A fiddle said to have belonged to country music legend Roy Acuff is off the auction block and back with its Kansas City owner.
It had spent the last several days at the Blue Springs Goodwill store after it was mistakenly donated to the charity's Northland location. The Blue Springs location handles the Goodwill auctions.
Lamar Peek, 85, of Kansas City, said the fiddle was part of a collection of vintage instruments owned by his brother, Bobby Peek, of Alabama, who is deceased. His brother, an amateur fiddler, purchased the instrument at a pawn shop in his home state, along with a certificate of authenticity, Lamar Peek said.
In a news release from Goodwill’s western Missouri and Eastern Kansas office, the fiddle is called “a rare piece of American cultural history” and attributes the Acuff ownership to “recent reports.”
John Rumble, senior historian at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee, said he would be skeptical about the authenticity of any piece until it’s appraised by an expert.
“Anyone can write a letter of authenticity,” he said.
However, Bobby Peek wrote a letter to the fiddle’s creator and Roy’s uncle, Evart Acuff, asking him to authenticate the fiddle, and that letter also is included with the original letter of authenticity.
The Fox 17 News station in Nashville reported that the Acuff fiddle was being sold by Goodwill and the Kansas City Fox affiliate picked up the story and it was broadcast on a local newscast last Wednesday, Peek said. Peek’s daughter recognized the family-owned heirloom and called her father to congratulate him on donating the piece to Goodwill, Peek said.
“When I found out where the fiddle was, I was in shock,” Peek said, adding that the family soon contacted Goodwill to arrange for the instrument’s return. “I vowed to him (his brother) I’d be a good custodian of them,” he said of the collection of five fiddles, some of which date to the 1800s. “I’ll just say that whoever did it did not have the authority to donate it,” he said.
The handmade fiddle was donated to the Goodwill on North Oak Trafficway, along with documentation that was used to verify authenticity, according to the news release. The latest bid on the fiddle was $8,000, Goodwill Director of Community Engagement Klassie Alcine said.
“We would like to thank all of those who have expressed interest in this rare, wonderful musical instrument, especially those who have seen fit to place bids to purchase it,” Goodwill Interim President and CEO Kevin Bentley said in the release, calling the fiddle “a rare piece of American cultural history.” Alcine added that the piece is said to have been constructed of apple tree wood in 1945. (Lamar Peek said he was told it was made from wood from an apple tree on Evart Acuff's property.) But, when asked how often items owned by celebrities are donated, Alcine was reluctant to offer an opinion. “We get in awesome items all the time,” she said, adding that the determination is subjective.
Roy Acuff, a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, made his name, not as a fiddle player, but as a country and gospel music singer and songwriter and, at one time was considered the “king of country music,” according to Wikipedia. In addition to performing with the Grand Ole Opry, Acuff also appeared in several movies during the 1940s, including “Grand Ole Opry.” His career waned during the 1950s and '60s but enjoyed a resurgence during the 1970s when the Opry officially moved to Nashville at the Ryman Auditorium and opened with a recording of a 1939 Acuff performance of one of his most well-known songs, “Wabash Cannonball.” He died in 1992.
Rumble, of the Country Music Hall of Fame, said he’s witnessed Acuff’s performances and described him as “a superb entertainer” who was the Grand Ole Opry’s lead star at the height of his career. He “kept the show moving with never a moment’s pause,” he said. “He’d do some of the saddest tear-jerkers you ever heard, then would follow with a song to bring the audience back up.”
Peek said he and his brother were raised by their “granddaddy,” an amateur fiddler, who taught the boys to play. His brother went on to play fiddle in local venues, such as dances and at officers’ clubs during World War II. He said his brother played the fiddle during local jam sessions, with other local musicians, beginning in the 1970s and could get “a really sweet sound” from the instrument.