Fiddler, composer, b Barra Head (now Chapel Island), Cape Breton, NS, 30 Dec 1938, d Eskasoni, NS, 10 Oct 1999. A Mi'kmaq person, Cremo was taken at four to Eskasoni, on the East Bay of Bras d'or Lake, Cape Breton.
Lee (Harvey) Cremo, fiddler, composer, b Barra Head (now Chapel Island), Cape Breton, NS, 30 Dec 1938, d Eskasoni, NS, 10 Oct 1999. A Mi'kmaq person, Cremo was taken at four to Eskasoni, on the East Bay of Bras d'or Lake, Cape Breton. As a youth he played guitar for his father, Simon Peter Cremo (b 1900, d 1964), an itinerant fiddler. Unbeknownst to the senior Cremo, Lee began fiddling at seven; the secret was not revealed until he was 18, at which time his father taught him bowing techniques. Other local fiddlers offered guidance, as did Jean Carignan later at the Mariposa Folk Festival. Cremo made his living in turn as a lumberman in Maine and a bus driver in Eskasoni but appeared at fiddling and folk music events across Canada and the USA. He won the Maritime Old Time Fiddling Contest (Dartmouth, NS) six times; a trip to the Grand Master Fiddling Championships in Nashville, which netted an award for 'Best Bow Arm in the World,' is documented in the film Arm of Gold (1986). Cremo also performed at events as varied as Expo 67 (for Queen Elizabeth II), and the 1999 launch of the Aboriginal People's Television Network. By 1995 he had won over 80 fiddle competitions. He suffered a broken left arm in an automobile accident that year that interrupted his career. He eventually returned to fiddling, for example for Showcase Halifax.
Cremo made his first LP in 1968 for Liberty (Champion Fiddler LM-903) and appeared on six others released during the 1970s by Audat. In 1995 he released The Champion Returns, which was voted best First Nations recording at the 1996 East Coast Music Awards.
Although Cremo drew largely on the traditional repertoire, personalizing the Cape Breton fiddling style with his humour, enthusiasm, and flair for 'frills,' he also recorded his own fiddle pieces - eg, 'Shubenacadie Reserve Reel,' 'Cactus Polka,' 'Irish Fiddler,' and 'Constitution Breakdown.' Cremo's recordings and compositions also appear in two ethnological compilations of Indigenous North American music, Creation's Journey (Smithsonian/Folkways SF 40410, 1994) and Wood That Sings: Indian Fiddle Music of the Americas (Smithsonian/Folkways 40472 1998). Cremo was remembered as an ambassador for the Cape Breton Mi'kmaq community. The Porcupine Awards for folk music offer the Lee Cremo Award for Native Artists.
MacGillivray, Allister. The Cape Breton Fiddler (Sydney, NS, 1981)
'Lee Harvey Cremo: Eskasoni, Cape Breton,' Musicworks, no. 24, Summer 1983
Connors, Chris. "Fiddler's death mourned," Cape Breton Post, 12 Oct 1999
Downey, Donn. 'Atlantic fiddler loved to entertain,' Globe and Mail, 13 Oct 1999
"Lee Cremo speaks," Talking Cape Breton Music, ed Ronald Caplan (Wreck Cove, N.S. 2006)
Wright-McLeod, Brian. The Encyclopedia of Native Music (Tucson, Arizona 2005)