Bartow Riley 2004

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Bartow Riley
Inducted in 2004
Listen to Riley play Gray Eagle

Bartow was born November 6,1921, the son of Granville and Fannie Riley in the small Community of Dozier, which is just Southwest of Shamrock, Texas. Bartow’s first memories of fiddling came from his father who played fiddle. His dad had an old fiddle with steel strings that he would take down off the wall and play some tunes such as “Over the waves” and the “Texas Quick Step|”. Granville Riley was also a bass singer and sang with the Copeland Quartet and in 1929 made a record with the group in Fort Worth. It was during this time Bartow learned to play some Rhythm guitar, as he would go to the singing competitions with his dad.

Bartow’s grandfather, William Riley ran a grocery store in the in the same community of Dozier from about 1924 thru the 50s, this was an asset as he was able to meet many people that came into the community. His other Granddad, Mr. Tom Waters lived in McLean Texas, and had a hand cranked Victrola with some of Eck Robertson’s new 78rpm recordings of “Billy in the Low Ground”, “Ragtime Annie”, “Sally Goodin” and others. He remembered Eck’s music and also the Kessenger Bros who had recorded “Don’t Let the Deal Go Down”, in 1927, Bartow never forgot those old fiddle tunes.In the Late 1920s and early 1930s he remembered Major Franklin, Benny Thomasson and others would come and pick cotton in the fall around Dozier.

Saturday night was the night Mr. Jude Sechrist, (whose daughter, Irene is Bill Mac’s mother) use to have get togethers and playing sessions that helped instill in him how music can bring people together and have fun too. One of his first memories of a fiddle contest was when he was a little boy he remembered Major playing in a contest in McLean. This was the town where Bartow’s granddad Water’s lived. During his teen years he wasn’t around fiddling but went to singing competitions with his dad, then served in the Air Force from 1942 through 1945.

Bartow bought his first fiddle around 1953 or 1954 and he renewed his interest in fiddle music and became friends with Benny Thomasson and Eck Robertson, Bartow and Benny drove to many contests together. There were many fond memories of trips to contests he will always remember. Norman and Betty Solomon were close friends, as well as Judge McClellan, and they had many jams together. Bartow traveled many miles with Benny Thomasson, Pete Osborne and Ollie Miller to fiddle contests all over Texas and elsewhere . During the mid 1960s, Bartow played on several albums with some of the legendary Texas fiddlers and also recorded several of his own. In 1995 he was selected to judge the National Oldtime Fiddlers Contest at Weiser, Idaho. Over the years he has known fiddlers both young and old and many of them were and are good friends.

Bartow was one of the first board members of the Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association and his wife Lylous helped keep the minutes of the meetings and also wrote some of the early articles for “The Texas Fiddler” newsletter and did other secretarial work for the Association as needed . In 1975 Bartow and Lylous got to play a part in the movie “McIntosh and T.J. starring Roy Rogers. Bartow played the part of a fiddler and Lylous played the part of a dancer in the same scene that Bartow was fiddling in. The Film was shot at the “6666 Ranch” in Guthrie Texas about seventy miles from Childress Texas where the Rileys’ live.

Bartow has been a real asset to our Texas Fiddlers in that he has always had his door open anytime day or night to any fiddler that needs a place to stay or a friend to talk to. Over the years many have known the Riley’s graciousness and hospitality. He has helped to preserve our style of music by recording and documenting playing styles and is willing to share his knowledge of a song or a lick with any fiddler that might ask for some guidance or a suggestion. Bartow and his wife, Lylous, have been married for 35 years and reside in Childress, Texas.