Category Archives: Hall of fame

Bob Wills 2011

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Bob Wills
Inducted 2011

Bob Wills (1905-1975) was born near Kosse, Texas. Fiddler, songwriter, bandleader and
consummate showman, he was a uniquely talented and charismatic individual. His musical
influence, especially in the late 1930’s and 40’s, ignited fans across the country and, to this day,
his legacy ~spires musicians around the world. Wills rose to stardom in the mid-1930’s and
performed well into the 60′ s. From a family of champion fiddlers, he grew up to the sounds of
old time fiddle tunes, jazz, blu~s, country, mariachi and gospel to ultimately perform the
American music form known as Western Swing. His unconventional “holler” and
animated presence thrilled audiences in dance halls, on the radio and in Western movies.
His music lifted spirits and brought people to their feet and his innovative and
improvisational talents kept the music fresh. Wills’ famous Texas Playboys band
resulted from his admiration for and ability to attract and promote gifted musicians.
Known as the “King of Western Swing,” Bob Wills is recognized as a major
influence on music and musicians who followed him. He and his music remain
“deep within the heart” of America.
“He loved music more than money and wanted to play the style that best expressed his feeling
and soul. Music was not a means to an end; music was an end in itself. Music was not a way ef
life to him; music was life. It was while he was playing that he was coefident and secure, that
he enjoyed some his happiest moments. To the end, the frontier fiddling, the blues, the New
Orleans jazz were all blended into a music that was called western swing, but was really Bob
Wills.” – Dr. Charles R. Townsend “San Antonio Rose, The Life and Music if Bob Wills”

P.T. Riley 2010

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PT Riley
Inducted in 2010

Patrick Thomas Riley (P.T.) was born to Mike & Mary Catherine Riley in Fort Worth, TX on January 25, 1949 “right smack dab” in the middle of one of the worst snow storms in years. The roads were so icy that Mike & Mary had to call a cab to get to the hospital. At an early age P.T. had a love for music and mechanical things. His mother and grandmother encouraged him to expand his knowledge and try different venues of expression. At age four P.T.’s father brought him a guitar from Mexico. P.T. loved the guitar very much and played it until it broke. P.T.’s father was a contractor and moved to different jobs around the U.S. introducing P.T. to different cultures and people. At age eight P.T. received a Roy Rogers guitar with a push button cord maker and he learned to play and sing the songs in the Roy Rogers book. While his mother had friends over visiting he would run up and down the halls singing and playing the songs he learned. Because he had a new Baby sister named Anne Rose, it wasn’t long before the guitar disappeared. P.T. thinks to this day that his mother must have hid it, as he never found the guitar again.

In second grade he began taking trumpet lessons and performing at school. He continued to take lessons and play the trumpet throughout high school & college. Still keeping his love for guitar & western music, he bought a Stella with black diamond strings, and proceeded to teach himself to play guitar left handed, without restringing the instrument. To this day, he plays the guitar upside down.

While in the U.S. Navy Reserves, P.T. went to work for Southwestern Bell. At the age of twenty, he was placed on active duty in Guam. Because of his work experience with the phone company, he went into the Navy as a communications technician and was responsible for maintaining electronic communication systems. There, while in the Navy, he found an outlet for his music, and received his first formal guitar training from fellow sailors. Every night, a group of sailors would go though the galley practicing cords & playing songs. After leaving the Navy, he returned to Southwestern Bell where he worked as a lineman in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

In the early 80s, P.T. transferred to Beeville to be closer to family. In 1984, he met and married Mary Ann. Although each of them had three children from previous marriages, their already quite large family was not complete until Bonnie came along. P.T. and Mary Ann’s children include five daughters: Katrina Sallee, Margaret Hunt, Sara Clark, Bonnie Riley, Amy Segler, and two sons Todd and Chad Sneed. They also have eight grandchildren.

P.T. had been singing and playing guitar at the local Country Opry shows around the Victoria area, when he realized that Bonnie wanted to be on stage too. Jake Glidewell suggested that P.T. bring Bonnie up to Hallettsville and see some of the talented young fiddlers. While there, she met a young fiddler named Regina Mathews and from that point on was eager to play the fiddle. P.T. drove Bonnie to lessons and fiddle contests throughout Texas, and played backup for her for many years.

PT likes to recall one fiddle contest in particular, which took place on a hot July day in Shepherd Texas. He entered the guitar contest up against the best guitar players in the state. P.T. won the contest to the surprise of most of the pickers and himself. He believes he might have just baffled the judges by playing upside down and backwards.

