Category Archives: Hall of fame

Anthony Mature 2007

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Anthony Mature
Inducted in 2007

Anthony Thomas Mature was born in Houston, Texas on November 8, 1966 – the third of three sons born to James and Margaret Mature. Anthony has been exposed to Texas old time fiddle music literally all of his life. His father, James, older brother, Robert, along with cousins E.J. and Carl Hopkins, neighbors Johnny & Jason Crisp, were all very active in the Texas fiddle scene and also in the burgeoning Texas Old Time Fiddler’s Association in the early 1970’s. Of important note is the life long bond Anthony formed at an early age with Jason Crisp. Through the years, the two would become lifelong friends, schoolmates and accomplished musicians together.

Although exposed to contests and jam sessions in these early years, Anthony did not show an interest in playing until his mid teens. Around the age of 13, he started working for Bill Northcutt at the Fiddle & Bow music shop in Houston. The jam sessions that Bill would host at the shop were key in piquing Anthony’s interest in fiddle music and especially in playing rhythm guitar. One night, at E.J.’s, Anthony was approached by Steve Williams. Steve saw potential in the young guitar player and asked him if he’d like some help. Anthony was particularly drawn to Steve’s playing and considered it a high honor for Steve to take him under his wing. Anthony started a sort of apprenticeship with Steve and started regularly accompanying his brother, Robert, Jason, Carl, E.J. and others.

C.I. Fryer’s house was another regular spot for jams. Texas Fiddle music can have no greater fan than Mr. Fryer was. He was especially fond of Anthony and supported him and his pursuit of music to the nth degree – as he did many other up and coming musicians. It was at Cliff’s house, in 1984, that he met Matt Hartz – a 14 year old fiddler from Idaho. This harmless encounter eventually gave way to Matt moving to Texas after high school graduation, living with the Mature family and attending college with Anthony and Jason at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Matt and Anthony continue a long friendship and each has significantly influenced the other’s musicianship.

The subsequent years have found Anthony jamming, performing and recording with many Texas fiddle legends including Norman Solomon, Orville Burns, Louis Franklin and Terry Morris among many others. This period also found Anthony accompanying his cousin, Carl Hopkins, and good friend, Wes Westmoreland as they made their ascent to the top of the Texas breakdown fiddle scene.

A long career as a much sought after accompanist has garnered its share of awards and accomplishments. Besides being in constant demand by top fiddlers around the country, Anthony has been the State Champion Accompanist here in Hallettsville, TOTFA Champion Accompanist and National Champion Accompanist in Weiser, Idaho – all multiple times. He has helped champion fiddlers to win all of the major contest events including the National Championship in Weiser, Idaho, the World Championship in Crockett, Texas, the Grand Masters Championship in Nashville, Tennessee and, of course, the Texas State Championship here in Hallettsville. In addition to fiddle contests, Anthony has performed on many stages across the U.S. including WSM’s “Grand Ole Opry” several times.

Anthony currently resides in New Waverly, Texas and is employed as an accountant for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In his free time, you are likely to find him hunting or fishing with family and friends. His passion for the outdoors nearly rivals that of his passion for music.

Anthony’s induction to the Hall of Fame would not be complete without acknowledging the men who taught him and shaped his playing style. The respect and gratitude he has for these people is evident in his guitar playing and his character. Anthony would like to recognize his father, James Mature, Steve Williams, Bobby Christman, Royce and Ray Franklin and the legacy of Omega Burden.

Carl Hopkins 2007

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Carl Hopkins
Inducted in 2007

Carl Hopkins was the first of three children born to E.J. & Violet Hopkins in Conroe, Texas, on September 11, 1959, in Montgomery County. Carl has twin sisters who were born a year later in 1960, Sharon and Sheila. Being the son of E.J., a champion fiddler, along with the encouragement and support of his mother Violet (Carl’s biggest fan), Carl began to play the fiddle at 8 years of age. He entered his first contest when he was about nine years old.

