From the time of his first radio appearance, in 1950 at the age of fourteen, on Bristol’s WCYB, Arvil Freeman has been a professional fiddler. He toured for a brief but prestigious stint with Reno and Smiley for six months in the 1960s, and since then has chosen to perform primarily in the Asheville area. Through his performing and teaching, he has made a significant contribution to the flourishing of traditional music in the North Carolina mountains.
Freeman is a native of Madison County, and learned many tunes from his brother, the late fiddler Gordon Freeman. Arvil’s fiddling developed into a distinctive personal style, known for its long-bow smoothness. He is a very influential teacher in the region, and has tutored such up-and-comers as Josh Goforth, who cites Freeman as his greatest influence, and Emma and Bryan McDowell.
Throughout the 1980s Freeman played five nights a week in the Marc Pruett Band, at Bill Stanley’s Barbecue and Bluegrass in Asheville. In 1974, 1993, 1994, and 1995, he won the fiddle contest at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival. He was one of five fiddlers (with Benton Flippen, Audrey Hash Ham, Red Wilson, and Josh Goforth) chosen to represent the variety of traditional fiddle styles in North Carolina on UNC-TV’s Folkways series. Freeman has appeared on more than forty different albums, including five of Raymond Fairchild‘s records and two of the Crowe Brothers’.
Nowadays, Arvil Freeman continues to give fiddle lessons, and performs regularly as a member of the Stoney Creek Boys, the house band for Asheville’s Shindig on the Green.
The North Carolina Arts Council honored Arvil Freeman with the prestigious North Carolina Heritage Award in May, 2018.
Arvil Freeman passed away October 21, 2021 at the age of eighty-nine.