The magic of Pa Ingalls’ fiddle

The “Little House on the Prairie” books have captivated many children and adults with the adventures of the pioneering Ingalls family. That’s why Dale Cockrell, director of the MTSU Center for Popular Music, created the Pa’s Fiddle Project, devoted to the music of the era and to pay tribute to Charles “Pa” Ingalls.

Dale Cockrell

“This was a real live person whose fiddle is still with us,” Cockrell said. Intrigued by the amount of music in the books, Cockrell counted songs. He estimated there were 120. “Turns out there’s 127, so that’s pretty good,” he said.

After meeting with music-industry leaders and record labels, Cockrell and his wife launched a record label in 2003 to produce this music. “That’s what we do in Nashville – we make records,” he said with a laugh. In 2004, the first Pa’s Fiddle album, “Happy Land,” was produced and has since sold 12,000 copies. The project caught the attention of the American Musicological Society in 2005, which led to a songbook edition of the “Happy Land” album. In 2006, “Arkansas Traveller: Music From the Little House on the Prairie” was produced. This album correlates with Wilder’s book “Little House on the Prairie.

Cockrell, a musicologlist, is passionate about connecting the young generation with historic music. “Kids are going to bring with them contemporary music values,” Cockrell said. He is committed to making the music of the past have the same quality as any popular music today.

Cockrell attended LauraPalooza – a Laura Ingalls Wilder conference in Minnesota – in 2010. There, he gave a presentation about the project and was approached by Dean Butler, a documentary producer and actor who played Almonzo on the television series “Little House on the Prairie.”

Butler was interested in the project and together with Cockrell came up with a vision. On Jan. 6, 2012, their vision was realized when the Loveless Barn in Franklin held a concert called Pa’s Fiddle: America’s Music. The filmed concert, which aired on PBS, featured musicians such as: Randy Travis, Rodney Atkins, Ronnie Milsap, Ashton Shepherd, The Roys, Natalie Grant and Committed. TLE

By Rebecca Dawn Poole


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Categories: Faculty, News, Partnerships

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