Some of the fiddlers that have made a significant impact on Carl’s fiddling over the years were Benny Thomasson, Louis Franklin, Major Franklin, Norman Solomon, Vernon Solomon, Orville Burns, Robert Mature, Brad Riley, Terry Morris, and of course, E.J. Hopkins. Along with great fiddle players, Carl had the opportunity to be around and be influenced by some great accompanists, such as, Dave Davidson, Chuck Goss, Carol Williams, Royce Franklin, Ray Franklin, Betty Solomon, Richard Puckett, James Mature, Gayle Hopson, Steve Williams, and later on, Anthony Mature. Carl has many accomplishments to his credit, such as playing on the Grand Ol’ Opry when he was only 13 years old, winning the Texas State Championship title, and winning the World Championship title, which he currently holds.

In 1987 Carl won the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo contest and part of the prize was 2 airline tickets. Later that year Carl and Wade Stockton used the tickets to fly to the National Fiddling Contest in Weiser, Idaho. While he was there, Carl met Tonya Rast, an incredible fiddle player herself, and his wife to be. They were married on April 8, 1989, and now have two beautiful children, Cassidy, 12, and Hyatt, 10. Besides fiddling and raising his family, Carl’s other interests include hunting and fishing, which he is very competitive at each. Carl has been a long time member of the Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association.

He served as a director for several years and is an asset to the organization. Carl always attends as many of the fiddle contests as possible, and is usually responsible for a lot of the great jam sessions everyone loves to hear. Fiddle music is a very important part of Carl’s life, from the fellowship of other musicians to the fiddling itself, with the traditional breakdowns being where his heart lies. Carl grew up in an atmosphere of fiddle music, and through his life he has carried on the tradition. Carl is definitely a genuine Texas Fiddler.

Gordon W. Townsend

Kenneth Henneke 2006

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Kenneth Henneke
Inducted in 2006

Kenneth Henneke was born in Hallettsville, Texas to Fred and Hattie Tiemann Henneke. He was the youngest of four children: The oldest brother, Fred Henneke Jr., lost his life on December 16,1944 at the Battle of the Buldge; Dickie Henneke resides in Vsetin, Texas; and sister, Thelma Mikulenka, resides in Hallettsville. In 1961 Kenneth married Annie Mae Kallus of Hallettsville. Together they were blessed with five children: Randall Karl, who died at six weeks, Donna Lynn who married Michael Tater of Inez. Warren married Lisa Koncaba of Hallettsville. Amy married Bobby Machicek of Hallettsville. The youngest is Brian, who married Mary Gail Kuester and lives in Yoakum.

Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s Kenneth Henneke was appointed to the lector position of the Knights of Columbus Council #2433, which provided programs and entertainment for the monthly council meetings. Loving music, Kenneth would often recruit some of our local musicians, Frank Zaruba, Harry Hruzik and Richard Staha, to entertain their brother Knights, and e veryone loved it. At the same time, the neighboring community of Ezzell sponsored a fiddle jam session every year at theirl Community Center. Frank Zaruba, who would attend each year, was amazed at the success of the event, and at the next KC meeting, Frank approached Kenneth with the idea of throwing such an event of their very own. Kenneth agreed and suggested a state championship fiddling contest. Kenneth made contact with a good friend who also loved fiddle music, Mr. Cliff Fryer, who loved the idea and even put up the 1 st place prize money of $100. At one of the KC council meetings in the fall of 1970, Kenneth made a motion that the Knights of Columbus sponsor a new project, the Texas State Champion Fiddling Contest.

The proceeds would go towards the building of a new Knights of Columbus Hall, Frank Zaruba 2 nd the motion and the motion carried. Shortly afterwards, Frank came up with a more upbeat and catchy name, The Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics. Frank, Kenneth, Cliff and Velda, realizing that they had taken on a little more than they expected, became the co-founders and co- chairmen of the Fiddlers’ Frolics. Kenneth, not knowing a stranger, was selected to promote the event. He would handle advertisement and additional entertainment for the weekend.

