Category Archives: Hall of fame

Johnny Gimble 1995

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Johnny Gimble

Inducted in 1995

Johnny Gimble grew up on a farm in East Texas, near Tyler, with four musical brothers. He has been married since 1949 to Barbara Kemp from Gatesville, Texas Johnny and Barbara have three children: Dick and twins Cyndi and Gay. Dick has three children and teaches guitar and bass at McLennan Community College, Waco. Cyndi works for St. Barnard Ski Lodge, Taos, New Mexico. Gay has one child and is a teacher in Austin.

At age 13, Johnny and his brothers played on KGJB, Tyler. After high School, he joined the Shelton brothers on KWKH, Shreveport, Louisiana. He played in the campaign band for Jimmie Davis during his successful bid for governor of Louisiana. After serving in World War II, Johnny worked with various Texas radio and dance bands until he joined “Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys” in 1949. They settled in Dallas in the early ’50s and began doing radio and TV shows with Bill and Jim Boyd and “The Big D Jamboree”.

During the ’80s he appeared many time on Garrison Keillor’s Praire Home Companion”. In Waco, Johnny had his own ” Johnny Gimble and Homefolks” on KWTX-TV for three years. He was staff fiddler on NBC’s 5-Star Jubilee” from Springfield, Mo in 1961. While in Nashville from 1968 to 1978, he made recordings and appeared on many TV shows. Johnny became staff fiddler on “Good Ole Nashville Music”, was a member of the “Million Dollar Band” on “HEE-HAW” and still commutes to Nashville for appearances on “Nashville Now”. He currently has his own show, “Gimble Music Ranch” to be aired on Willie Nelson’s “Outlaw Music Channel.” Johnny has appeared in several movies including “Nashville”, with Willie Nelson in “Honeysuckle Rose” and “Songwriter”. He also portrayed Bob Wills in Clint Eastwood’s “Honky Tonk Man”.

Johnny has been a part of numerous albums throughout the years. In 1948, he recorded with Roberts Brothers Rhythmaires in Corpus Christi, Texas. He subsequently recorded several sessions on MGM with Bob Wills and in the early ’50s in Dallas with Lefty Frizzell, Marty Robbins, Ray Price and others. During those ten years in Nashville, Gimble made his living in the studio recording with everyone from “Wills to Willie”. Merle Haggard, Charley Pride, Chet Atkins, Porter & Dolly, Conway & Loretta, Johnny Rodriguez, Connie Smith, George & Tammy. Even Joan Baez & Paul McCartney featured his fiddle and mandolin. Still active in the studio in Texas and commuting to Nashville, he can be heard on George Strait’s first eight albums, on Mel Tillis’ last effort and has seven albums of his own.

Johnny was voted “Instrumentalist of the Year” by the Country Music Association in 1978 and has received that award four times since. He was named “Fiddler of the Year” by the Academy of Country Music eight times and has been nominated for a Grammy three times. In 1994, he won the Grammy for performance with Asleep at the Wheel plus National Fellowship Heritage Award by Endowment for Arkansas. (Thanks Hillary!) After more than 50 years, Johnny Gimble is still “Fiddlin’ Around”. In addition to studio Work, he is active “on the road” doing festivals, concerts, dances and as a solo artist with his own group, “Texas Swing” (also his favorite kind of music.) April 23, 1995

Bill King 1994

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Bill King
Inducted in 1994

Bill King was born August 1, 1909 in Cuervo, New Mexico, the son of Louis P. King and Vashti Skinner King. Bill was two years old when he moved to Texas. He began to fiddle at the age of ten or twelve years. Tow of his older brothers and sister were also fiddle and guitar pickers. Bill met his wife, Frankie and married her when he was twenty and she was sixteen. Their love of music became a common interest. In her family, a fiddle was “just something to help you dance”. They lived on a farm in the Texas Panhandle during the Great Depression and began playing for neighborhood dances mostly for free and using five cent guitar strings for Frankie’s guitar.

During those years they had two sons; Bill Jr. and Bob. Their life was full of growing cotton and raising their family, but also filled with hard luck, much music and good friends. Bill and Frankie worked as a team with a piano player in this three-piece band, playing for private country club dances, as well as square dance clubs. They also played for country and western music dances and entertainments. Many hours were devoted to playing for benefit shows, for cancer crusades and heart research funds.

