A celebrated East Tennessee woodworker almost saw his fiddle making hobby end before he finished his first one.
“I’ll never forget my wife said, you are going to wear that fiddle if you get finished with this house,” recalled J.W. Green with a chuckle. The 95-year old artist weathered that lecture almost forty years ago. And since then, he has worked to craft the perfect instrument.
“I keep wanting to build a better one each time I build,” said Mr. Green who can create one of his original pieces in a little more than two months.
“I’ve always been a tinkerer,” said Mr. Green who shapes each fiddle in a basement studio surrounded by blocks of wood, carving tools, and lacquer finish. Even though he has built more than one-hundred start to finish, the sound of the finished product remains a mystery each time.
“You never know what you got until you get through,” said Mr. Green.
A war-time mystery helped shape Mr. Green as a young sailor off a remote island in the The Pacific.
“Lord goodness, the concussion threw both of us off our bunks,” said Mr. Green who witnessed the sudden explosion of the USS Mount Hood. The mysterious blast killed 350 sailors on board instantly. Mr. Green was aboard a ship strapped next to that ill-fated ammo carrier just hours before. It marked the closest call for this veteran of two combat landings in World War II. The mystery of that explosion was never solved.
"...still don't know," said Mr. Green, his voice trailing off.
His war years are long behind him but his effort to solve the mystery of building the "perfect fiddle" plays out most every day in his workshop.
"I just couldn't quit...possessed at building these things," said Mr. Green on his prized fiddles that he sells simply by word of mouth.