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Old video footage, music recordings and photos are helping to keep alive the memory and musical influence of the late Greg Hooven, a Galax native and beloved fiddle player.
Karin Marro Magno became friends with him in 1989 and joined his band, Greg Hooven and The Galax Way. She has begun a not-for-profit project in an effort to remember and pass on Hooven’s influence to upcoming old-time musicians.
A website, greghooven.org, shares old photos, video clips, music and stories of Hooven, who was the principle fiddler for the New Ballard’s Branch Bogtrotters for a few years.
Hooven was a multi-instrumentalist who was a regular fixture at many fiddlers’ conventions, especially the Galax Old Fiddlers’ Convention, where Magno and Hooven met.
He continued to perform at the convention after he tragically fell from a friend’s roof in 2002 and was left wheelchair-bound. His health continued to decline, which led to his death in 2005 at the age of 36.
“Greg was highly regarded by the best of old-time musicians, especially fiddlers,” said Magno. “But when I Googled his name, nothing came up. It’s sad, really.”
All she could find was one Youtube video of Hooven. That’s when she realized that Hooven’s talent and music risks being forgotten, and his legacy deserves to be carried on.
“His musical relevance is perhaps being lost on those musicians who’ve come along subsequent to his passing, and I’d like to help change that with the recordings posted and referenced in this website,” she said. “There’s nobody like him — his playing was fluid, smooth and soulful, and it came from deep within him.”
Magno said after she visited Hooven’s father, Donald, in March in Pipers Gap, it became obvious for her to provide a resource for musicians and fans of old-time music. She started an archival website the following month.
She has been working with the University of Virginia’s Virginia Folklife Program and Smithsonian Folkways to track down any footage, recordings and photos.
Besides being a member of the Bogtrotters, Back Step and other old-time bands, Hooven’s influence is known around the world as he had traveled and performed nationally and internationally. For several years, he won multiple awards at the Old Fiddlers’ Convention.
When Hooven was in his teens, he also performed in an event sponsored by the Smithsonian Institute. His recordings are available on the Smithsonian website.
However, despite Hooven’s impact on old-time music, very little information can be found on him on the Internet.
“My main hope is for people to dig up footage among their personal possessions,” said Magno, who has access to digitizing any type of old footage or recordings. “I’m trying to gain exposure to the project because once old tapes are gone, they’re gone. The good stuff is probably buried in boxes in people’s houses.”
Even though only his recordings with the Bogtrotters, the material in the Smithsonian and a song here and there have been recovered, he brought so much more to the music, Magno said.
“His best stuff probably came right from this field,” she said of Felts Park, home of the Galax convention for seven decades.
Magno, a guitar player and singer in Hooven’s band, said he elevated her playing abilities because of his talent.
“He was always generous with his talent,” she said. “He would sit down with anybody and show them how to play and until they got it.”
She recalled the influence he had on her 14-year-old son, Luke. When Luke was about three years old, Hooven placed Luke in his lap and his little hands around the fiddle bow to let him get the feel of it.
“Luke has took to the fiddle more so than any other instrument,” said Magno, as her son prepared to compete in the youth competition at the convention on Monday night.
Magno cried as she remembered Hooven playing the “Texas Quickstep.”
Magno said her band impatiently waiting for Hooven to show up for a sold-out performance at Sweet Briar College, when he frantically ran through the doors at the last minute.
“This 6-foot-tall, bigger-than-life guy comes running through the door 15 minutes before the show. He plowed in and whipped open his fiddle. ‘Let’s tune up,’ he says,’” Magno recalls. “He went out there and played ‘Texas Quickstep’ perfectly on stage. It was magical and beautiful.”
And he was bigger than life in every way, she added. He was engaging, magnetic and fun, said Magno, who will compete in the convention’s folk song category on Saturday.
“I want people learning from this resource and to study his technique and style,” said Magno. “And it would be nice if other musicians could incorporate that style into their playing.”
• For more information or to submit photos, stories, footage and recordings, contact Magno at 540-793-1695, send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit greghooven.org. Original photos, videos and recordings will be returned, along with a free digitized version.