Danny Johnston (right)
Photo by A. Trae McMaken
2014 awardee, Harbor Springs (Emmet County), Michigan fiddling traditions
Danny Johnston (b. 1940) is a lifelong resident of Emmet County and retired carpenter who grew up surrounded by the fiddling traditions of this northwestern Michigan region.
At age 20, Danny grew concerned that there would be no more fiddlers playing and continuing these musical traditions. For this reason, he picked up the fiddle and became a tradition-bearer. Pete Keller was one of Danny’s biggest influences and his fiddling style is representative of the northwestern Lower Peninsula. Through his travels and participation in the larger fiddle community, he has also gained a wealth of knowledge about early country and old time music, as well as stories about fiddlers who are no longer living.
In the late 1960s-early 70s, Danny founded the Cedar Swamp Boys and still performs with the group to this day. Danny is also one of the oldest living members of the original Michigan Fiddlers Association. Beyond his abilities as a player, Danny is an encourager and loves to share his knowledge with younger fiddlers around the state.
For his preservation, knowledge, and performance of Michigan fiddling traditions, Danny Johnston is awarded the 2014 Michigan Heritage Award.
--compiled by Micah Ling, MSU Museum Collections Specialist
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