(33:46, 30.9 MB; S1576 D93-7)
Florida fiddler Richard Seaman performs old time tunes and shares tall tales at the Florida Folk Festival.
Welcome back to the Florida Folklife Collection podcast series from the Florida Department of State’s, Division of Library and Information Services. This podcast focuses on Florida fiddler, and story teller, Richard Seaman (1904-2002). Seaman was born on an orange grove in Kissimmee, Florida. While attending community gatherings as a young boy, Seaman witnessed local fiddlers playing into the night as people square danced. These experiences motivated him to pick up the fiddle and learn the craft. This environment was also conducive to the telling of “tall tales,” which Seaman later recounted and delivered to captivated audiences with an intuitive flair.
Over the years, Seaman developed a repertoire of fiddle tunes that included waltzes and western swing, but the “old time” hoedown tunes he learned as a young man, exemplifies his contribution to the regional heritage of Florida fiddle playing. Folklorist Gregory Hansen notes that Seaman’s fiddle tunes have influenced fiddlers from Florida and beyond, and even the genre of bluegrass music that this “old time” style of playing precedes.
In his early years of fiddle playing, Seaman moved to Jacksonville, where he performed in several bands, including the Melody Makers and the string band, South Land Trail Riders. He and the Melody Makers also had a weekly radio program on WJAX. In 1955, Seaman put his fiddle down and didn’t pick it up again for more than 30 years until he met banjoist/guitarist Jack Piccolo. The two began to play together at the Florida Folk Festival in White Springs, and continued to do so regularly until Seaman’s death in 2002.
Fiddle tunes were not Seaman’s only contribution to the Florida Folk Festival. He also recited “tall tales” to eager audiences on the Story Telling Stage. What made Seaman’s stories engaging was his ability to weave reality and fantasy together, always framing the narrative with a plausible scenario, and resolving it with “a whopper.” As Hansen points out, there is truth in Seaman’s fictitious tales as he conveys, “the daily activities that form important components of his life experience,” and in a greater sense, shared his vision of Folklife in Florida.
In 2001, Seaman was recognized for his longstanding contribution to the folk culture of Florida when he received the Florida Folk Heritage Award at 96 years old.
We have highlighted two performances by Seaman from the Florida Folk Festival. The first features Seaman’s fiddle playing, partnered with Jack Piccalo’s guitar, from the 1993 festival. In the second performance, we will hear an excerpt from Seaman’s “tall tales” told from the Story Telling Stage at the 1992 festival.
Now we will hear a few tales from Richard Seaman at the Florida Folk Festival in 1992.
This concludes the podcast highlighting Florida fiddler and story teller, Richard Seaman. Thank you and join us again next time.
For more information, please see the following catalog records: Saturday performances at the 1993 Florida Folk Festival and Storytellers at the 1992 Florida Folk Festival.
Hansen, Gregory. A Florida Fiddler: The Life and Times of Richard Seaman. University of Alabama Press, 2007.
Hansen, Gregory. “Richard Seaman’s Presence within Florida’s Soundscape.”The Florida Folklife Reader: edited by Tina Bucuvalas. University Press of Mississippi, 2012.