances by the time I turned eleven. My cousin Rick played fiddle and I had learned to chord on the guitar to the tunes he’d play. He brought me out to my first live performance in Clayton, Ontario and I can’t remember what I played, although I think I sang ‘Too Old to Die Young’ by Moe Bandy because it was one of my Grandpa’s favourite songs.

My memory is spotty, but I do recall in my early teens starting to gain interest in the fiddle. My Grandma had taken her dad’s fiddle to be repaired so that I could play it, but the repair person wasn’t a luthier and I fear did more damage than good. It had no bridge when we dug it out from under the bed so my Grandpa and I went out to the woodpile, cut a chunk out of a random piece of wood and tried to turn it into a bridge. Needless to say, it wasn’t really playable. Shortly after, I saved up and bought a Stentor from Main Street Music in Arnprior. I did all manner of bad things to it to try to electrify it but never really quite got it there.


Many years later, I was touring with Ali McCormick and found myself in the possession of an electric violin that I had picked up from a player in Ottawa. I brought that thing to so many gigs, but never got the nerve to play it.

A few years after that, I had started a band called the Timberline with my friend Alex Holmes, and brothers Joe and Al Patrois. We really wanted to do songs like Callin’ Baton Rouge by Garth Brooks and maybe someday, The Devil Went Down to Georgia, so I set to work. There are some videos floating around of this period of my playing, but they’re pretty rough.

Fast forward to the pandemic. I basically quit music and had moved to Alberta to work in the oilfield to pay off some debts I had accrued while trying to wait out the pandemic as a musician. One morning, I was walking out to my car parked on the road and slipped on ice. I landed on my back and kinda laughed it off. Then I looked down and realized my left foot was going the wrong way. A couple surgeries later and I found myself ordered to bed for months. I had started to play with a band in Grande Prairie called Great Northern Railway and had picked up a Yamaha electric violin to play with them. While recovering from my injury, I played violin for hours and hours and hours a day. 

Once I was well enough to be onstage again, my friend Dave Milner gave me a violin, which is still my main violin. I believe the story is that his dad had found it under a bed somewhere and he said if I got it fixed up, I could have it. It had weird brown paint all over it and needed some serious attention. Peter Dennison from Grandview Piano Works slowly nursed it back to health and installed an LR Baggs pickup and that instrument and I have been inseparable ever since.

I had messed around with lutherie before but other than cutting out some guitar shaped lumps out of wood and screwing up many fretboard blanks with my fret saw, had never seriously put much work into it. I started reading books on the subject and doing research online. I began installing pickups and doing my own set ups.


After leaving Alberta and moving to BC, I met a luthier name Pauline Kotlarz who did extremely fine work. She had worked on some of my instruments and I was really inspired by how she carved bridges and did seamless repairs. I had been bitten by the luthierie bug again and outfitted myself with some specialty tools, acquired some tone wood and joined the Violin Makers Association of BC. I then took a course by Edgar Russ from Cremona Italy on violin construction concepts.


Finally, in Nova Scotia, I started a band called Fiddlehead Junction where I get to play fiddle and violin on many tunes that wouldn’t necessarily contain fiddle. The sky’s the limit at this point and we have a ton of fun! I am also in the process of finishing my first two violin constructed from scratch, while keeping busy restoring and repairing violins for local musicians and others I’ve acquired at auction and online.

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