Surry County fiddle player plays ‘Old Time’ music

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SURRY COUNTY, N.C. -- In this edition of Roy's Folks, meet a woman who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, and was a classical viola player. One day Debbie Gitlin happened to hear a fiddle tune on the radio, performed by Surry County music legend Tommy Jarrell. It literally changed her life.

After hearing the song she found the nearest phone booth (pre-cell phone days), called the radio station to find out who the artist was and where she could buy his music.

Within a week, she had dropped everything, packed a change of clothes, her grandpa’s violin and bought a bus ticket south. She was being driven by a desire to learn to play what is known as “Old Time” music. That was in the 1970s and she’s still here.

She will be playing at the “Surry Old Time Fiddlers Convention” at Surry Community College in Dobson this weekend.

Debbie can be reached at