In 2018, rooms have changed a bit since last year. All the big rooms are still there, and a few have gotten bigger. There are two new suites on the second floor, and we've gotten rid of the four rather cramped hotel rooms in favor of the suites and larger rooms.
Fiddle Hell rooms are located at the Westford Regency Inn and Conference Center, on the first and third floors (except for two suites on the second floor). Rooms vary in size from ballrooms and function rooms down to suites and two large hotel rooms. The hotel has its own New England names for the rooms; however, we renamed all the rooms after our favorite historical fiddle players and other musicians in traditional styles. It's a chance to learn some fiddling history. Sometimes sessions match the rooms - such as a bluegrass workshop in the Kenny Baker Room, but not always. Rooms also have numbers, keyed to the improved map on the cover of your program book.
There are two sets of stairs between the first and third floors, at each end of the long hallway. You can also take the elevator or stairs between levels, on the far side of the hotel lobby (this will get you to the two suites on the second floor). All Fiddle Hell rooms are wheelchair accessible except Room 37 (Buddy MacMaster). The Fiddle Hell Rooms are separated by walls and partitions. We try to eliminate or minimize sound bleed between adjacent rooms, and are mostly successful.
While the rooms are pretty large, please don't spread out your "stuff" too much. If you find an occasional session to be too crowded, look for a different one, take a break, grab a bite, or head off to jam with your friends.
Between sessions, rooms can generally be used for informal jamming unless a Flash Mob is happening in them. In hallways, look for the eight "Official Jam Spot" signs; avoid the "No Jamming, Please" areas, and try not to block traffic. Please do not jam in the hotel lobby (where people are checking in and out). Finally, please keep the noise level low in and near the sleeping rooms. At Fiddle Hell, you can never tell when someone's napping or trying to grab a few quiet moments far from the crowd.
First Floor Rooms
Room 1: "Mellie Dunham Room" (known as Regency I to the hotel staff) - Really big room, used for workshops and jams and for the Saturday night concert and dance. Mellie Dunham (1853-1931) was crowned “Champion Fiddler of Maine” in 1925, and attracted nationwide attention when he was invited to meet Henry Ford, who wanted to revive oldtime music and dancing.
Room 2: "Jean Carignan Room" (Regency II) - Also really big, used for workshops and jams and for the Saturday night concert and dance. Jean “Ti-Jean” Carignan (1916-1988) was a fiddler from Québec who played with great technique and joy. He had a repertoire of over 7000 tunes learned from Joseph Allard (his mentor), Michael Coleman, J. Scott Skinner, and others.
Room 3: "Tommy Jarrell Room" (Regency III) - Also really big, used for workshops and jams and for the Saturday night concert and dance. Thomas Jefferson Jarrell (1901-1985) was a legendary oldtime fiddler, banjo player, and singer from the Round Peak area of North Carolina. He played with wonderful syncopation and driving bowing, and was a link to older times with tunes like Back Step Cindy and Sally Ann.
Room 4: "Don Messer Room" (Emerson) - Workshops and jams. Don Messer (1909-1973) was a “down-east” fiddler from the Maritimes. His radio and TV appearances with his band, the Islanders, made him famous throughout Canada, with tunes like Rippling Water Jig, Woodchopper’s Reel, and Don Messer’s Breakdown.
Room 5 (Registration): "Arthur Smith Room" (Whittier) - Registration, Vendors, T-shirts, CDs, Books, Lost & Found (Flyers & Message Board are just outside in the hallway). Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith (1898-1971) was a Tennessee fiddler and singer who played on the Grand Ole Opry. He played with many bands, and was known for Blackberry Blossom, Red Apple Rag & Orange Blossom Special.
Room 6: "Hjort Anders Olsson Room" (Thoreau) - Workshops and jams. Hjort Anders Olsson (1865-1952) was a great Swedish fiddler and folk idol who played many of Pekkos Per’s tunes. He led a colorful life, and was “discovered” in 1907 by transcriber Nils Andersson, preserving authentic tunes from the local Bingsjö tradition of central Sweden.
Room 7: "Alonzo 'Lonnie' Johnson Room" (Hildreth) - Workshops and jams. Alonzo “Lonnie” Johnson (1899-1970) from Louisiana was a versatile and skillful African-American blues singer, guitarist, and jazz violinist. The first to play an electrically amplified violin, he played with Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, and many others.
Room 8: "Benny Thomasson Room" (Art Gallery) - Workshops and jams. Benny Thomasson (1909-1984) was an innovative Texas contest fiddler who added smooth improvisation and variations to tunes, bringing them to a new level to please the judges. He won many contests, and mentored young fiddlers like Mark O’Connor.
Room 9: [Old Joe] Clark's Pub (next to hotel lobby) - Good food & beverages, jamming is fine there from 9PM - 12:30AM Friday & Saturday night. Named after the ubiquitous fiddle tune.