Then, show music gave way to fiddle music! Bill took over the chairmanship of the annual March 17th St. Patrick’s Celebration at Shamrock, Texas, which included a fiddle contest. From then on he changed his style of fiddling to fiddle contest numbers, and he was soon in the winning circle of fiddlers at various contests throughout the state. It was natural for him to pick up the fiddle-he never had a formal lesson, but he has to his credit 143 trophies and plaques to show for his wins in contests. Frankie played guitar for him in every fiddle contest he ever entered. Bill King was inducted into the New Mexico State Hall of Fame in 1991.

He was instrumental in organizing the large fiddle contest at Wellington and other locations in West Texas. The instrument on which he played for many years was the first fiddle that Major Franklin brought to the Panhandle in 1926. In 1974 Bill and Frankie retired and moved into Shamrock. They spent their entire life playing and listening to other fiddlers-either in their homes or their fiddler friends homes. He once said: “The ten best fiddlers live within two hundred miles of the Dallas-Fort Worth area”. (which included him) “Fiddlers are like family: They will do their best to beat you in a contest, but if you have trouble, they’ll give you their prize money”. Bill King died January 2, 1990 in Shamrock, Texas.

J.C. Hounshell 1993

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J.C. Hounshell
Inducted in 1993
Listen to Houshell play Ragtime Annie

J.C. was the youngest of six children born to Chris & Allie Byrd Hounshell of Grosvenor, Brown County, Texas. He comes from a musical family on his mother’s side.When J.C. was about ten years old, his mother traded an old crank type phonograph for a fiddle and a bow for J.C.’s oldest brother. His brother would not dare let him play his fiddle but when he was away from the house, J.C. would slip the fiddle out and experiment with it and learned to play before his brother knew anything about it.

He attended school in Grosvenor graduating in 1948. He then moved to Abilene, Texas where he went to business college and then worked for Lone Star Gas Company. He married his high school sweetheart Mary Joyce Ritchie in 1950. J.C. was probably about thirty years old before he heard Texas Style Fidding and he heard Bryant Houston. He just about went nuts and made trips to play with Bryant who lived in Cisco, Texas making recordings of his fiddling. The Hazelwood’s Carl and Chris moved to Abilene from New Mexico and were a good inspiration. Carl being a good fiddler and Chris, and excellent guitar picker. Along about this time he met Major Franklin and many, many others who were an inspiration to him.

The first time J.C. ever played in a contest was in Burnet, Texas and he won second place. Dick Barrett was first, J.C. second and Dale Morris, Sr. third. He has played in a lot of contests over the state and has judged a lot of them.

He was a judge for ten straight years for the Texas State Championship Contest in Hallettsville, Texas. Cliff Fryer told him he liked his judging as he was fair and impartial and Cliff along with Frank Zaruba and Kenneth Henneke were responsible for his being judge.

J.C. has always promoted Old Time Fiddling and encouraged the young people to play, helping them all he could. Math Deatherage used to knock on the door almost every night, or just anytime he could learn a lick or two. It was always a thrill when Terry Morris and Rex Gillentine would come for a visit and music would last till wee hours of the morning.

In 1974 J.C. & Joyce moved from Abilene to Lufkin, Texas. Their East Texas home is still the place for good company, good food and good fiddling.

Vernon Solomon 1992

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Vernon Solomon

Inducted in 1992
Listen to Solomon play Tom and Jerry

Felix Vernon Solomon, the first child of Ervin and Beulah Solomon, was born December 23, 1924 in Kaufman County, Texas. He and his two younger brothers; Norman and Dewayne,grew up in an atmosphere of fiddle music played by their father, as well as their grandfather and many other notables, Major and Louis Franklin, Red Williams and Red Steely who made him his fiddles.

On July 6, 1947 Vernon married Ruby Bragg, whose sister Betty Bragg later married his brother Norman. Vernon and Ruby had four sons: Mike, Ricky, Stephen and Terry. Mike, an accomplished fiddle playing champion, was killed in the Vietnam War. Ricky has been playing with Red Steagull, Ray Price and Reba McEntire bands. Stephen played several years with Box Car Willie. Terry who plays the fiddle, electric bass and rhythm guitar. With so many family musicians, the Solomons’ performed as a band – known as “Solomons ” Championship Fiddling” Throughout appearances, Vernon made easy-going comments and with the Solomons excellent style, captivated their audiences.

