Josh Goforth must have been born musical—he was already playing piano in church at the age of four—but it was an experience he had in the sixth grade that really lit the fuse of his precocious musical career. A performance at Goforth's middle school by Sheila Kay Adams caused him to start thinking about the musical heritage of his native Madison County. A couple of years later, he received his first guitar from one of his great-uncles, and began to learn the instrument under the tutelage of another great-uncle. The great-great-great-grandson of Madison County fiddler Asbury McDevitt was launched on a career in traditional music.
Over the next few years he learned to play at least ten different instruments by ear, learning from such local masters as Gordon and Arvil Freeman. Most famous for his fiddling, Goforth is a highly accomplished oldtime, bluegrass, and swing musician, but is remarkably versatile, able to pick up any of a wide variety of instruments and make a solid contribution in almost any kind of band. He was active in his high school's music program, and with Goforth as drum major, the Madison High School Marching Band won first place in each of the thirty-three competitions it entered. Among the pieces in its repertoire was a composition that Goforth wrote, based on a sacred harp hymn.
After high school he went to East Tennessee State University to study music education, and to be a part of ETSU's famous Bluegrass and Country Music Program. In 2000, he played fiddle for the movie Songcatcher, both onscreen and on the soundtrack. He has toured extensively with a variety of ensembles, including the ETSU bluegrass band, with David Holt and Laura Boosinger, and with several bluegrass bands including Appalachian Trail, the Josh Goforth Trio, and Josh Goforth and the New Direction. He has also shared stages with Ricky Skaggs, Bryan Sutton, The Yonder Mountain String Band, Open Road, and The Steep Canyon Rangers. He has performed in forty-nine US states, all over Europe, and in Japan. In 2000, 2003, and 2005, he was named Fiddler of the Festival at Fiddler's Grove and, after winning the third title, was designated "Master Fiddler" and retired from that competition. His first solo album is forthcoming.
Goforth is already much in demand as a music teacher, and plans a career in performing and music education. He says that one of the main goals of his career is to get young people interested in traditional music. "In all the years I've been playing traditional and oldtime music, I've always said that if all people could really see and hear it live, they'd fall in love with it" (Mountain Express, December 10, 2003).