First on the agenda was to set a date for the 1 st Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics. The co-founder’s decided on the 4 th Saturday in April. The latter part of April would provide comfortable spring weather and the Lavaca County countryside would be blanketed with beautiful wildflowers for all traveling to the contest to enjoy. The first ever Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics’ was held on April 24, 1971, at Weid Hall, just west of town. The Friday night preceding the Saturday contest would be a hospitality night for all the musicians and families who traveled to Hallettsville for the contest. This night proved to be a huge hit. It was the time when the knights could meet the contestants and their families, the musicians could jam and all could enjoy refreshment. Many new friendships were made at this “jam session” and to this day it is a reunion looked forward to each year. Saturday began the fiddling competition. A country-western dance followed after the contest on Saturday night. The first year a Hallettsville native performed, Miss Martha Lynn Head, who had her own band and country-western television show during these years. The problem was that she did not get to take the stage until 11:00 that night, as the fiddle contest had gone until almost 10:30.

For many years to come, the co-founders, and, occasionally, their wives, made the rounds to every fiddle contest they could find across the state of Texas in order to promote the Fiddlers’ Frolics. It was in doing so that they found many great fiddlers and guitar pickers. They invited them to come jam at the Frolics and enter the Fiddling Contest. The more they promoted the Frolics’, the more the competition grew into the prestigious contest that it is today. There were countless trips to radio and television stations, as well as newspaper interviews. They would jump at the chance to play for any media that would have them come to share their love for a true American pastime. Early on, they invited constructive input from fellow knights, fiddlers, guitar pickers and fans of the contest. They strongly feel that the contest has grown into what it is today due to their interaction with all who attend this weekend, many hours of service by the devoted knights, and the wonderful families who support them. Over the years, numerous individuals, sponsors and the great city of Hallettsville have contributed greatly to the success of the Frolics. Thanks to the help of so many great people, part of America’s heritage is celebrated each year at Hallettsville’s very own Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics.

Frank Zaruba 2006

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Frank Zaruba
Inducted in 2006

Frank Zaruba was born on August 17, 1932, on the family farm in the Vsetin area of Lavaca County, Texas. When he was 9 years old he bought a fiddle for $5.00. His older brother, Robert, bought a guitar for $2.25 before he went into the service, and told Frank and his other brother, Joe, not to touch the guitar while he was gone. Ignoring the admonition, Frank and Joe took the guitar out to play as soon as their brother left. A friend came to the house, tuned the guitar, and taught them three chords, G, C and D. Frank thought that those sounds from the guitar were the most beautiful sounds he had ever heard, and he learned more chords as he played.

His love for this music was off and running.Frank completed his primary education at the country school in Vsetin, and then attended and graduated from Hallettsville High School. Although Frank played baseball and tennis in high school, he also continued playing the guitar, and was asked to play in a newly formed band Sonny and the Texas Hillbillies, which made as much as $10 a night in the Kenedy, Texas, area on weekends, and $3 a night at Renger’s Bar in Hallettsville on Tuesday nights. After, high school, Frank attended Victoria College, where he played semi-pro baseball for the Victoria Rosebuds. He then graduated from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos with a BBA degree as well as a teacher’s certificate, and played tennis for the college team. There were not many musicians in college, so he had to keep up his skills on his own.While working on his Masters Degree and teaching at San Antonio East Central High School, Frank was drafted and served in the United States Army from 1956 to 1958.

Once again, there were not many musicians in the Army, so Frank had to continue on his own, but when leaving the service his Sears & Roebuck guitar was destroyed in shipment back home. After getting married, Frank received a small amount from an oil lease on land he inherited from his mother, and bought a sewing machine for his wife and a Martin guitar for himself that he has been playing ever since. Frank and Rita Grahmann were married on November 8, 1958, in Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hallettsville. They have two children, Jack, born in 1961, and Donna, born in 1966. Jack married Sandy Mikes in 1982, and they have three children, Mark (1982), James (1986), and Michael (1996). Donna married Kevin Walker in 1991, and they have two children, Annie (1996), and Ethan (1999).