Vernon enjoyed fiddling because of the many great people whom he met and enjoyed making music with. In 1968, he and Norman were selected to represent the state of Texas at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. at the annual FolkLife Festival. In 1972 he won the Grand Masters Contest in Nashville and judged at The Weiser Idaho contest and contests in Oklahoma. Vernon Solomon and his family lived in the Fort Worth community all their lives and gave tremendous influence to the state of Texas as well as nationwide. He retired to Decatur, Texas after 44 years of service at General Dynamics in Fort Worth. Just a few short months ago fiddle lovers throughout the country were greatly saddened when Vernon met his untimely death in an automobile accident. His contribution and influence in the art of fiddle music will never be forgotten. He gave us so much.

 

Normon Solomon

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Norman Solomon
Inducted in 1991
Listen to Solomon play Lime Rock

Norman Odell Solomon, one of three sons of Ervin and Beulah Solomon, was born in Kaufman County, Texas, May 25, 1927 Norman grew up listening to the music played by his father and other top musicians, Red Steeley, Red Williams, Benny Thommason and the Franklins. In 1946, Norman met Betty Bragg, also of Kaufman County, and they were married August 19, 1949.

He is currently retired from General Dynamics after 40 1/2years of service. In 1949 Red Steeley, long time family friend and fiddle maker, presented Norman with his first fiddle. Prior to that time, he played guitar with his father and a brother, Vernon. Norman’s family includes a daughter Sharon, a son Ronald and three grandchildren. Its’ the music, the association with good musicians and the people who like the music that means so much to the Solomon family.

E.J. Hopkins 1991

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E.J. Hopkins
Inducted in 1991
Listen to Hopkins play Wagoner’s Horn Pipe

E.J. Hopkins, the youngest of nine children of Benjamin and Lieurett Hopkins, was born at Raven Hill, near Oakhurst, Texas on November25, 1929. E.J. graduated from high school in Oakhurst in 1946, after having taught himself to play the guitar and mandolin.

E.J. purchased his first fiddle in 1949 for $15, but became discouraged trying to learn to play. He entered the United States Army in 1951. A year later, he married Violet Moody, and taught himself to play the fiddle he had purchased a few years back. After military service, E.J. and Violet returned to Houston, where E.J. played fiddle and lead guitar in the “Trinity Valley Playboys,” and where they were blessed with their son, Carl, and twin daughters, Sheila and Sharon. In 1990, E.J. retired from the Houston Police Department, where he had worked since 1963.

E.J. entered his first fiddle contest in 1954 at Crockett, Texas. He never cashed the $2.50 check he received for winning fifth place. The next year at Crockett, E.J first heard Benny Thomasson fiddle. Although he then feared he could not fiddle well enough to compete in contests, E.J. continued to play in contests, and he continued to play in a band, the “Sunnyland Playboys.” E.J. heard more of Benny Thomasson, and he also listened to Norman and Vernon Solomon, and Louis and Major Franklin. E.J. credits the development of his own style of fiddling to the influence of these five fiddlers.

By 1965, E.J. felt he had begun to make a break-through in the breakdown style of fiddling he was seeking to achieve, and in 1968 and 1969, E.J. won the World Championship Fiddlers Contest at Crockett. By 1973, E.J. had recorded three albums and several singles, including his own composition, “Wedding Waltz.”

E.J. credits his success to teaching and to good accompanists. In 1968 he began teaching his son, Carl, to play the fiddle and guitar. E.J. feels that teaching others caused him to listen to tunes more closely, and he rearranged several tunes that he found he had been playing incorrectly. E.J. also believes that his instrument accompanists were vital to his successful performance. Those accompanists included Dave Davison, Chuck Goss, Carroll Williams, Richard Pucken, Steve Williams, Johnny Crisp, James Mature and Anthony Mature.

E.J. served as one of the Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association’s first Directors. He was chairman of the Association’s 1973 convention and president of the Association in 1977. E.J. has always been a contender for the title of Texas State Champion. E.J. is a true Texas Fiddler.

Velda Ross Fryer 1990

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Velda Ross Fryer

Inducted in 1990

For 47 years she has been a wife and mother, and now grandmother, but for all of her life Velda Fryer has done whatever she could to make life better for those she cares about.

She was born Velda Jane Ross in McCune, Kansas in 1912, the only daughter of four children born to Earl and Olive Ross. Her mother died when she was a child, and Velda grew up taking care of her three brothers and her father. As an adult she very naturally became a schoolteacher, but eventually left the family farm to work in the State Treasurer’s Office in Topeka, Kansas and later for Cessna Aircraft in Wichita. It was on a blind date in 1941 that she met a young serviceman Clifford Fryer.

