Howard Padgett was born into a musical family in Rutherford County in 1930. He grew up surrounded by music. His grandfather played fiddle, his father played fiddle, and he had two brothers who also played fiddle. He started playing guitar and fiddle at a young age, and he continued playing most of his life. There was always music in his home, and he remembered Earl Scruggs and Kyle McGinnis making trips to his house to play. His brother, Clark, was an excellent fiddler who performed and toured with Don Reno.
Howard worked in the local cotton mill at age 14. On weekends, he often played for dances in the community. He pointed to his family as his greatest musical influence. He said they never showed him much, but he learned by listening and observing. Howard played with both Snuffy and Hope Jenkins while he was growing up. The Jenkins brothers influenced Earl Scruggs, Don Reno, and the development of bluegrass banjo playing.
For a few years, Howard lived in Missouri where he played guitar regularly in a bluegrass band. He also played fiddle at dances and played with movie star Wayne Whitt. Howard served in the Korean War, and he took a few years off when he returned. However, his son became a fine rhythm guitar player, and the two played together for a number of years before his son passed away.
Howard played a lot of bluegrass and country music over the years, but he also played a lot of old fiddle tunes. Some of the first fiddle tunes he learned include “Up Jumped the Devil,” “Fire on the Mountain,” and “Sally Goodin.” He also played some western swing while he was living in Missouri. He performed at a number of festivals, and he helped develop the Snuffy Jenkins Festival, in Rutherford County.