Remembering Art Stamper

By Jean Metcalfe

Little did I know when I met the lanky hairdresser at his salon in Buechel that Art Stamper was a renowned fiddle player. I sat as he cut my hair, then watched as he swept up the clippings. He had not told me that the deft hands wielding the broom could also play an award-winning fiddle.

Later I would be amazed and pleased to spot him fiddling away on a small stage in Knoxville, Tennessee - at the World's Fair, no less. And he popped up on a television broadcast with the McLain Family Band.

And there was that time when I spied him in the audience at the Shepherdsville Country Music Place, where Bill Monroe and Ralph Stanley were appearing. When I introduced myself, Art, looking tanned, slim and trim in a black-leather jacket, locked me in a bear hug and we talked of beauty salons and music. He allowed as how he could still shampoo, cut and curl.

Later I would catch Art playing fiddle at Homefront Performances, then spot him performing with the Celtic group Galloglas on Hawley-Cooke's Lime Kiln stage. Got a nice bear hug at that intermission. Seems Art, his hat and his fiddle were always popping up somewhere to play music - excellent music.

I missed Art's appearance at the tribute/benefit held for him at Shepherdsville after he had been diagnosed with throat cancer. Having become very ill, he left before I arrived. Another missed opportunity to pose for a photo with him for my "Ego Trip Album." Other opportunities were also missed, as I often didn't know with whom or where he would be playing next. Seems that, despite his genius, he wasn't a household name and obviously not a self-promoter. But musicians far and wide knew this man and his talent.

I was thrilled when the IBMA presented Art with a Distinguished Achievement Award at its 2004 gathering in Louisville. He was there to accept, but his waning health was obvious.

Yes, I knew Art Stamper was very ill, but on Monday, January 24, when the news of Art's passing was reported on the local news, I did not receive it well. A nice, well-deserved tribute, but I was stunned and so terribly sad.

Go rest high on that mountain, Art and thanks for the pleasure you gave us while you were among us