11-Year-Old Fiddle Player & His Band Will Perform During Rhythm & Roots
By DOTTIE HAVLIK | August 26, 2008Adam Larkey, 11, lives in Erwin, Tenn. with his parents, Eric and Tammy Larkey, and little sister Sarah Grace. A sixth-grader at Unicoi County Middle School, he is the bluegrass fiddle player for the Adam Larkey and Mountain Time band.
He began playing at age 6 and his father, a seasoned bluegrass musician, says Adam is developing a distinctive style of his own. Adam recently sat down for a chat with A! Magazine for the Arts.
You started playing the fiddle when you were 6?
That's right. A buddy of Dad's had an old fiddle that needed to be fixed, and Dad knew a guy who could fix it. After Dad had it fixed, I just wouldn't leave the thing alone — I kept on playin' with it, and playin' with it and playin' with it. And finally Dad said, "Adam, do you want to play the fiddle?" And I said, "Uh huh, yeah, I do." So we searched all over the place, and we found a guy who I took from for four years — Scott Gould. He teaches students up to a certain point, to where he says, "You know what, they're ready to go. I can't teach 'em anymore."He's a great teacher to start kids out withthe fiddle ? he teaches by music. Now I'm taking from David Yates.
What started you?
From all the stuff I'd seen on TV, I thought, I want to try this. I got the bow and started rubbing across the strings with it. One day Mom and Dad started to help me, and I figured out a little bit of Rocky Top, and that's when Dad asked me. I gotmy first fiddle for Christmas, and I was really happy. Then I started taking lessons.
How did this evolve into your band?
Dad was playing bass in a band, and I had just started playing the fiddle — I had learned only a couple of songs [The Tennessee Waltz and Cripple Creek]. He was playing at a restaurant down in Elizabethton, with Allen Shepherd's band,Smoky Meadows. So Allen says, "Adam, do you want to come up here?" I came up, and they got me a chair and I stood up on it — up to the mic — and I played two songs. I thought, "Hmm. I should probably do this more often." As I started learning more songs, I was going up as the "special guest." Then one day, I went up there, and I stayed the whole time. After the Shepherds, we were playing with a band called Kentucky 31 and then we started making a band for me. We've had our band for about two years.
What about performing appeals to you?
I started getting into it a little bit and I'm, like, wow, you know what? People actually really like me. I started listening to other people, and then started putting myown flavor into some of their flavor, along with some of the stuff that's been taught to me. I started out playing by music, and then I began playing by ear. Every now and then I'll go back to my fiddle book if I need to refresh my memory and learn the melody again, read the music.
Where have you played?
We've been down to Nashville a couple of times, to the Midnight Jamboree. We're pretty much local — the Carter Fold, bluegrass festivals and the Red Barn in Erwin. Today, we're going to play a wedding reception. We do all sorts of stuff, mostly weekends because I have school.
Do you practice every day?
Weeellll......I'm really not a big fan ofpracticing, but I know I have to if I'm going to get better. So the minimum I do is 30 minutes to an hour. Sometimes me and Dad will just go in the living room and pick a little bit
What about the rest of your life?
It's hard, it's very hard, because I'm in the band as well — I'm doing percussion. I have to do my homework — now that I'm going into sixth grade I know it's going to be piling up a lot more. I go to my mom's office every day after school and do my homework. I get home, get a little snack and practice my drums. Before long, it's time to hit the haystack. It's very hard. I barely make it through.
Are you going to keep it up?
Oh, yeah! I see me keeping it up, probably for the rest of my life. Right now, my goal is to get on the [Grand Ole] Opry. Really, really trying to get on the Opry.
So this will be your career?
Well, kind of. But I also have something that I want to be — an architect. So I want, along with the day job, to fiddle a little bit on nights and weekends.
But if you made it on the Opry?
If I was on the Opry, I really wouldn't know what to do — go with the architect business or go with the performing.
For any future musicians out there, if you want to start playing an instrument, all you have to do is stay with it. There are going to be bumps in the road, but just go through them and try to deal with them and keep going.
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Editor's Note: Adam's first CD will be released in September on Lonesome Records. He and his band will appear Saturday, Sept. 20, at Bristol's Rhythm and Roots Reunion, at 10 a.m. at the Country Mural Stage and at 4 p.m. at the Java J's Stage. For more information, visit Adam's website, www.adamlarkeyband.com.
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Dottie Havlik is President of the Board of Directors of Arts Alliance Mountain Empire (AAME) and chair
of AAME's Arts for Youth Committee.
Adam Larkey started playing fiddle at age 6.