Frank has worked in accounting for his in uncle in the automobile business, then was the Chevrolet dealer in Hallettsville from 1975 to 1991, and has been an independent petroleum landman since 1974. Frank has been a little League baseball coach or sponsor since the early 1950’s, served as a Hallettsville I..S.D. board member for many years, and is currently serving as a member of the Hallettsville Economic Development Board. Frank loves playing and watching tennis, and he is an avid rancher and deer hunter. He enjoys tracing his family ancestry, spending time with his grandchildren and following them in their activities.

Rounding it all out, of course, is Frank’s love of music. He really loves attending bluegrass festivals with his wife, making music with his friends by playing the guitar and mandolin, and serving as a co-chairman of the Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics for these 35 years; he’s even designed and made the State Champion plaque. Indeed, Frank, as co-founder of the Fiddlers Frolics, is why we are all here today, and that is a whole other story!

Daniel Jasek 2006

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Daniel Jasek
Inducted in 2006
Listen to Agnes Anne Waltz arranged by Jasek 

Daniel (Dan) Jasek was born to Louis and Albina (Migl)Jasek in Moulton(Lavaca County)Texas on February 28, 1932. He was the second youngest among nine boys. Dan was reared on a small family farm and still operates it. He went eight years to Novohrad, a country school. Dan was inducted into the U.S. Army at age 20 and served two years during the Korean War.

While stationed in Camp Chaffe, Arkansas for a few weeks he met a fellow soldier name Joe Molnoskey from Gonzales, Texas, who was to go home on leave. Joe showed his family picture to Dan who immediately pointed to one of Joe’s sisters, Agnes Anne, and asked if she is married. The answer was no. Does she have a boyfriend? The reply was no again. Dan then told Joe to tell her hello. Upon Joe’s return from leave he told Dan that his sister said to tell me hello. When Dan received his leave he made a date to meet her and BINGO! One and half years later they married on October 17, 1955. Dan and Agnes have five children named Debbie, Sidney, Matthew, Joan and Glen, 13 grandchildren, one great grandchild, three step grandchildren and one step great grandchild. They farmed all their lives and celebrated their 50 years of marriage this past October 17, 2005.

Dan became a musician at age 15. He purchased a fiddle from a farmer in Robstown, TX while picking cotton to make some money.It took thirty dollars to buy the fiddle. Dan paid ten dollars and his father paid the remaining twenty dollars. He learned to play by going to dances and watching and listening to the fiddle players. Then coming home at midnight or so he would take out the fiddle and very softly play, so as not to wake his parents, some of the tunes he heard. He started playing at dances at fifteen years of age and played dances for twenty-seven years.

Dan also plays several other instruments. One was the saxophone he played in a “um pa pa Czech band” years ago. He has also played “Taps” on a trumpet for the American Legion Military funerals. Thirty-five years ago when the State Championship Fiddlers Frolics started in Hallettsville he recalls that he couldn’t believe his ears when he heard these great fiddlers such as Dick Barrett, Louis Franklin, Dale Morris, Jim Chancellor, E.J. Hopkins and others. He never heard of these breakdowns and waltzes. What a thrill! He has worked extremely hard to learn some of these tunes such as Sally Goodin’, Whiskey Before Breakfast, Blackberry Blossom, and so many beautiful waltzes. Dan has never had a lesson, which he really regrets, he believes that if he could have, he would be a better fiddle player.

Dan has composed several tunes and completely rearranged some others. In his younger years he sat in and played with several known bands, namely Adolph Hofner and the Pearl Wranglers, Texas Top Hands, Herb’s Rhythm Ramblers with Arnold Parker, The Velvets and others. Dan has played in every (35) of the Texas State Championship Fiddlers Frolics contest. He has been and is a great supporter and advertiser for the Fiddle contest. One year he had an entourage of people, from 39 counties to advertise the State Championship Contest in Hallettsville. Dan is responsible for the Frolics musical kickoff held on Thursday evenings.

