Featured Artists

Speedy Tolliver


Speedy Tolliver:l. to r. Young Speedy with his instruments, with the Lee Highway Boys, with Roy Clark, and with a banjo

Arlington Cultural Affairs proudly announces the release of the first album of music recorded by Arlington’s 87 year-old Old-Time fiddle legend, Speedy Tolliver. The album, “Now and Then”, was recorded in the newly equipped sound recording studio at the Cultural Affairs building at 3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive by Cultural Affairs sound technician Vander Lockett.  In addition to the new recordings by this master musician, the CD includes three digitally re-mastered cuts from home recordings from the 1940s on acetate disk.   It is available from http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/speedytolliver and from Arlington Cultural Affairs. 

Speedy Tolliver was born in 1918 in Green Cove, Va. It was from his home community that he inherited a rich musical legacy rooted in the Anglo-Saxon and African ancestry of the region's early settlers. During his youth, social occasions provided time for musicians to get together to relearn tunes or to pass their particular renditions on to others. Thus melodies and songs were retained by the community as part of their cultural heritage.

But Speedy was - and remains - no preservationist. During the late 1920s and into the 30s he was becoming well versed in popular music and culture. Commercial recordings and radio profoundly influenced his musical growth. He was 9 years old in 1927 when the pivotal Victor Talking Machine Company recording sessions were taking place in Bristol, just a few miles away. The Victor sessions jump-started the country music industry and launched the careers of such musical legends as the Carter family and Jimmie Rodgers. As Speedy listened he absorbed what he heard by playing along on his banjo.

In 1939, Speedy migrated to the Washington, D.C. area. The country scene in Washington was beginning to blossom with music both by and for the white southerners who had come to the nation's capital looking for work. As a member of, at first, the Lee Highway Boys, Speedy quickly mastered the violin to be able to fill in for the band's fiddler who often went missing. Later, he was part of a succession of bands, and performed with Eddie Stoneman of the famous Stoneman family, as well as Hoss Clark and his young son, Roy. Speedy was a regular on WGAY radio's Rural Roundup, a weekly hillbilly music show.

Speedy was one of country music promoter Connie B. Gay's stable of musicians, and played with a number of well know local bands. In 1950, he gave up his life as a professional musician for a regular job, and did not return to playing his own brand of country music till the late 1960s, and then, not as a profession. Nevertheless, Speedy's reputation among musicians remains sterling. Concentrating on the fiddle, Speedy worked regularly with area bands and traveled the globe for many years in this second phase of his career.

Now, at age 91, he plays several times a week in jam sessions or as a member of various and sundry bands.

Collage pictures of Speedy Tolliver above: 
L. to R.:  Young Speedy with his instruments
The Lee Highway Boys
Speedy with Roy Clark
Speedy in the forties