Remembering Dwight Diller (1946 – 2023)
Dwight Diller, a widely known and respected old-time musician, passed away on Feb. 14, 2023. Diller was a prominent player and instructor of the clawhammer style of banjo.
His website states “Diller is one of a small handful of native West Virginia musicians actively engaged in preserving the traditional music of his state. Dwight was born in 1946 and grew up having instilled in him the mountain culture of east central West Virginia. His ancestors were some of the earliest settlers of the region around Pocahontas County. Dwight’s early interest in the old stories and the old music, led him to seek out the old people in his home area who were the repositories of this tradition. According to Dwight: ‘I can’t remember when I wasn’t interested in the stories being told by and about the old folks from my region.'”
In remembrance and in honor of Dwight Diller, we are sharing this set of music featuring Diller on banjo and fellow old-time musician John Morris on fiddle, recorded October 31, 2004 at West Virginia University’s Creative Arts Center.
As you can hear, Diller and Morris were flattered by the response their performance commanded from the sold-out crowd in Morgantown. Among other guests on the show that night were The Nashville Bluegrass Band and Old Crow Medicine Show.
In May 2019 Dwight Diller received The Vandalia Award, West Virginia’s highest folklife honor. The proclamation read:
Whereas Dwight Diller grew up in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, and has distinguished himself as a historian, philosopher, Mennonite pastor, and consummate clawhammer banjo player, fiddle player and teacher; and
Whereas Dwight grew up having instilled in him the mountain culture of east central West Virginia; and
Whereas he is a world-renowned old-time musician, and his discography includes 15 commercially released music albums and five one-hour instructional DVDs; and
Whereas his recordings of music and stories of the Hammons Family continue to be a major influence on today’s traditional old-time musicians and Appalachian cultural anthropologists; and
Whereas Dwight has taught and performed in countless venues across North America, including a banjo workshop at the first Vandalia in 1977, where he has been a fixture ever since; and
Whereas he is one of a small handful of native West Virginia musicians actively engaged in preserving the traditional music of the Mountain State; and
Whereas he has an avid following of students and friends attracted to his unique teaching style and cultural interpretation that he has developed over the past 50 years; and
Therefore I, by the authority vested in me to foster the preservation of West Virginia’s traditional culture, do present to Dwight Diller, the Vandalia Award for the year 2019.