The eight years of country education has not stopped him from a few accomplishments. H e served on The Moulton ISD School Board and 5 of the 6 years he was President, Vice Chairman of the National Farmers Organization Red Meat Bargaining Committee, 51-year member of the Moulton American Legion, 50 plus years member Moulton Knights of Columbus. He served over 20 years as “Extraordinary Eucharistic Minister of the Eucharist” in the St. Joseph Catholic Church in Moulton. In his job for the USDA Agriculture Statistics he served 29 of his 33 years as Field Supervisor. Dan’s lifelong reason for existing is and always was “to learn to know, to love and to serve God.”

Wes Westmoreland III 2005

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Wes Westmoreland III
Inducted in 2005
Listen to Westmoreland play Hot Foot

Howard Dee (Wes) Westmoreland III was born September 10, 1962, the eldest of two children, to Howard (Butch) and Marianne Westmoreland Jr. Wes and his younger sister, Alice Anne, grew up in a loving and musical atmosphere that featured many Sunday afternoons of music at his Grandparents house. Wes still fondly remembers at a young age going to the big family reunions and watching “Papa”, “Uncle Doc” Watson, “Uncle Earg” Hillhouse, his father, uncle and cousins all playing together for hours.

At a very young age Wes began spending most of every summer at his grandfathers house in Lamkin, trailing behind his grandpa through woods, rivers, and fishing holes . It was here, between the hunting and fishing trips, that Wes’ granddad; H.D. Westmoreland Sr. began teaching him to play at age nine. The tunes that Wes had heard in his granddad’s kitchen all of his young life came easy to him, and he can still hear his Papa say “Wes, if you don’t put fire in it, it ain’t worth playing.” It was also at this time that he discovered his grandpa’s collection of “Texas Shorty” 45’s, and opened his eyes to an entire new world of fiddling.

Through these records and his grandfathers stories Wes’s musical heroes grew to include Benny Thomason, Major and Louis Franklin, Vernon and Norman Solomon, Orville Burns, Terry and Dale Morris, and the list goes on and on. About this time Wes began to compete in contests all over the state of Texas. Not forgotten are all the miles put on his family’s car driving to contests every summer weekend the length of the state. He will also forever feel a debt of gratitude to his father and Uncle Gene for all of the practice time spent helping him learn to play. Wes was lucky in that his grandfather not only taught him contest tunes but also exposed him to dance music and twin fiddling.There were many nights spent at some VFW hall or Senior Citizen building playing dance music. However, playing Texas Style breakdowns was always his first love and he spent endless hours listening to tunes trying to figure out how they achieved that sound and drive.

At the age of 18, Wes traveled to Weiser, Idaho and won the National Junior Championship Fiddle Contest- his first major contest. He made many new fiddlin’ friends in the northwest who remain good friends to this day. It was also that same year that he first visited the home of Bill Gilbert and began his second phase of learning. Wes had begun to have some success in fiddle contests, but no matter how hard he picked a tune apart, there always seemed to be something missing. It was under the guidance of Bill that he began to learn the secrets and nuances of the bow-work involved with playing breakdowns. A new bow lick learned in one breakdown, would inevitably show up in many others, prompting a major reworking of all his tunes.

After graduation from high school, Wes attended Tarleton University seeking a degree in Chemistry. He also joined the Tarleton U. Jazz Band, winning honors as best soloist, and began playing western swing dances and shows with Red Steagall and the Coleman County Cowboys. It was at this time that he met the next great influence on his musical journey, Randy Elmore. Randy had just moved back to Texas and happened to be over at Bill Gilberts for a jam session. Wes was blown away at the level of musicianship displayed in his swing solos. The two became fast friends and there were many sleepless nights spent discussing music theory and harmony parts, a practice that continues on even today. Randy was also instrumental in finding Wes’s “five string fiddle” that he has played all these years on stage. It was difficult balancing his love for fiddling with the rigors of a college education.

