Jimmie Don Bates 1997

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Jimmie Don Bates
Inducted in 1997

It is fitting that the man who would come to practically dominate Texas fiddle contests was born in the capital city of Austin, on January 1, 1965, the first day of a new generation.Jimmie Don Bates was the only child of Valeara and Jimmie D. Bates, who not only instilled their child with the desire to compete and to be the best he could be, but who provided the tools and training to be the champion he has become. Jimmie Don started playing the fiddle when he was 11. His father-who had lost the use of his own left hand in a horse and buggy accident as a child-tirelessly took young Jimmie Don to teachers and contests.

Jimmie Don learned from Garland Gainer, a New Mexico native who had learned the Texas style himself from the great Norman Solomon. Twice a week, Vernon Worrell would patiently beat a drum until Jimmie Don picked up the rhythm. When he was 13, Jimmie Don met Bennie Thomason at the State Championship contest in Hallettsville, and accepted his invitation to visit and study from him at Red Oak, Texas. The next year, Jimmie Don became the youngest person ever to win the Texas Old Time Fiddler’s Association championship contest at its annual convention in Burnet, and he has won that contest many times since. 1983 was a pivotal year for Jimmie Don Bates. He lost his father, graduated from high school, and won the Texas state championship. He began teaching fiddle, but had to work at various jobs to supplement his income. In the ensuing years, Jimmie Don continued the path his parents worked so hard to guide him towards. In 1987, he became the third Texan to win the national championship in Weiser, Idaho. He has won the world championship contest at Crockett, Texas five times in a row, and he has won the Texas state championship contest seven times.

Jimmie Don now lives in Austin, Texas. In 1995, Jimmie Don was elected President of the Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association. He has now taught 83 people the Texas style of playing fiddle or guitar, and it is obvious that Texas fiddling will dominate Jimmie Don Bates, the first of a new generation of Texas fiddlers, for all his years to come.