For much of her early musical life, Darlene Hodges found herself playing back-up guitar for fiddlers, when she herself would rather have been fiddling. Growing up with a fiddle-playing father and brother, she learned the guitar early, but it was when she went to college that “I decided that was stupid; I’d play what I wanted to.”
She grew up to marry fiddler and fiddle-maker Ernest Hodges. “First thing I told him after we got married was that I wanted to learn to build my own fiddle.” She did so, taking two years to learn what her husband said would have taken most students ten years to learn. Since then, she has made several more over the years for friends. Though she was already a good fiddler when she married, she learned even more about playing the instrument from her husband,and she also found herself playing guitar again. She reported that while she fiddled in one room, from the next room Ernest would hear a wrong note or think of something that he thought would improve her sound, and would call out suggestions to her. “It was frustrating, but in the end it made me a better player.”
After Darlene retired from a long teaching career, she spent much of her time playing music, and her primary instrument was the fiddle that she built. She was a noted bluegrass and oldtime fiddler, as well as a classical violinist. She played at the Georgia Mountain Fair and Mountain Heritage Day, and other festivals throughout the region. As much as she enjoyed her career and her professional colleagues, she said, “it was really good when I finally retired, and could just play music.”
Darlene Hodges passed away on February 27, 2008 at the age of 75.