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Doug Wallin

Doug Wallin was a ballad singer and fiddler from Madison County, NC, an area with longstanding ballad and instrumental traditions. Both of Wallin's parents, father Lee and mother Berzilla, were singers; Lee also played the fiddle and banjo and Doug's younger brother Jack plays banjo, fiddle, and guitar. Doug's song selection and style respectfully reflected the Wallins' long family heritage. His singing was unusually refined, characteristically rendered with subtlety, precision, and a quiet passion. His extensive repertoire consisted of centuries-old ballads and songs, many of British ancestry, which he learned from members of his family and mountain community; he particularly favored lyrical love ballads, which he sang without instrumental accompaniment. Wallin often played the tune of a ballad on the fiddle before singing the words, or added a fiddled refrain between verses. Like his singing, his fiddling was straightforward and old-timey, emphasizing the simple beauty of each song's melody.

In 1990, Wallin received a Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts; he was also the recipient of a North Carolina Heritage Award for his loving preservation of traditional music. Although performances by Wallin appeared on the Folkways album Dillard Chandler: The End of an Old Song and on a couple of privately released cassettes, his music did not become widely accessible until the 1995 release of Smithsonian-Folkways' Family Songs and Stories from the North Carolina Mountains, a CD of field recordings which also features Doug's brother Jack on three tracks. Doug Wallin died on March 15, 2000, at 80 years old. ~ Burgin Mathews
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