2001 Florida Folk Heritage Award
Richard Seaman (1904-2002) was born in an orange grove near Kissimmee Park, Florida. As a child, he worked with his father in the orange groves. It was there that he began to listen to local fiddlers who played at community gatherings. Often these gatherings would result in hours of square dancing. These events also served as an opportunity for local storytellers to share tales with their neighbors. Seaman learned his repertoire of traditional stories from the central Florida community in which he was raised.
As a young man, Seaman moved to Jacksonville to work for the Seaboard Railroad. He retired from the company in 1965. From the 1920s through the 1940s, Seaman played fiddle for various local bands. He and his wife, Daisy, formed a band called the Melody Makers in the 1940s. They had a weekly radio program on WJA.X in Jacksonville for several years. He also played with a string band called the South Land Trail Riders.
Seaman remained an active musician and storyteller. He continued to perform at churches, schools and family reunions. On the eve of his 90th birthday, Seaman performed as the opening act at the Fire on the Swamp Festival on the Seminole Big Cypress Preserve. He played with nationally and internationally recognized fiddlers such as Chubby Wise and Mark O’Conner. A long-time member of the Florida Fiddlers Association, Seaman was a favorite performer at the Florida Folk Festival.
Seaman was credited with influencing countless fiddlers throughout Florida. He worked tirelessly with young musicians for many years passing the tradition of string music from one generation to the next. Seaman’s repertoire remained rooted in the traditional music and stories he gathered as a young man.