After Wes graduated from Tarleton University with a chemistry degree, he decided to put that degree in his pocket and pursue his love for music by accepting a job in Branson, Missouri with Boxcar Willie. The following year, Wes received a job offer from Mel Tillis for whom he worked for ten years. This was by far the largest band (17 pieces, including at times, 4 fiddle players) he had ever performed with and his previous experiences with bands and harmonies paid off. Wes performed with Mel Tillis on the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, on television broadcasts such as Nashville Now, Crook and Chase, Austin City Limits and various show places and casinos across the United States and abroad.

After playing professionally for 14 years, Wes decided to return to school rather than continue playing on the road in order to be closer to his children. He applied and was accepted to the University of Houston College of Pharmacy program in 1999 and returned to Texas. He also returned to breakdown fiddling and competing in contests after a 10-year hiatus. Wes received his Doctorate of Pharmacy in 2003 and after a one-year residency at Scott and White Hospital in Temple, Texas, he accepted a position within the hospital as a Patient Care Pharmacist.

Wes’ dedication to music has paid off though the years. To date his awards in include: National Junior Champ 1980, TOTFA State Champion 1985, 1986, 2002, World Champion 1985, 1987, 2003, Texas State Champion at Hallettsville 1988, 2001-2004, and numerous other contests and competitions.

Second only to his love of fiddling, is his love of teaching. Wes has also taught many fiddling workshops and camps across the United States and enjoys teaching western swing and Texas Style breakdowns with two of his best friends and heroes, Randy Elmore and Jim Chancellor (Texas Shorty). Adding even more to his enjoyment are his two children: Katherine 11yr, who sings and plays the flute, and Tanner, 9yr, who is carrying on the family tradition of fiddle players and learning as his dad and great-grandpa did before him.

Betty Joyce Solomon 2005

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Betty Joyce Solomon

Inducted in 2005
Listen to Solomon play Cottonpatch Rag on the piano

Born Betty Joyce Bragg in Forney, Kaufman County, Texas, December 31, 1931 to Lawrence and Mamie Bragg. The youngest of six children, Betty grew up and attended schools in Forney. While in high school she started dating Norman Solomon and in August of 1949 they married. They have one daughter, Sharon Gillespie and husband Joe; one son, Ronald and wife Vicky; three grandchildren and three great-grandsons.

Betty always enjoyed music and hoped to someday play the piano. In 1957 they bought their first piano and she immediately began a self-taught mission to play back up for Norman on his fiddle. Jerry Thomasson was living with them at the time to finish his senior year in high school. Norman and Jerry helped Betty tremendously in learning chords, rhythm and progression. They had a reel to reel tape recorder that she nearly wore out running the tunes back and forth trying to learn the changes. Little did she know it was recording in a different key and she had to transpose the changes when they sat down to play.

The years to follow were busy with music. In 1968 Norman and Betty, Norman’s brother Vernon, and their nephew Mike were invited to Washington, DC by Texas Folk Life. They played on stage at the Ford Theatre and entertained along with Ace Reid and Hondo Crouch among other Texas cultures.

Betty has received several honors in her pursuit of music. She was the first female to win the accompanist division at the TOTFA in Burnet, Texas. She was invited to the Grand Master’s Contest in Nashville TN to help judge, and was voted as favorite accompanist at the TOTFA in 1996.

Other highlights include being asked to be a back-up musician on ten recordings, all of which have been Texas style fiddling. In the 1970’s Norman, Vernon and Benny Thomasson were guests on the Porter Waggoner Show with Betty and Jerry accompanying them on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. She has also entertained at the Hemisfair in San Antonio, the University of Texas in Austin, the Knickerbocker Hotel in Chicago, and the State University at Minot, North Dakota.

Some of the greatest guitar players, fiddlers and musicians have encouraged Betty to play and keep playing music. She has learned something from every musician whether it be a chord, note or a tune. “I say it is a God given talent for which I am always thankful to have and enjoy sharing with all musicians and good listeners.”

