Dwight Lamb

Old time fiddler and Danish button accordionist
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Dwight LambDwight "Red" Lamb is a musician from Onawa. Dwight has been fiddling for nearly 60 years and comes from a heritage that includes several generations of fiddlers, including his father and grandfather.

Born and reared in Morehead, IA, Dwight is best known for his Missouri Valley style of fiddling, which he picked up from radio, records, and Decatur fiddler Bob Walters. The Missouri style is defined by both repertoire and the accent a fiddler puts on the bow. Lamb has played in, won, and judged many fiddle contests throughout the Midwest.

Dwight also plays the Danish button accordion, which he learned from his maternal grandfather, who sold his farm and came to live with Dwight’s parents. When Dwight was older, he played for Danish and old time dances in western Iowa and in Nebraska. His favorites are the old fiddle tunes passed down through the generations, some of which date back to the 17th and 18th centuries, like “Bells of America,” “The Prodigal Son,” and “The Dark Haired Girl.”

Old time fiddling is a little different, depending on where in the United States the tradition emerges. In the Appalachian region, Scots-Irish and British tunes dominate; in New England, some French Canadian tunes enter into the mix. In northeastern Iowa, old time means old time Scandinavian music, while in eastern Iowa, which was populated by settlers from the upland South, Missouri, and the eastern part of the Midwest, the mix is mostly Anglo-Scots-Irish with a dash of German thrown in — hence the popularity of polkas as well as reels, jigs, and the like. In the western part of the state, Danish and German tunes are part of the repertoire. The influence of radio in the 1920s and 1930s also added in popular period songs to the mix, and later on, country and then bluegrass. The folk song revival of the 1940s and ’50s and then the second revival in the 1960s reinfused the repertoire with another layer of British ballads and Irish tunes. As well, the popularity of barn dances in the 19th and first half of the 20th century assured that dance tunes were an integral part of what has come to be known as old time music.

Dwight Lamb was a featured performer in the Smithsonian’s 1996 Festival of American Folklife and the Sesquicentennial Festival of Iowa Folklife. He is a past recipient of the Iowa Arts Council Folklife Award and has several times been the recipient of Traditional Arts Apprenticeship grants to teach fiddling in Iowa and elsewhere. He is also featured in the Department of Cultural Affairs Cultural Express program on Iowa Danish traditions and has a variety of recordings (CDs and tapes) available.

Contact: Dwight Lamb, Onawa, IA, 712.423.2352, dlamb@willinet.net