Kenneth McGinnis has been making music since the 1940s. He describes his playing as “Appalachian mountain-style.” Continuing a family musical tradition, he plays old-time fiddle and gospel music. “I’d rather play than eat,” he says.
Kenneth grew up in Rutherford County. His mother played the pump organ, his sisters all sang, and his father played the fiddle for area square dances. Though his father gave up the fiddle for his religion before Kenneth was born, he did play some when Kenneth developed an interest in playing music as a teenager. “He showed me ‘Soldier’s Joy’ and others like that,” he remembers. Kenneth started playing guitar around the same time he started playing fiddle, when he was fifteen years old. “I had to pick cotton for a neighbor to get the money to buy a guitar,” he says. He also remembers visiting neighbors and listening to records on his family’s small wind-up suitcase gramophone machine to learn more about fiddling and guitar playing.
Kenneth continued to play music while he was in the Air Force, and he performed with a group at USO shows while stationed in Japan. When he returned to Rutherford County, he continued to play with many area musicians. He performed with Robert Wells in a band called Too Wet to Plow, and he has played for many years with guitar player Wayne Dobbins. He has played at regional fiddlers’ conventions, dances, rest homes, benefits, and school events.
Kenneth continues to play fiddle and guitar. “My daddy said, ‘Son, you just stick to those two, and you’ll be better off,’ so I just stuck to those two.” Of all his influences, Kenneth says that fiddler Paul Warren is his favorite. “He was really my idol, as far as good old-timey fiddling.”
Kenneth plays regularly at several senior centers and rest homes in the Rutherford County area. He enjoys playing at family-friendly events. He is part of the Homegrown Bluegrass Band, which is the house band on Friday nights at the Union Mills Learning Center auditorium.
Kenneth McGinnis is available for local performances.