SECOND Floor Rooms
Room 245: "Jean Ritchie (mountain dulcimer) Room" - Small to medium size workshops, meetups, jams. Jean Ritchie (1922-2015) was an American folk music singer, songwriter, and very influential Appalachian dulcimer player. In her youth she learned folk songs in the traditional way from her family and community; and in adulthood she became a successful modern folksinger.
Room 247: "Charlotte Moorman (cello) Room" - Small to medium size workshops, meetups, jams. Charlotte Moorman (1933-1991) was an American cellist, performance artist, and advocate for avant-garde music. She founded of the Annual Avante Garde Festival of New York. An effective spokesperson and negotiator for advanced performance art, she performed in various stages of attire and with electronic clothing.
Third Floor Rooms
Room 31: "Joe Venuti Room" (Westford 2S-4S) - Workshops and jams. Giuseppe “Joe” Venuti (1903-1978) was the father of jazz violin. He partnered with Eddie Lang on guitar and many others, playing hot solos on tunes like Raggin’ the Scale and Four-String Joe all over the US.
Room 32: "Kenny Baker Room" (Westford 3S) - Workshops and jams. Kenny Baker (1926-2011) was a smooth, tasteful and much-admired bluegrass fiddler from Kentucky who played for years with Bill Monroe. He was known for great tunes like Big Sandy River and Denver Belle.
Room 33: "J. Scott Skinner Room" (Westford 2N) - Workshops and jams. James Scott Skinner (1843-1927) was a famous Scottish fiddler, dancer, and composer favored by Queen Victoria. He wrote more than 600 tunes incl. Hector the Hero and The Bonnie Lass of Bon Accord.
Room 34: "Julia Clifford Room" (Westford 1N-3N) - Workshops and jams. Julia Clifford (1914-1997) won the All-Ireland championship in 1963. Clifford, her brother Denis Murphy, and Padraig O’Keeffe are regarded as a significant influence on Irish traditional music and have given rise to the term Sliabh Luachra style.
Room 35: "Bob Wills Room" (Amherst) - Workshops and jams. Texan Bob Wills (1905-1975), who wrote San Antonio Rose and Take Me Back to Tulsa, was known as “the King of Western Swing.” With his swingy, upbeat, dance band The Texas Playboys, he influenced a generation of country musicians.
Room 36: "Sarah Armstrong Room" (Salem) - Workshops and jams. Sarah Armstrong (18??-19??) was a Pennsylvania fiddler who began playing at 5 and learned many of her tunes from her Uncle Laney. In 1943, Samuel Bayard transcribed 37 of her tunes in his book, Hill Country Tunes, but there are no known recordings of Armstrong’s playing.
Room 37: "Buddy MacMaster Room" (Concord) - Mini-concerts, presentations, small workshops and jams, sound system workshops. Hugh Allen “Buddy” MacMaster (1924-2014), uncle of fiddler Natalie MacMaster and mentor to many others, was a Cape Breton fiddler who played numerous dances, concerts, and festivals in his sweet - yet powerful - style.
Room 345: "Bill Monroe (mandolin) Room" (Hotel Suite 345) - Small to medium size workshops, jams. Bill Monroe (1911-1996) was a mandolin player, singer and songwriter from Kentucky who helped to create bluegrass music. Known for his driving mandolin playing and vocal harmonies, he led the Bluegrass Boys and wrote classics such as Blue Moon of Kentucky, Uncle Pen, and Rawhide.
Room 346: "Maybelle Carter (guitar) Room" (Hotel Suite 346) - Small to medium size workshops, jams. “Mother” Maybelle Carter (1909-1978) was a member of the historic Carter Family country act in the 1920s and 1930s. Her guitar picking style, in which she played melody for songs like Wildwood Flower on the bass strings with her thumb, paved the way for guitar as a lead instrument.
Room 347: "Dock Boggs (banjo) Room" (Hotel Suite 347) - Small to medium size workshops, jams. Dock Boggs (1898-1971) was an oldtime banjo player and traditional singer from Virginia who recorded at age 20, but then faded away. He was rediscovered in the 60’s folk revival and resumed recording and performing.
Room 349: "Vassar Clements Room" (Large Hotel Room) - Small to medium size workshops, meetups, jams. Vassar Clements (1928-2005) was a Florida fiddler who played with Bill Monroe, Old and In the Way, and many other bands. He was instantly recognizable for his chromatic licks and moving double-stops on tunes like Lonesome Fiddle Blues.
Room 353: "Dewey Balfa Room" (Large Hotel Room) - Small to medium size workshops, meetups, jams. Dewey Balfa (1927-1992) was a Louisiana fiddler who played in the Balfa Brothers and other family bands. He recorded a lot, including instructional records, and was a fine ambassador for Cajun music and culture.