Smith McInnis’ Leather Britches

In 1985 the Cane Creek Cloggers asked me to fiddle for their performance at the Turkey Festival in the small town of Raeford in Hoke County. A sizable crowd had gathered to see the dancers perform on the outdoor stage erected for the event. As I played music for the routines, I noticed that an older, slightly built gentleman wearing a hat was watching me closely. I sensed at once that he was a musician, likely a fiddler, and when the performance ended I hurried offstage and steered through the crowd in his direction. He introduced himself as Smith McInnis and replied in the affirmative when I asked if he played the fiddle. When I handed him my instrument, he played a few notes of “Mississippi Sawyer” and I could tell immediately that he was an interesting musician. He invited me to visit him in his home, and I returned to Raeford in a few weeks. A friendship quickly developed, and I came to enjoy his wit and sense of fun as much as his fiddling.

Smith McInnis fiddled breakdowns and hornpipes at a quick pace that, nonetheless, featured fully developed melody lines. These qualities made his fiddling both exciting to hear and well suited for dancing. Smith was particularly adept at executing circular bowing and would combine bow pushes and pulls to bring interesting rhythmic embellishments to a tune, all the while maintaining a driving pulse. His rendition of Leather Britches shows all of these traits.

This video was made on January 10, 1987, as part of my documentation of North Carolina fiddlers. Videographer Nancy Kalow assisted with this project.

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