According to a press release, "the instrument was built in Germany around 1890 and is a copy of the highly prized violins constructed by Austrian luthier Jacobus Stainer in the 1600s. Discovered in a bombed-out music store in Frankfurt, Germany, by soldiers from the U.S. Army's 348th Engineer Combat Battalion in the waning days of World War II, the fiddle was sent to Acuff, their favorite country music performer, as a show of appreciation. Liking the tone, Acuff made it his primary fiddle for many years."
"It felt important to me that the great Roy Acuff's fiddle join the ranks of other revered instruments in the museum's permanent collection--including Maybelle Carter's 1928 Gibson L-5 guitar and Bill Monroe's 1923 Gibson F-5 mandolin," said Gill in a press release. "The fiddle was given to Acuff by soldiers during a time of war because of how much he meant to them. He meant a lot to me, too."
The object is already in a spotlight exhibit in the museum's upper-level galleries called Soldier's Joy: A Fiddle Fit for Roy Acuff.
"Roy Acuff's prized fiddle is an important instrument with a remarkable story," said Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum CEO Kyle Young in a press release. "Because of Vince Gill's generosity, the museum is now the permanent steward of an instrument that illustrates Roy Acuff's cultural significance and the growth of country music during a period of great expansion for the genre. This instrument will be used to educate generations of fans and scholars about the music and career of Acuff, who served as an ambassador for country music as the face of the Grand Ole Opry and a regular USO performer, among many other accomplishments."
Acuff, the original King of Country Music, became the first living member of the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1962 and its fourth inductee overall, following the inaugural class in 1961 of the late Hank Williams, Jimmie Rodgers and Fred Rose.
In the video below, Gill and Hall of Fame Curatorial Director Mick Buck offer more context about Acuff and his cherished fiddle.