Ken Stott is an old-time fiddler who lives on a farm in Rutherford County that has belonged to his family for five generations. He carries on fiddle tunes of the region through his occasional performing, playing for dances, regular jamming, and as a mentor and teacher to others in the area.
Ken’s great-great-grandfather acquired the family’s Rutherford County homestead from a land grant in the early 1800s. Growing up Ken spent a lot of time on the family farm learning about keeping honey bees, growing sorghum cane to make molasses, attending to fruit trees, and developing woodworking skills that helped him in his later career as an engineer and then project manager. Ken’s father, Earl, is very knowledgeable about traditional mountain farming practices and he continues to advise neighbors on their farming projects. Earl also plays music, having been a guitar player for many years before building a mandolin and focusing on that instrument. Earl plays bluegrass and bluegrass gospel music with his cousin Sam Elliott at a weekly Thursday jam, at home, and sometimes at church.
Ken started playing music at a young age, acquiring a Silvertone guitar at age 12. He started playing fiddle when he was in his twenties, first taking some lessons from a local bluegrass fiddler, Jack Mitchum. “It was a good start, but I was always interested in old-time music,” Ken says. “I would go to Shindig on the Green in Asheville and hear some great old-time players.” Ken met Haywood County native Trevor Stuart who was known in the region for his masterful old-time fiddling. Ken made regular visits to Trevor’s home for lessons and the two became good friends and musical comrades. Ken also attended the Swannanoa Old-Time Music camp and he had a few lessons learning bowing techniques and the Surry County repertoire from fiddler Brad Leftwich, when Leftwich lived in Madison County.
Back home in Rutherford County, Ken wanted more opportunities to play old-time fiddle tunes, so he started a jam at his home in the 1990s. “Mostly it was to create opportunities to play fiddle and hang out with my musical friends,” Ken says. Though the jam no longer takes place in his home, it is still going strong as a weekly session.
Ken has played with various groups based in the Buncombe County and upstate South Carolina area. The Shifty Tweeds was a contradance band; Kathy & The Leftovers played for dances and Civil War reenacting events; and Stranded Sally played social music for events and square dances. The bands were also regulars at regional festivals and fiddlers conventions. Ken has won several blue ribbons for fiddle and band competitions at area festivals.
Ken continues to play at local and regional jam sessions and attends fiddlers conventions and events. He has also taken on students on occasion, and he is always happy to share what he knows about fiddling. Ken has spent a lot of time studying fiddles and bows. He is an avid collector and usually has a few for sale.