Robert Russell (Chubby) Wise, a leading bluegrass fiddler who collaborated on the showpiece “Orange Blossom Special,” died Saturday in Bowie, Md. He was 80.
As a member of Bill Monroe’s Blue Grass Boys in the 1940s, Wise helped define the sound of bluegrass fiddling: a mixture of the drone double-stops of mountain music, the bent and sliding notes of rural blues and a swinging, daredevil virtuosity.
In the 1930s, Wise drove a cab by day and playing fiddle at night. He and a fellow fiddler, Ervin Rouse, were inspired by a new railroad streamliner, the Orange Blossom Special, to write a fiddle tune with train-whistle sounds.
The tune was copyrighted by Rouse, although before his death in 1981 he acknowledged Wise’s contribution.