Fiddlin’ in the family: Daughter carries on father’s musical legacy

Posted at 10:11 PM, Oct 28, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-29 00:14:31-04

HASTINGS, Mich. -- Judy and Les Raber have played their way into the history books, not by reading music -- but by learning and playing by ear.
"You don`t go anywhere without your fiddle," Judy says, "so I've learned that lesson."
Judy is a fifth-generation fiddler, playing her father’s music on his old instrument.
They're the only father/daughter duo ever to be inducted into the Michigan Fiddlers Hall of Fame.
It's a way of life for the 70-year-old.
"We would dance around on Friday night after our baths - around the foot stool - and Daddy would play this tune for us," she remembers.
It was a means of income for Les - helping put groceries on the table for the Raber family, who lived and worked on a Hastings farm.
As the years passed, Les gained notoriety for his fiddling - traveling the country and composing music.
It wasn't until 2000 that Judy thought she might want to learn to play.
"I said, 'Why don`t you fix me up with a fiddle and you could teach me to play?'"
Les was able to teach Judy one song. He told his daughter that she was a natural - and asked her if she wanted his fiddle when he was done with it.
"I said, "Sure, no knowing," she says, "and in a few days he was gone."
Grieving the sudden loss of her father, she knew it was her destiny to carry on his legacy.
Judy accepted her father's induction into the Michigan Fiddlers Hall of Fame in 2003 - playing a tribute to Les with his closest musical friends.
They've since put together a book of his music and transferred his recordings onto CDs, which are now preserved in the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History.
This summer, Judy was inducted into the Hall of Fame herself.
"When I got this call to say I had been nominated, I couldn`t believe it," she says.
Judy now travels the country and even into Canada playing the fiddle at different events and festivals.
Carrying on her father's name and creating one of her own - through their everlasting bond, played on four strings.
"Somebody will ask me if I know a certain tune they remember him playing," she says, "and I`ll say, 'Not yet,' and they`ll say, 'The fiddle knows it, go ahead and play it.'"