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Home: Regional: U.S. States: North Carolina: Surry County

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The fiddler - "Tommy" Thomas Jefferson JARRELL (1901-1985);NC
Posted by: Wiley Alston Jarrell (ID *****7872) Date: July 08, 2010 at 15:05:08
  of 1912


source note 1: Thomas Reavis Lyons
source note 2: Wilma Lee Jarrell Hiatt

I'm looking for additional data (middle names, dates, places, spouses,
significant and insignificant others, children and cemeteries) on the

HUSBAND: "Tommy" Thomas Jefferson JARRELL
BORN: 1 Mar 1901 Surry Co NC
MARR: 27 Dec 1923
DIED: 28 Jan 1985 Surry Co NC
BURIED: Skyline Memorial Gardens, Mount Airy, Surry Co NC
OCC: world famous fiddle player
FATHER: "Ben" Benjamin Franklin JARRELL b:14 May 1880, Round Peak,
Surry Co NC; d:9 Dec 1946, Mount Airy, Surry Co NC;
        buried Ivy Green Baptist Church Cemetery;
        child #2 of Rufus Austin JARRELL and "Susan" Susanah TURNEY.
MOTHER: "Susie" Susan Letisha (Sallie) AMBURN b:5 May 1882, Surry Co
NC; d:14 Mar 1961, Mount Airy, Surry Co NC;
        buried Ivy Green Baptist Church Cemetery;
        child of John Samuel AMBURN and Julia Ann Fannie TOLBERT;
        [Note: some sources show dob 1874].
SOURCES: supplied by source note 2, 27 Jul 2001 supplied by source note 2, 27 Jul 2001 supplied by source note 1, 29 Jan 1998
BORN: 31 May 1901
DIED: 13 Feb 1967
FATHER: Charlie B. LOWE born ____.
MOTHER: Ardena LEFTWICH born ____.
SOURCES: supplied by source note 2, 27 Jul 2001 supplied by source note 2, 27 Jul 2001 supplied by source note 1, 29 Jan 1998
1 | NAME: "Dena" Ardena JARRELL
F | BORN: 27 Feb 1925
| MARR: 16 Jun 1943 Surry Co NC
| BORN: roughly 1925 DIED:
| SRCE: supplied by source note 1, 29 Jan 1998
| Grandchild by McKinley MONOUS
1 | NAME: ??? MONOUS
| NOTE: unknown - added for descendancy chart purposes
2 | NAME: "Wayne" Clarence Wayne JARRELL
M | BORN: 8 Feb 1927
| WIFE: Norma HILL
| BORN: roughly 1927 DIED:
| SRCE: supplied by source note 1, 29 Jan 1998
| Grandchild by Norma HILL
| NOTE: unknown - added for descendancy chart purposes
3 | NAME: "B. F." Benjamin Franklin JARRELL
M | BORN: 19 Sep 19(private)
| DIED: 20 Dec 1987 Surry Co NC
| BORN: roughly 1935 DIED:
| SRCE: supplied by source note 2, 27 Jul 2001
| supplied by source note 2, 27 Jul 2001
| supplied by source note 1, 29 Jan 1998
| Grandchild by Betty GWYNN
| NOTE: unknown - added for descendancy chart purposes
HISTORY NOTES: "Tommy" Thomas Jefferson JARRELL
an anecdote:

"...Ya run your E string down oh, I don't know, about three frets...
anyway, it corresponds to the third note on the A's ya
.........Tommy Jarrell

Tommy Jarrell
Toast, North Carolina

I first met Tommy Jarrell in 1979 while visiting friends in Mt. Airy.
It was actually with some amount of luck that I found him, as I did
not know where in the area he lived, and when I stopped at a phone
booth outside of Mt. Airy, I called one of his sons (Kester), who told
me how to get to Tommy's house. At that moment, a fellow was walking
by the phone booth I was using and heard me mention Tommy's name and
said "I'm looking for him too!" It was Andy Cahan, and we both went
over to Toast and were welcomed into the Jarrell home.
Over the next few weeks I got to know Tommy and his son Benny. I
helped with some of the chores and fixed a few things around the
house, including a vintage shortwave radio that Tommy had as a boy.
With a few touches of a soldering iron and a few parts from the TV
shop in Toast, Benny and I had the pleasure of tuning in the BBC and
Radio Moscow. It was the first time in 30 years that the radio had
worked, and Benny was mighty pleased. This would lead me later to
make very good friends with Benny over the next few years.