They were married in 1943, but spent only three days together before he was ordered to Europe for the remainder of World War II. After the war, the couple finally settled in St. Louis, Missouri, and it’s there that their two children, John Stuart and Shara Michelle, were born. The family moved to Hallettsville, Texas in 1962, the beginning of their personal involvement with Texas fiddling. For Velda and Cliff, attending fiddling contests across the state became more than a hobby. It was a way of life to pack their bags and head out for a weekend of fiddle music.

They developed fiddling friends who became more like family .Velda always doting on the youngsters, many who grew up to be State and World Champions. But for all the young ones there are always praise and hugs from Velda. And in return they play waltzes that she loves so well. When the Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics began in 1971, Velda was in the thick of the planning and work for putting on a major contest. For more than a decade, it became a tradition for the fiddlers to wind up at the Fryer house for a jam session on the Saturday night of the contest. Velda would feed tens of dozens and make sure everyone had a place to sleep, though the fiddling usually went on all night. Texas fiddlers know that the door is always open in the Fryer house and Velda will treat you like one of her own. She shrugs off any rewards for her efforts over the years, saying, only, that it’s kept her young. We would say young in spirit and full of heart for the people, the children and the tradition of Texas fiddling.

April 1990

Harvey Norris 1990

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Harvey Norris
Inducted in 1990
Listen to Norris announcing

Born May 29, 1925 in Milano, Texas, Harvey R. Norris was heavily influenced by fiddle music as a child, but he never learned to play. The son of Jeff and Edna Norris, he recalled his paternal grandfather and other families fiddle players performing on a host of instruments and remembered from his early childhood house dances, including all night dances at his home once or twice each year.

During World War II Harvey served in the Army Medical Corps as a surgical technician aboard a hospital ship, and entertained in USO’s while stationed stateside and aboard ship in England, France, Panama, Hawaii, the Philippines, Okinawa, Bataan, Corregedor, Japan and Korea.

His interest in fiddle music was rekindled through a weeklong Western celebration in Marlin in 1962 when he hired Johnny Gimble for a street dance. Gimble has since twice been named instrumentalist of the year in the 1980’s.

In 1964 and 1965, Norris produced a White Settlement Jamboree, sponsored by the bank where he was vice president. He was hired as a bookkeeper at First State Bank of Marlin and 23 years later, with 12 of those years at First State, he retired as president of a bank in Bowie.

Norris met his wife Jacquelyn when she performed with a country-western band on his show. Harvey’s engagements as master of ceremonies or performer include the Fiddlers Festival international in Fort Worth, KLMW (Marlin) fiddle contest and live show, KENR radio in Houston, the Grapevine Opry at Water Gardens in Fort Worth and as emcee and moderator of the Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association. For the past 14 years he’s been emcee at the Texas State Championship Fiddlers Frolics in Halletts’tille, and was named in 1989 the “Voice of the Frolics,”

Norris has introduced the youngest fiddler, a three-year-old; Uncle Eck Robinson, fiddler, composer and granddaddy of oldtime fiddlers in Texas, the Hon. Carl Albert, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives in 1971, and a host of old time fiddlers of fame.

He’s met or introduced such stars as Johnny Gimble, Red Foley, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, Porter Waggoner, Little Jimmy Dickens, Farron Young, Ernest Tubbs the Wilburn Brothers, Teddy and Doyle, Mel Tillis, Jean Sheppard, Leon Rausch, Shoji Tabuchi and Fiddlin’ Frenchie Burke.

“For any talent I possess;’ Norris said, “I give praise to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

 

Louis Franklin 1990

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Louis Franklin

Inducted in 1990

Fiddling goes a long way back in the Franklin Family. Louis’ grandfather, an old-time fiddler, taught Louis his first tunes, “Sheep and Goat Going to the Pasture” and “Buck Creek Ladies.” Louis remembers that his grandfather was a pretty old man and about to quit playing, but he pestered him to continue, and never gave him a minute’s peace after that. Louis first learned a tune, and then with his help, experimented until he could play it. Louis had an uncle, Major Franklin, also a well-known fiddler, who was inducted into the Texas Fiddlers’ Hall of Fame in 1979.