Music was always the center of entertainment in Norman and Betty’s home. Betty fondly recalls lifelong friendships with many people that began simply through the enjoyment of music.

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.

William A. “Wild Bill” Lyell 2004

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William A. Wild Bill Lyell

Inducted in 2004

Bill was born In Waco, Texas, in 1923 and grew up on a small farm – they had chickens, ducks, some pigs; now that was just in the house. In 1934, Gene Autry was an Inspiration to most small boys, so Wild Bill just had to have a guitar. By saving a nickel buying “day old” bread he had $4.95 and at Christmas bought a Sears Roebuck guitar and a book called “learn to Play Guitar in Five Minutes. Well, he says he is still learning. After graduating from high school in 1940, he took a civil service exam and got a job with the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C. He left home with a new suit, (the first one), a pasteboard suitcase, and a $20.00 dollar bill. World War II started 3 months later and eventually he entered military service as an Aviation Cadet. He graduated from single-engine fighter pilot school at Moore Field, Mission, Texas. He flew P-40 and P-47 aircraft.

After the war Wild Bill became Involved with music, assumed the name “Lucky McCoy” and had sponsored radio programs on KCOR and KONO, San Antonio. At the same time, he was a member of a Western Swing Band, Sleepy Short and the Texas Troubadours.

Wild Bill was recalled to active duty when the Korean War started and had many interesting episodes. He graduated from helicopter school and was a helicopter Instructor pilot at the Air Force helicopter school for six years. As such, he instructed the Air Force Chief of Staff, General Curtis LeMay; was Commander of the “doomsday” squadron charged to providing helicopter transportation for the President of the United States and his staff to the emergency White House locations, in the event of a nuclear exchange;

Commander of the squadron in Thailand participating in the Son Tay raid in North Vietnam attempting to rescue our POWS. He flew the helicopter scenes for the movie “Flight from Ashiya”, starring Yul Brenner and Richard Widmark. He retired from the Air Force after 31 years.

Following retirement, he thought it would be fun to accompany fiddlers at contests. Through the years he has had the privilege and pleasure of playing with some of the finest fiddlers in the world at many of the best-known contests, Hallettsville being one of them.

Wild Bill admires his heroes as Pat Hopson, Rex Gillentine, Bobby Christman, Anthony Mature, Ray and Royce Franklin, and Steve Williams. They have all helped him through the years. Bill has continually been involved in backing up fiddlers from Weiser Idaho to Nashville Tennessee and beyond and is always ready to back up any fiddler that needs his help. Bill and his wife Stephanie now reside in Gatesville, Texas.

Dick Barrett 2004

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Dick Barrett

Inducted in 2004
Listen to Barrett play Bill Cheatum

Dick Barrett was born in Maysville, Oklahoma on August 6, 1918, the son of Sam and Minnie Culbreath Barrett. His childhood was spent mostly in North Texas and Southern Oklahoma. Dick’s father, Sam, was a fiddle player, as was his grandfather John. Sam was a player of pretty waltzes, and Dick liked fiddle playing a lot as a youngster, but was more interested in playing baseball. When he was 7, his Dad traded for a fiddle for him and he started to play some of the waltzes that his Dad played. He enjoyed fiddling as a small child, but it was still baseball that was the siren song for him until one day in 1927 when his brother came running up the road to the farm to tell Sam and Dick that he had heard a fiddler in town that played like nothing they had ever heard. Dick’s brother, J. J., took his Dad into town the next night to meet Major Franklin, whom he had played with all night the night before. Major followed them back to the Barrett farm that night to stay so they could play some more the next day.

Dick recalls being thunderstruck by the sound of Major’s breakdown playing. Having heard many of the recorded fiddlers of the time, he remembers this sound as seeming far more advanced and beautiful to his ears than anything he had ever heard up to that point in time. For the first time he was truly interested in working at learning a few breakdowns, so Sam asked if Major would try to help young Dick. They worked out a trade for a couple of lessons. Dick says he was very intimidated and so in awe of the beautiful sound that he mostly sat with his mouth open listening and was unable to concentrate on analyzing what was going on. After the second lesson Major told Sam, “Save your money Sam, that kid will never learn anything.”
So ended his breakdown fiddle education as a small child.

