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.