Local fiddling legend resurrected on CD

Published 1:21 pm Saturday, July 12, 2008

Once upon a time, life was near-perfect.

It had balance and order and fiddle music.

That was the time Ole Hanson and his daughters made music.

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Seven of the nine children of Ole and Maxine Hanson played musical instruments: fiddle or violin, guitar, viola — almost any string instrument made.

They took music lessons from Austin Public Schools talented cadre of instructors, but mostly their father was their inspiration and instructor.

The last time “Fiddlin’ Ole” Hanson played music for an audience was two weeks before he died at St. Mark’s Lutheran Home.

However, the day Hanson died was not the day the music died.

Two generations of Hanson family members have released a CD titled “Full Circle.”

Wendy Larson, a daughter, performs on violin and bass; her sister, Sylvia Davis, performs on viola and violin; Cameron Davis, a grandson of Ole and son of Sylvia plays bass and guitar; and Joshua Larson, a grandson of Ole and Wendy’s son, plays guitar and harmonic; all four do vocals.

Karen Larson, a daughter-in-law of Wendy’s and Joshua’s wife, is featured on “Tears Are Fallin,’” written by her husband.

The real treat on the new CD of 14 eclectic numbers — everything from Hank Williams to bluegrass legend Bill Monroe to blues legend Robert Johnson — is Ole Hanson himself.

That’s him singing and playing on the first track, “Red Wing,” written by Bob Wills.

The CD is a dedication to the man who made music feel like warm sunshine.

“When we played with dad we were known as Sweet Country, but nobody every remembers the name of our band. It was always Fiddlin’ Ole and High Daughters,” Wendy said.

“It didn’t matter whether we sounded good or bad, afterward they would always say to Dad, ‘Ole, that sounded so good.’ They only noticed him,” Sylvia said.

“All of us started on the fiddle when we were 4 or 5 years old, when we were just learning to read letters,” Wendy said. “I think Sylvia and I and my older sister, Marjarey Barnett, started when they were teenagers.

Hanson started playing the fiddle when he was 8 years old. He played Norwegian folk music handed down from his father and grandfather. His instrument: a homemade cigar box fiddle.

Sometimes the young Ole played behind a curtain in the Hanson home because he was so bashful.

When he grew older, he and two brothers played music for house parties and barn dances.

The dedication to their father explains the origins of Fiddlin’ Ole’s music: “Generations of Norwegian fiddle tunes were passed down to Ole’s grandfather and father and finally from Ole to his own nine children.”

Sylvia calls Ole’s wife and partner of 65 years, Maxine, who handled the business end of the family band’s touring, the “driving force” behind the family’s musical successes.

Two brothers (deceased) also played in the family band, but Ole himself played with other bands.

Sometime in the 70s, the siblings started playing with the father in a band of their own.

The daughters and their father also played in fiddle contests all over the Upper Midwest.

Music was one of the ties that bound the family together and, maybe, the strongest.

Sylvia, Wendy and Joshua and Cameron have been performing as Full Circle for the last 10 years.

The CD’s 14 tracks included Earl Scurggs, Lead Belly, Merle Haggard, grandson Joshua’s original music, traditional Norwegian folk music and old-time music.

The daughters recall growing up in the 60s; their father, who fostered their interest in music, stopped short of being tolerant about the birth of rock music.

“He never liked American Bandstand, which we watched every day after school,” Wendy said.

“He always asked us ‘What do you see in that music?’” Sylvia said.

As a matter of fact, Sylvia is one of Ole’s daughters who pursued classical music and played in the Austin Symphony Orchestra for many years. Now, she is part of a classical music string quartet.

Hanson worked at Hormel Foods Corporation’s Austin flagship plant for more than 40 years; repaired, restrung and tuned string instruments in his home for a part-time job; and played the fiddle in a band or by himself for the pure joy of it.

Now, his family is ensuring Fiddlin’ Ole Hanson’s music will still be heard.

The CD is only available by calling Wendy Larson at 437-66703 or Sylvia Davis at 437-3629.