National Fiddler Hall of Fame launched

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Last Friday night, I had the privilege of being at Cain's Ballroom for the inaugural gala of the National Fiddler Hall of Fame with my wife and son, both of whom play violin/fiddle. We got to meet Bob Wills's daughter Rosetta, who was there to accept the induction of her dad as the first member of the Hall, show fiddler Jana Jae, and guitarist Mark Bruner. It was nice to see two city councilors there -- Rick Westcott with his fiancee and Maria Barnes with her husband.

Music historian John Wooley did an excellent job as MC, introducing this new organization and putting the various genres of fiddle music in historical perspective. We had fun chatting with him before the program began. (He told a very funny story on himself, involving an outburst of literary criticism at a high school football game.)

The food was prepared by a competition barbecue team (made up of doctors, I think I heard) who served smoked salmon and beef tenderloin, with baked beans that included lima beans in the mix. It was all delicious.

The musical program was led off by Oklahoma Stomp, the NFHOF-sponsored western swing band of 12 to 15 year old boys. They performed Fat Boy Rag, Faded Love, Heart to Heart Talk, Roly Poly and San Antonio Rose. My son's friend from Barthelmes Conservatory plays bass in the band, and he took my boy backstage afterwards, where he got to sign the wall. My son was so inspired by the whole evening that he got out his violin as soon as he got home and started practicing Faded Love.

Eight different genres of fiddle music were demonstrated. Here's who played and what they played, backed by a house band made up of Shelby Eicher on mandolin and fiddle, Mark Bruner on guitar, J. D. Walters on steel guitar, Spencer Sutton on piano, and Dave Breshears on drums.

Bluegrass fiddling: Byron Berline with Eric Dysart; Gold Rush, Turkey in the Straw.

Country fiddling: Rick Morton with Jake Duncan; Don't You Ever Get Tired of Hurting Me, Lonesome Fiddle Blues.

Irish fiddling: Eric Ryan-Johnson with his son Seamus and with Steve Mayfield on bouzouki; Father Kelley's #1, Rocky Yard, Butterfly, Rocking Polkas.

Show fiddling: Jana Jae with Emma Jane and Marina Pendleton; Black Mountain Rag, Jesse Polka. (Jana Jae performed the first number on a specially tuned blue fiddle: A C# E A.)

Blues fiddling: James Tarver with Mark Bruner and Merrit Armitage; Sittin on Top of the World, Milk Cow Blues. (It was a treat to hear these old blues tunes, which Bob Wills had adapted to Western Swing, performed as blues.)

Contest fiddling: Monte Gaylord, Dave Gaylord, Bubba Hopkins, Douglas Thompson, and Michael Thompson; Sally Goodin, Miss Molly.

Jazz fiddling: Shelby Eicher with Jake Simpson; Walking My Baby Back Home, Summertime. (The latter was performed in the style of Stephane Grappelli, the jazz violinist for the Hot Club of France. I heard second-hand that Curly Lewis said that he was a fan of Grappelli, and that all the Western swing fiddlers wanted to sound like Grappelli.)

Western Swing fiddling: Curly Lewis, Chase Foster; Blues for Dixie, Take Me Back to Tulsa. (In introducing Lewis, John Wooley said that at age 11 he won a fiddle contest sponsored by Bob Wills.)

The grand finale featured all the performers playing the old fiddle standard "Liberty." The music continued as the house band played for anyone who wanted to dance. (At one point, the band played "Maiden's Prayer," but they didn't have anyone singing. I was awfully tempted to run up there and pitch in, but I held back.)

Many thanks to the board members of the Hall of Fame, and particularly to Jim and Alice Rodgers of Cain's Ballroom, for a wonderful, unforgettable evening.

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Mark Skaggs said:

I am looking for a fiddle teacher closer than Tulsa. I live by Grand Lake.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 19, 2007 12:49 AM.

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