A few years passed and the sound known as Western Swing began to be heard. Dick was fascinated by this sound and actually went to work on the fiddle. He became proficient at this style, but played mostly as a hobby and earned a little extra playing school house dances and whatever jobs he could pick. Playing dances was easier than picking cotton or the other agricultural jobs that he held during the darkest part of the depression.

He went to work for a AAA farm team as an outfielder at the end of the depression. This long dreamed of occupation was cut short when he was drafted into the Combat Engineers at the beginning of WW II. After serving several tours of combat, the Army pulled him in to play baseball for a military team called the Manila All Stars in the Philippines. This team included some heavy hitters from the baseball world and Dick was loving it, but again it was not to last when he ruined his arm while playing ball. The Army then put him to work in a Special Services band. This gave him the opportunity to meet and play with people who would eventually employ him after the war. He was discharged honorably and sent to reenter the States at San Diego, CA. Immediately he went to work in the shipyards there, and stayed at that job until Rex Allen employed him. They worked steadily at the Copper Kettle club in San Diego for some time after the war.

Always the fisherman seeking a better hole, he wanted to move to Oregon where the trout fishing and the elk hunting were good. He went to Eugene, Oregon and worked as a building contractor/carpenter by day and purchased the Lane County Barn Dance where he ran a dance hall at night. The Barn Dance did well for a few years with Dick�s regular band, and they frequently brought in well known singers to play there. This was how he met Tex Ritter. The dance hall eventually burned down and Tex Ritter offered him a job as fiddler and bandleader. He took it and stayed with Ritter for four years. He came home from the end of one tour and counted 31 white shirts that had been worn once and never laundered. He decided it was time to take a break from the road. He worked as a contractor again until T. Texas Tyler offered him a job and back out on the road he went again. Tyler was not as busy as Tex, and Dick would take the job of filling in for Hugh Farr for the Sons of the Pioneers when they would be on a West Coast tour. Once more he grew tired of the traveling and moved to Seattle, WA and started another contracting business. Jesse Ashlock moved in to live with Dick and they played at the Golden Apple and had a radio show broadcast live from the China Pheasant every week. Jesse moved on and Dick kept the Ranchhand band together until his children grew old enough to enter school. He then sold his contracting business and moved back to his native Texas and bought a farm so his kids Christie and Brett could go to a country school.

He had stayed in touch with Major all through these years, and he started going to some of the fiddle jams when he moved back to Texas. He says no one there was much interested in playing Swing or waltzes until they got drunk and needed a good harmony player. The sound of these breakdowns stayed with him all of his adult life, so he decided that he would at last learn to play them, and learn them he did. The rest is well recorded history. He became one of the most successful competitors ever with a long and colorful history as a breakdown fiddler. The Memphis Flyer recently called him the “Grand Poo Bah” of competitive fiddling. The Boise Idahoan referred to him as the “Elder Statesman of competitive fiddling” and the Devil’s Box referred to him as the “Old War Horse of competitive fiddling”.

For the last 24 years, Dick has lived in Montana with his wife Lisa. There they have taught Texas Fiddling to a large number of people from all over the world that come there to study with them as resident students. He does the bow work for the Violin Shop that his wife Lisa runs. They still travel about 50,000 miles a year playing and promoting Texas Fiddling. They fish and hunt for recreation and pass these skills along to the students that they teach as well as many breakdowns, waltzes, rags, etc. Dick is grateful to have had such a long and good life and credits fiddle playing as having a lot to do with his continuing good health and ambition. At 85, he doesn’t see slowing down in his near future. His very favorite part of life is sitting down to a good jam session in someone’s home playing tunes and enjoying the good company that music seems to bring. When asked what his favorite tunes are, he replies with a smile, “I love them all.”