Voyager Recordings & Publications

Old Time and Fiddle Music from the Pacific Northwest and Beyond


Voyager Recordings was founded in 1967 by Phil and Vivian Williams. Phil and Vivian had been playing old time and bluegrass music for many years themselves, and had been recording many others, especially old time fiddlers. Phil had been involved in recording since the mid-1950's and made some of the first "in-line" stereo recordings in the Northwest in this period. In the early 1960's, Phil was the recording engineer and Vivian was a producer for "Crossroad Records," a Seattle label that recorded and issued primarily 45's including Country-Western, Rhythm & Blues, Bluegrass, and Square Dance releases. These records were featured on juke boxes all over the West and Alaska, and made enough money for Phil to improve his recording equipment and to get good equipment for field recording.

Besides the old time and bluegrass shows and jams in the Pacific Northwest, the Williams have made many hours of field recordings of fiddle and old time music made at jam sessions, fiddle contests and shows they attended, most notably the National Fiddle Contest in Missoula, MT, in 1964, and the National Old Time Fiddle Contest in Weiser, ID, since 1965. Realizing that these jam session recordings were dynamic, that the jam sessions were why most fiddlers went to contests in the first place, and that nothing like this was available on record, they released their first Lp, VRLP 301 "Fiddle Jam Sessions," in 1967 from the best of these jam session recordings.

Since its founding, Voyager Recordings has released over eighty albums featuring the playing of over 80 fiddlers. While most of the releases are fiddle and old time music, Voyager also has released traditional jazz, Russian balalaika music, African marimba music, a classical choral record, and cassettes of Jewish stories. Some of the releases are field recordings in the same spirit as the initial release. Most recordings have been made at Voyager's own studio, initially on Magnecord and Ampex recorders, and more recently, in its digital studio and on location using digital recorders.

In 1983 Voyager added "Publications" to its name when Vivian published the first of the Brand New Old Time Fiddle Tunes books. This series provides a publication forum for the many wonderful old time style fiddle tunes being written by contemporary fiddlers. Many of these tunes are being performed regularly at fiddle shows and gathering and for contra dancing in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere. Voyager also published Pleasures of Home, a book of previously unpublished fiddle tunes collected many years ago in North Dakota by Joe Pancerzewski, and The Mandolin Player's Pastime, a collection of 140 traditional reels, hornpipes, jigs, etc. that play well on the mandolin, set in both standard notation and mandolin tablature, along with a CD illustrating 57 of the tunes in the book. Recently we published The Peter Beemer Manuscript, a collection of 124 tunes from a hand written manuscript made in the mining camp of Warren's Diggin's, Idaho, in the 1860s for the dance band there. This is the largest collection of tunes documented as danced to in the Far West in Pioneer times, and adds approximately 100 tunes to those that properly could be played at a Civil War re-enactment ball. Recently we republished Now That's A Good Tune, a 98 page book with two CDs of the classic Missouri fiddling, written by Dr. Howard Marshall, and originally published by the University of Missouri in the 1980s. We also started publishing our "Repertoire Builder" series for fiddlers desiring to add tunes to their repertoire. Each packet in this series focuses on a particular type and/or skill level of fiddle tune, with the music in standard music notation, guitar chord charts for each tune, and a CD of the tunes with the fiddle on one channel and the guitar on the other.

Knowing that little was known elsewhere about fiddling in the Pacific Northwest, and that Voyager had an extensive archive of fiddlers recorded in the Pacific Northwest over the past fifty years, we decided to start putting some of these recordings on our site in mp3 format, fully and freely downloadable. As of December 25, 2011, we have posted 293 tunes from 100 fiddlers in the "Northwest Fiddle Field Recordings" section of our web site.

Voyager Recordings & Publications now issues recordings on compact disc, including re-releases of some of the material previously issued on Lp. Some of its CDs are available for download on several download sites, such as iTunes.