‘Little House on the Prairie’: Did Michael Landon Really Play the Fiddle?

Michael Landon is best known for playing Charles Ingalls on Little House on the Prairie. One thing you likely remember from the series is that Landon’s character played the fiddle. Did Landon play the fiddle in real life or was it just for the show? Here’s what Showbiz Cheat Sheet knows.

Charles Ingalls and his fiddle on ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls on 'Little House on the Prairie | Bruce Birmelin/NBCU Photo Bank
Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls on ‘Little House on the Prairie | Bruce Birmelin/NBCU Photo Bank

The real Charles Ingalls knew how to play the fiddle. Laura Ingalls mentioned in her books how her father would play the instrument. She fondly recalled the different songs he would play. Charles’ fiddle is now on display at the Mansfield, Missouri-based museum at Rocky Ridge Farm. Also on display are hand-written manuscripts for the Little House on the Prairie books, Almanzo Wilder’s tools, and more.

Dale Cockrell of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University told Cannon Courier that Charles’ music was a big part of Laura’s life. His fiddle playing breathed life into the books.

“I don’t think it was any mistake that Laura referenced the music in those books,” said Cockrell. “That music was so central to family life and her emotional life and tied into family memories and history. To her, the music was actually what enabled her to reconstruct the memories that enabled her to tell the stories that became the books.”  

Did Michael Landon really play the fiddle on ‘Little House on the Prairie’?

Karen Grassle as Caroline Ingalls and Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls | NBCU Photo Bank
Karen Grassle as Caroline Ingalls and Michael Landon as Charles Ingalls | NBCU Photo Bank

Was that really Michael Landon playing the fiddle on Little House on the Prairie? Landon is reportedly not playing the fiddle in the show. There was music playing in the background while Landon moved the bow, according to Laura’s Prairie House.

One talent Landon did have, however, was the ability to throw a javelin. In high school, he was reportedly the best javelin thrower in the United States. Landon told The Washington Post when he was a kid he believed he was strong because his hair was long.

Unfortunately, the long hair caused problems when Landon was older. He says his peers treated him differently. He recalled one day when football players at the University of Southern California pushed him down and shaved off his hair. Landon told the publication he couldn’t throw the javelin after that incident and he decided to leave school.

Melissa Gilbert has Michael Landon’s fiddle from ‘Little House on the Prairie’

Where is Landon’s fiddle now? Melissa Gilbert revealed she purchased the fiddle used on the show. She was able to track the instrument down on eBay.

“I did not take it from the set,” says Gilbert during an interview on OWN. “I brought it on eBay like anybody else would. My childhood from 9 to 19 is all wrapped up in that fiddle case. There’s a lot of memories that go along with all this stuff. [Michael Landon] was like a dad, so having his fiddle is really meaningful.”

Gilbert also has the red flower print dress she wore on the show. It is framed and on display in her home. A mock-up of the fiddle Landon used on the show is at The Wilder Museum of Walnut Grove.

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