Clark Kessinger (July 27, 1896-June 4, 1975) was among the most prolific and influential fiddlers of the 20th century, and one of West Virginia’s most important traditional musicians. He was born near Charleston. Kessinger made his initial mark as a recording artist between 1928 and 1930, when he recorded more than 60 instrumentals with his nephew, guitarist Luches Kessinger. Clark and Luches recorded as the Kessinger Brothers for the Brunswick label. The most popular of these 78 rpm releases was ‘‘Wednesday Night Waltz,’’ though lively dance tunes such as ‘‘Hell Among the Yearlings’’ and ‘‘Turkey in the Straw’’ also sold well.
The Kessinger Brothers started performing on radio station WOBU (later WCHS) when the Charleston station began broadcasting in 1927. Clark Kessinger remained in the Kanawha Valley and performed locally for the next 30 years, leading up to his rediscovery during the folk music revival of the 1960s. During the next decade, he recorded extensively, played music across the country, and won numerous fiddling contests. In 1966, he was a guest artist on the Grand Ole Opry radio program, on NBC-TV’s Today Show, and at the prestigious Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island. Three new albums of his music were released by Kanawha Records.
An energetic and creative musician, Clark Kessinger was recognized for his highly developed technical ability and irrepressible showmanship. He died in St. Albans. He was inducted into the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame in 2007.
Written by John Lilly
Wolfe, Charles. The Devil's Box: Masters of Southern Fiddling. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press & Country Music Foundation, 1997.
Wolfe, Charles. Clark Kessinger: Pure Fiddling. Goldenseal, (Fall 1997).
The Kessinger Brothers: Complete Recorded Works in Chronological Order, vols. 1-3. . .
The Legendary Clark Kessinger. . .