Before he turned 18, Fiddlin’ Red Simpson headed to Newport Beach, California where he hung out at Sid’s Blue Beet, the oldest saloon in town, listening to folk music, blues and performing on stage.
Eventually, he began crafting guitars at places like Dobro and Rickenbacker. Several of his original compositions can be heard in documentary films, such as Coin of the Realm about the 1800s Northwest fur trade and John Ford Clymer, American illustrator and painter known for his artwork that captured nature and life in the early West.
As a frontiersman and traditional blacksmith, Fiddlin' Red specializes in the North American Fur Trade era, where he’s used historical techniques and tools for more than 40 years to handcraft various tools frontiersmen used and traded to the Native Americans, such as tomahawks, knives, axes and firearms. Many of these items have been used in historical re-enactments and are now displayed in private collections. He even has the pleasure of creating a folding knife, belt buckle and three hand-forged beaver traps for rodeo star and actor, Slim Pickens. Staying true to the old traditions, Red uses a flintlock rifle or black-powder cartridge rifle to hunt, and loads his own ammunition using a system he built based on the original reloaders from the 1870s. He has competed in cowboy-action events, historical re-enactments and long-range rifle events. He has also performed as Wild Bill Hickok in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show and as an extra in The Postman starring Kevin Costner.
Historian and Teacher
A historian of early American folklore, Fiddlin’ Red has extensive knowledge in the music, craft and culture of the 1770s to 1870s. He has learned much about the Native American culture by attending numerous ceremonies and gatherings. Using these experiences to illustrate life on the frontier and the relationships between cultures, he has brought an unparalleled level of authenticity to 35 years of historical re-enactments in the West. For 15 years, Fiddlin’ Red participated in the Historical Society of Kettle Falls fur trade rendezvous on the Columbia River in his own dugout canoe. He also participated in the re-enactment trail ride celebrating Wyoming’s Centennial. Covering 300 miles, from Fort Bridger to Jackson Hole, only authentic accoutrements were used through the historic Green River Valley, including St. Louis saddles, pack horses, mules, flint and steel to light fires, as well as buckskin outfits.
His traveling blacksmith shop, complete with period bellows and anvil, serve as historical educational tools to demonstrate and teach traditional frontier ironwork. A dynamic and charismatic speaker, Fiddlin’ Red applies his depth and breadth of knowledge to every seminar or event to create memorable experiences for students and history buffs alike. His classroom demonstrations for students of all ages across the Northwest bring the rich tradition of early America to life.
Today, Fiddlin’ Red combines quality craftsmanship and the history of the early American frontier to pass on the gift of music through his store in the heart of Sandpoint. From restoring, repairing and renting musical instruments to teaching music lessons and selling new and used instruments, Fiddlin’ Red’s Music is as vintage as his collection of instruments. Fiddlin’ Red continues to perform in and around the Greater Sandpoint Area, bringing back the warmth and rustic charm of the good old days.