Inducted in 1999
Listen to Glidewell play Ragtime Annie
orn to Russell and Sophronia Glidewell in Bells, Texas, in Grayson County on June 5, 1909 and was raised on a farm located about six miles from the Red River. Jake is the oldest of eight children with three brothers and four sisters. In those days, lots of old time square dances were held at homes all up and down the Red River. It was here that Jake first learned to play some on the banjo and then learned to second on the guitar. He also taught his younger brother to second on the guitar.
The fiddler in the area where Jake grew up was Uncle Bill Givens and it was from him that Jake learned to fiddle some of the old tunes like “Maggie”, “Nellie Grey”, “Red River Valley” plus a few waltzes and hoe-downs. Jake recalls that “Uncle Bill was getting old and very contrary and might just at any time get mad at someone and box up his fiddle and go home”. By chopping cotton for 50 cents a day, Jake earned enough money to order a fiddle of his own from Sears and Roebuck Company. It cost $9.50 and was the best one they had at that time. The price also included a bow, an extra set of Bell brand strings, a box of rosin, and the postage.
Jake’s mother made a canvas case for the fiddle from an old cotton sack, which he still has. He rode to the dances on a mule, carrying the fiddle in the canvas bag. When Jake was about 15 and shortly after he got his own fiddle, Uncle Bill Givens passed away, which left Jake the only one for miles around that played the fiddle. Sometimes he earned a couple of dollars playing for dances. The usual charge was 15 cents a square and 10 cents extra to waltz, rag, or round dance. This was mostly on credit and Jake says, “I guess I really embarrassed a lot of those poor old farm boys right in front of their girl friends but they would usually pay up when I asked for it!” Jake had two young friends who played mandolin and guitar with him at these dances and they had many good times.
Jake met Bessie Lou Tucker in 1929 when his sisters brought her home with them from school. Jake said “She was kinda young then, but I kept my eye on her until she grew up”. They were married on August 14, 1932. They have two children, Frank and Cotton Glidewell, five grandchildren and three great grandchildren. They were married almost 66 years. Bessie passed away May 22, 1998.
In 1928, Jake moved to west Texas and didn’t play any more. He worked in the shipyards at Orange Texas as an electrician during the war. He moved to Victoria in 1951 to work for E. I. DuPont as an electrician. He had a stroke 1969 and was losing the use of his left arm and the fingers on both hands. During therapy, which followed an operation in Houston, his doctor found out that he used to play the fiddle and told him that it would be very helpful if he would begin playing again. Jake says, “I had to go to contests where the fiddlers were to learn how to play again. I really love to hear all fiddlers, young and old. In fact, I even enjoy the very worst ones for they all do their best. Country musicians are the finest people I know.”
Jake plays in many contests and often wins but considers the best reward he gets for his playing, is the joy expressed by persons who live in the rest homes in Victoria where he plays often. One of the most promising aspects of old time fiddling, and one which pleases Jake very much, is the increasing numbers of young fiddlers who are playing this type music. Jake has helped several youngsters get started with the fiddle and always gives encouragement to those just starting. When he hears a youngster playing “Fifty Years Ago Waltz” and other old tunes, he knows that those tunes will never be forgotten and it is his hope that there will be many more interested young people who will keep fiddling going on for many years.
Jake is an active member in the Masonic and Odd Fellows lodges and a member of the Second Baptist church. In June, 1974, Jake retired from E. I. DuPont and began enjoying the fiddling he loves even more. He recommends it as the very best thing to keep from getting old and says, “I am going to try to keep on playing until I am at least a 100 and if I don’t make it, just say I tried!”