Louis Franklin is the only son in a family of eight children of the late Amy and Jess Franklin. He was born in Windom,-Texas, January 15, 1923 and grew up on the farm. His dad made little toy fiddles out of cornstalks for his children and grandchildren. While growing up, Louis played on a $ 4.75 Sears & Roebuck guitar with Major and his family. He got his first fiddle for $ 5.00 at the age of 14 and entered his first contest in Sherman, Texas when he was 13. He graduated from Bells High School and married Louise Genthe in 1942. Four years later while serving in the Army of Occupation in Japan, he played in a band. When he returned home, Louis and his family settled in Denison, Texas. He played on Denison-Sherman radio and made personal appearances with Eddie Miller and the Oklahomans, but after a year “on the road”, Louis returned to farm life. Louis moved his family to the farm at Whitewright, Texas where he and Louise still reside. They have five children: Donna Lotimer, Leonard, Texas; Anna Holcomb, Ft. Worth, Texas; fiddler Larry Franklin, Austin, Texas; Kenneth Franklin, Whitewright, Texas and Debbie Andrew, Whitewright, Texas. They have nine grandchildren and one great granddaughter – -ranging in ages of 3 to 26 years old.

Throughout the years Louis has enjoyed many fiddle sessions playing with Norman and Vernon Solomon, Benny Thomasson, Sleepy Johnson, to name a few. He plays all types of music – one as well as another, but when he plays a rag, “somebody’s got to dance”. His reputation as one of the best fiddlers is well deserved. He served on the initial Board of Directors of the Texas Old-Time Fiddlers’ Association, and has won many contests, prizes and trophies. He won the World Championship Fiddlers’ Contest at Crockett, Texas for the third consecutive year in 1973 – making him one of four fiddlers to have accomplished this in the 53 years that the contest has been in existence since 1936. He also won the Texas State Fiddlers Frolics Championship in Hallettsville, Texas in 1974.

Louis Franklin has had a tremendous influence on the younger generation of fiddlers-both in style of playing and rapport.

Cliff Fryer 1989

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Cllifford I. Fryer
Inducted in 1989

Cliff was born to John E. and Euna Fryer in Stanton, Missouri, about sixty miles west of St. Louis in 1917. The fiddle meant much in his life from the very beginning. He has fond memories of listening to his father, grandfather, uncles and aunts playing every time they could be together. By the time Cliff was old enough to start playing the fiddle, his grandfather was too old to teach him. But his father played at many country dances,and at the age of five, Cliff started to play familiar waltzes and dance tunes along with his father.

By the age of 16, Cliff started to find girls were more fun than fiddles, and the necessity of finding work during the depression took him from his home in Missouri to California. He worked first in a winery, and then tried other jobs, including forest ranger in Idaho, before returning to Missouri.

Cliff was working as a carpenter when, in November 1940, he was selected as the first draftee from the state of Missouri and was sent to the cavalry. After serving his year, he thought to return to civilian life. In just a few months, though, Pearl Harbor and the outbreak of World War II sent him back to the service. For nine months he was an aviation cadet in the Army Air Corps, then was sent overseas as a “Hedge Hopper” in the European Theater of Operations (E.T.O.) until the conclusion of the war.

In 1943, Cliff married Velda Ross of Wichita, Kansas. Upon his return from the war, they established a home in St. Louis for seventeen years, where he worked in construction, and where their children, John Stuart and Shara Michelle, were born. In May 1962, The Fryers moved to Hallettsville. They loved Texas and the people of Hallettsville so much, they remained there the next twenty years, managing their own construction business and raising their children. In 1963, after thirty years of not playing, Cliff found his interest in fiddling reawakened. A fiddle player in Hallettsville admired Cliff’s old family fiddle and played some tunes for him. That was all it took. From then on, he and Velda missed very few contests in and around the state. To them, nothing could replace the enjoyment and friendships they found through fiddle music. Cliff has never competed in contests. He would rather listen to others play. The Fryers are happiest when any of their fiddler friends come to their home for a jam session. The Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics from April 1971 to 1989 has been a source of much joy.

Any credit given to Cliff Fryer for this annual event must also be shared with his wife Velda, Rita and Frank Zaruba, and Anna Mae and Kenneth Henneke. It is a shared tribute with the many members of the Knights of Columbus and their families for devotion and immeasurable effort to make the Texas State Championship Contest a success and to keep live the Beauty of Texas Fiddle Music.