Doyle Moore’s Autoharp on Loan for Campus Folksong Club Exhibit

Doyle’s Autoharp

Christine Breen, long-time friend and colleague of Doyle Moore, founding member of the University of Illinois’ Campus Folksong Club, loaned Moore’s colorfully decorated autoharp to the Sousa Archives and Center for American Music for its special two-month exhibition, “Archie Green and the Campus Folksong Club,” which will open in the University Library’s Marshall Gallery on November 1, 2013.

As the staff was cleaning and preparing the instrument for installation, they discovered a rattle snake rattle had been placed inside of the instrument.  Talking with Christine this afternoon about this unusual discovery, she said that old-time fiddlers would often put rattle snake rattles inside of their fiddles to help make the instrument sound sweeter.  Musicians have also said that because many old-time fiddlers would hang their instruments on a wall when it wasn’t being played, the snake rattle was put inside the instrument to scare away spiders and mud daubers which might try to make a home inside the instrument.  Others have suggested that when the musician played their fiddle, the rattle would vibrate and make a percussive sound which helped provide a special rhythmic pulse to the fiddle tune.  Regardless of the explanation, all fiddlers agree that the snake rattle always provides good luck to the instrument and its player.  While Doyle was predominantly an autoharp player, it is likely that he felt he and his instrument should possess the same good luck, and this is probably the reason why it was added by Moore.

Updated on