Born in Grayson County, Virginia, Audrey Hash Ham made her home in Ashe County for many years. She learned to make dulcimers, then fiddles, from her father, Albert Hash. Audrey said that she followed her father around from the time she was about three years old, watching the way he worked. She made her first dulcimer around 1966 and continued making them for years, working beside her father while he made fiddles.
Eventually, with the guidance of her father, she decided to try making a fiddle. “I got the fiddle done, and I was so nervous when it was done. I knew it wouldn’t play. I just knew it wouldn’t. I handed it to daddy, and it played. I gave the fiddle to daddy for his birthday, and he said, “I’d rather have that than a brand new Cadillac.”
In her later years, Audrey Ham’s shop was located beside her house, and she spent part of each day working there on instruments. The music itself, which was always a part of her life, moved easily with her between shop and home. She enjoyed singing folk songs around the house, and she and her daughter liked to harmonize with each other. “All the old folk songs, we used to sing them cooking and, I mean, that’s all we ever knew was to sing,” she said.
Audrey made fiddles and other string instruments, and her work received public acclaim. She worked with Archie Powers, who also apprenticed under Albert Hash, and helped a number of people get started making instruments, including Archie’s son Carl. Audrey made fiddles that have sold for as much as $13,000. She particularly enjoyed carving figures in the peghead of her fiddles. She and Archie each received new Martin guitars from a fan in recognition of their craftsmanship.
Audrey Hash Ham passed away on August 2, 2013 at the age of sixty-four.