Straley Allsup 1984

straley_allsup

Straley Allsup was born April 4, 1893, to Ophelia and Allen Allsup. There were 11 children, but only seven, all boys, lived to be grown; Straley was sixth of the seven. He was born on the Allsup farm about two miles East of Gustine, Comanche County, Texas, on the Leon River. His father, Allen was told by Mr. 0. Straley while in Comanche one day that in case his child on the way should be a boy; if he would name the boy after him, he would give him his fiddle. The fiddle is still in the Straley family, but when Straley Allsup grew up he had the privilege of playing that fiddle and carrying it with him many times. Straley’s mother was a fiddle player and he can remember her tuning the fiddle for him as he sat on the floor and played it.

When he was a very small boy he and his brother picked up pecans on the home place and sold them in Comanche. His share was six dollars. He had his eye on a fiddle in Mr. Black’s store window. He went to the store and even though the fiddle cost more, Mr. Black let him have it for his six dollars. Straley was told in later years by an older friend that he remembered seeing him play his first public appearance at school when he was very small.

He and his brother, Ewell, who played the piano entertained as teenagers. His brothers were all musicians. As a teenager, Straley played for many public gatherings. He started breaking horses and riding in rodeos. He traveled with “Texas Kidd’s Rodeo” for awhile and played for the platform dances after the rodeo. Straley married Joe Bell Kelso of Mills County in 1916 and he and her brother, Walter, before known as “Peg” began playing together. They played twin fiddles. The three of them, Straley, Joe Bell and Peg traveled horse back to the gatherings and dances that they played. In 1918, the fiddling was interrupted for about three weeks when a daughter, Vane, came along. Then Straley buttoned his overcoat around the baby on his horse, while Joe Bell carried the fiddle on hers and Peg followed on his horse carrying the guitar. Straley farmed in the day time and fiddled at night.

In 1925, Straley decided to quit farming and went to San Antonio to barber school. He then moved into Gustine where he operated his barber shop and Joe Bell had the first beauty shop in Gustine in the same building. She soon sold her beauty shop equipment but Straley barbered more than 50 years. The Fiddle contest became a part of Straley’s life in the 1930’s. He has played in contests all over the state of Texas and in Louisiana, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

In 1964 Straley was in an automobile accident and had one leg broken in two places. He was in a wheel chair for several months, but even though he may have felt a little discouraged at times, with the help of his wife and his strong determination, he led an almost normal life through this. He is a strong believer in prayer and never forgets to be thankful for a good doctor and a helpmate who was always there. His wife pushed him in the wheel chair to the barbershop and he sat on a high stool with the injured leg resting on a lower one and cut hair. At the close of the day, Joe Bell was again present to assist him on the journey a about one block home. He never missed a fiddlin’ contest, even though he couldn’t walk. He was lifted wheel chair and all to the bandstand many times. After his wife passed away in October 1968, it seemed Straley could not go on in a field of which she had been so much a part, but with the help of his fiddling friends, “Fiddlin’ Family” in his own words, he has been able to carry on.

In May 1971, Straley was given the title of “The fastest man on the draw with a fiddle bow in the country” in the Athen Daily Review after he had won the Athens Championship in his age group for the fifth consecutive year. He was World Champion in his age group at Crockett, Texas, three times. He has several trophies and plaques for his winnings at the Texas State Championship Fiddler’s Frolics in Hallettsville. He became Texas Old Time Fiddler’s Association State Champion in his age group at the age of 85, and has won awards as the oldest Fiddler in a number of contests. Straley was interviewed twice by Tumbleweed Smith on the “Sound of Texas” on radio, appeared on “The Eyes of Texas” on television and has been on several televised contests, including National T.V. recognition at Belton, Texas. He is now a resident of Western Hill Nursing Home in Comanche, Texas, where he enjoys his friends and listens to fiddle records including his own album made when he was 83. His most recent public recognitions is an article including his picture in the December 1983 – January1984 Issue of Caring, News Magazine for Texas Health Care Association. Straley was 91 on April 4, 1984.