It was quite evident that Tommy's house was very popular with many
old-time musicians, and I started to understand why Tommy didn't have
a phone. He didn't need one. One just had to come by and see him. He
did have a funny sign at the back entrance to the house and kitchen
(what I mostly considered the main entrance). It said something like:
"First Night Free, after that, $50 a night." I guess some had abused
his open door policy, but he told me it was a joke and did not apply
to folks like myself. I was certainly grateful for that!

I found out that Tommy did not participate in fiddle competitions,
although the opportunities were plentiful in the area. The Lowgap,
Beulah, Dobson and other Elementary Schools all held contests to raise
money for school supplies and other needs, and they were quite a lot
of fun. Tommy didn't like to compete, but he did enjoy going to some
of them and seeing his friends. Paul Brown and I took him to the
Beulah School contest in 1980, and we spent the entire evening just
trading tunes in one of the school rooms.

As hard as I tried to learn some of Tommy's tunes, I found them
baffling and too difficult for my style, which had already been
greatly influenced by Luther Davis (of Galax, Virginia) and J.P Fraley
(who lived at the time in Rush, Kentucky, up near Ashland). I was
certainly amazed by the power of his presence, and I will always
remember what great music parties would happen pretty much on the spur
of the moment at his house. I met many musicians there, and made
lasting friends with many more people from around the country who
happened to stop in to see Tommy.
In 1982, Paul Brown, Tommy and myself went up to the Galax Fiddlers
Convention at Felts Park to see who was there. Tommy didn't want to
wander too much, but we did manage to see a few good friends and share
a tune or two. Tommy was in fine form, and was pleased to see that
there was still interest in the old tunes, even at the mostly
Bluegrass convention (as it was becoming at that time). As was the
usual at Galax, it started to rain, and Tommy and I sat in Paul's car
for a couple of hours, just talking about what the old days at Galax
were like, and how he used to roam all over the country before he was
married, selling white liquor as far away as Oregon and Florida. He
talked about the Allen family, who had shot up the Carroll County
Courthouse in the early part of the century, and how all the trouble
he used to get into was primarily because of the moonshine business.
He told many stories about the days in the 20's when he was not
someone who you wanted to make mad, and how he knocked out many a man
who didn't take his temper seriously. Somehow, it wasn't hard to
believe him, as he still cut a formidable figure in his later years.
Despite all that, his was a warm and gentle presence, and he was
always happy to see his friends and share whatever he had with them.

The last time I saw Tommy was in the winter of 1984-1985. I was living
in Whitesburg (in Southeastern Kentucky) and was quite busy building
what would become WMMT-FM, Community Radio. I was also doing some
occasional engineering work at WYZD-AM in Dobson, just down the road
from Mt. Airy. Benny, Tommy's son, had been doing some on-air work
there, and had asked me to come fix the station a few months earlier.
I went to visit Tommy just before Thanksgiving and had a brief but
wonderful visit. I told him about living in Eastern Kentucky and he
recalled some wild times back in the 20's when he passed through
Whitesburg and Jenkins a few times. He said it was a totally wild
country, even back then, and one had to be careful about the panthers
and the bears as much as the people.

Tommy passed away in his sleep on January 28, 1985. The memorial
service was filled with his friends and family from a long and
colorful life. While he is gone now, I still have my memories, and
I'm sure that others like myself will not forget him.

This one's for you, Tommy!
I sent the above historical notes to Wilma Lee Jarrell Hiatt on 18 Jul
2001 and got the following (edited) reply:

How about that? What a great email to add to my collection of Tommy
whom I've known all my life.

He did not have a son named Kester. He was Kester's uncle. Kester's
father was Fred Jarrell who lived nearby. I have a lot of info on
that line as well.

I have just donated a few record albums of Tommy that I had to The
Mount Airy Regional Museum of History in Surry Co., NC who has a
display of Tommy now in the museum.

Tommy would have been 100 years old this past March and I attended the
party they gave for him with many fiddle players there.

Tommy had told family and friends if he was not living at age 100 he
wanted them to have a party anyhow to celebrate his birthday and they

The place was so crowded you could hardly get in the door. I
understand this might be an annual event now in Mount Airy so all the
fiddle players can get together and play the old time music (which I
don't really care for) but I like to watch the dancing that goes along
with it.

If you can add, subtract, delete, change any of the above data please
advise. If you have any questions about the data feel free to ask!

If you are a descendant of this line you can e-mail me, privately
at and I will provide you a descendants
chart and an ahnetafel chart for yourself.

Wiley Alston Jarrell
15610 Edenvale
Friendswood Tx, 77546
281-482-3671 <>< Proverbs 3:5 (AMP)

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