Joe Holley

The National Fiddler Hall of Fame



Joe Holley

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Joe Holley, (1917 – 2009) the beloved left-handed fiddler for Bob Wills and and His Texas Playboys, was born on a farm outside Stephenville in West Texas. Joe started playing mandolin at the age of 5 before he learned the fiddle eight years later. He would work on his family's farm during the day, and played his fiddle in the evenings. He first played professionally at the age of 13 in a country dance hall.

Although Joe was left-handed, his fiddle was setup for a right-handed player. He is best known for his years with Bob Wills, delighting crowds with energy and his unique left-handed style. Joe Holley stayed with Bob Wills longer, and traveled more miles with Bob Wills, than any other Texas Playboy fiddler. Holley toured with Wills for many years, and continued playing occasional concerts with Wills until 1961. They played for sold out audiences all over the country, often for more than 10,000 people per week, and were known for their superb instrumental work.

In 1978, Holley played the fiddle on the Reunion album, which was considered one of the greatest western swing albums ever recorded. Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys, along with Joe Holley, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1999.

Holley was featured on the Festival of American Folk Life on the mall of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. in 1982. For the ten-day festival, he played with the Johnnie Lee Wills Western Swing Band, made up of the country's best surviving Western Swing musicians.. Joe’s son James Holley plays bass and carries on the family musical tradition today. It is with great pride that the National Fiddler Hall of Fame inducted Joe Holley as a 2016 member