Ashley Carder grew up in a home surrounded by music. His mother Shirley is a talented country singer and guitar player who performed often on regional radio in the 1960s and -70s. Carder’s extended family was deeply rooted in traditional old-time music. His great uncle Tom and his brothers hosted a Barn Dance on their West Virginia farm for many years. Ashley’s great-grandfather Albert was a multi-instrumentalist who played fiddle, banjo, and guitar.
While Carder first learned guitar and then banjo, his home also had two fiddles – one belonging to Albert and one belonging to Carder’s father. Carder began to study traditional fiddle tunes in earnest around 1980. He always sought to learn new tunes from other fiddle players in a “live” environment. One of his first mentors was fiddler Bo Norris of Ward. Norris’ repertoire included popular fiddle tunes dating back to the 1920s. Carder went on to learn from fiddling legend Homer “Pappy” Sherrill, considered by many to be one of South Carolina’s most talented traditional fiddlers. This started a friendship that would last for years.
In addition to fiddle tunes, Sherrill taught Carder a variety of “trick fiddle” techniques, including how to loosen the bow hair from the bow to make the fiddle sound like a pipe organ. Several of the tunes he learned from Sherrill are favorites that he still plays today – standards like “Dreamy Georgiana Moon” and “Orange Blossom Special.” Carder’s other major influence was the late Vernon Riddle, a fiddler from Spartanburg. Riddle was known for his “long-bow” fiddling style, a technique he learned from Texas fiddler Eck Robertson – one of the first fiddlers to be commercially recorded in the 1920s.
Through these mentors, Carder has direct links to some of the earliest and most influential fiddle players. Carder has worked closely with a non-profit organization called The Field Recorders Collective, through which he produced a collection of Vernon Riddle fiddle tunes from field recordings made during the 1960s to the -90s. Carder attends bluegrass and old time festivals throughout the Southeast and has performed at the Galax, Virginia Old Time Fiddlers Convention and conventions in North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
Carder enjoys working with and influencing young fiddlers and other aspiring musicians. He makes ardent efforts to document himself and other musicians whenever he can, sharing the video material so others can learn. He continues to play with several bands throughout the state, including Bill Wells and the Blue Ridge Mountain Grass, High Lonesome, and the Carolina Rebels. Carder received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 2012.