b. 28 March 1920, Florida, USA, d. 17 August 1997, USA. Raised in Vicco, Kentucky, which is where his family moved when he was a baby, Sumner learned to play the violin as a child. He played with the Payroll Boys and became especially active in the 30s and 40s. In the late 30s he was with Cousin Emmy and during World War II worked with Molly O’Day, Lynn Davis, Eddie Hill, Johnnie Wright and others. Sumner became known as the ‘Fiddle King of the South’. Playing with flair and enthusiasm, Sumner lived up to his title and developed a following among fans of traditional country music. Among his recording sessions with other artists are those with country singers Preston Ward and Don Gibson and with banjo player Lee Sexton (b. 1927, Linefork, Kentucky, USA). On the latter date he was joined by banjo player Freddie Campbell, guitarist and vocalist Sonny Houston, and bass player Phil Sexton. He also recorded duo fiddle sets with Jesse McReynolds (of Jim And Jesse). Of the songs in Sumner’s repertoire, perhaps the best known is ‘Lost Indian’, which appears on a number of compilations of recordings by kindred artists. Records by Sumner are hard to find, but he can be heard on single tracks on compilations released by the American Folk Life Center and by Smithsonian Folkways.
In addition to his following among fans for his kind of music, Sumner also attracted academic attention. In 1996, Ronald Pen, an associate professor of musicology at the University of Kentucky School of Music, delivered a paper entitled Marion Sumner: Fiddle King Of The South at the International Country Music Conference, Meridian, Mississippi.