P.T. became an active member of several fiddle groups, and helped out wherever needed. Either by organizing fiddle contests, producing newsletters, creating websites or taking photos and video, P.T. has always been available and eager to help. Early on, he saw the need to archive old music, photos and stories. Under the guidance of Kenneth Henneke, Stuart Fryer, Alan Jirkovsky, Frank Zaruba, and others, he has worked to improve the Hallettsville Hall of Fame by refining the information about the members and including some music samples so that it is easily accessible to the public. With the assistance of Annie Mae Henneke, Frank Zaruba and Cherri Fryer he has kept up with the annual contest results and photos for the web site.

P.T. loves Texas fiddle music, the camaraderie of everyone involved, and the preservation of history. No one appreciates more, the amount of work and talent that is required to become a musician of the caliber found on stage at Hallettsville.

PT wishes to thank all those who have helped him with the task of preserving Texas old Time fiddle music.

ADDITION:

PT Riley passed away May 9, 2010.

Valerie Ryals O’Brien 2009

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Valerie Ryals O’Brien
Inducted in 2009

“Why, when she was born I thought she was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. We could tell she was musical ever since she was a little bitty thing. She’d go around humming and trying to sing before she could even talk, ” recalled Phern Ryals, proud mother of Valerie Delaine Ryals O’Brien.

Valerie’s fascination with music led to an epiphany when she was three years old; she discovered her mother’s fiddle stored under her parents’ bed. “I’d just pluck the strings and I fell in love with the sound. I knew then that I had to learn to play the fiddle,” Valerie remembers.

It was not until the age of nine, however, that Valerie’s formal instruction with music began. Upon entering fourth grade she enrolled in orchestra where she learned the rudiments of technique and reading music on the staff. Her dedication and obvious passion for the instrument came to the attention of her grandfather, O.G. Ryals, a fiddler of the old time folk tradition, who, striking while the iron was hot, introduced little Valerie to Rubber Dolly. And although she has never forsaken her
connection with the classical realm, she knew that the tunes her granddaddy played struck a resonance in her very heart and soul.

Acting according to the advice of L.T. Childress – a workmate of Valerie’s father, Lenn Ryals – her parents began taking her to local fiddle contests and events where she could, as a spectator, absorb some of what the fiddle players on stage were doing. Moreover, she was able to meet and eventually receive one-on-one guidance from such icons as Dale Morris, Claude Henson, Eck Robertson, Benny Thomasson, Jim “Texas Shorty” Chancellor, Major Franklin, Tommy Hughes, Jesse Mears, and the legendary Solomon brothers, Norman and Vernon.

“At that time, there weren’t many females in the fiddling world who seemed to really stick with it,” recalls Valerie. “ But I’ll always remember the kindness and patience of the wonderful gentlemen who helped me get started playing, the fiddlers and the guitar players. They became like family members.” Speaking of family members, when brother Lenn Junior came along, it wasn’t long before his young fingers started itching to play music. Then baby sister Lydia was born and, lo and behold, all three of Lenn and Phern’s young uns were musicians. And all three of them continue to play fiddle, guitar and mandolin to this day. Holidays and family get- togethers are filled with music.

At age 13, Valerie’s dedication finally started paying off when she won the Junior World Championship in Crockett, Texas. Other highlights, at various times throughout her career, include First Runner-Up in the World Champion Contest, and the first woman on the T.O.T.F.A. Board of Directors. For a number of years now, Valerie has performed as a Master Artist with Texas Folklife Resources, a non-profit Austin- based organization whose mission is the preservation and perpetuation of the folk arts. Her affiliation with T.F.R. has led her to perform in such diverse venues as public and private schools, car lots, churches, and neighborhood bars in small- town Texas – from the Gulf coast to the Panhandle.

She has also served as an educator for the Texas Commission of the Arts wherein her role was much the same as that with T.F.R., taking her all over the Lone Star State. She has been an instructor at both Johnny Gimble’s and Randy Elmore’s fiddle camps, as well as an instructor for DFW WOW Suzuki Violin Institute and TCU’s Fiddle Workshop. In 2005 Valerie was honored by being chosen, along with Bob Wills and Johnny Gimble, to represent Texas’ rich tradition of fiddling by having her fiddle on loan for exhibit in the Bob Bullock Museum of Texas History in Austin.

After graduating high school in 1973 Valerie enrolled in the Suzuki teacher-training program at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. The Suzuki – or “mother tongue” – approach has proven itself a valuable resource in teaching not only classical, but music in the old time Texas genre. Valerie remembers her mother cautioning her when she was a teenager that she’d better practice and stay serious about her music because some day she may have to rely on it for a livelihood. Phern’s advice turned out to be more prophetic than she probably realized at the time. For more than twenty- five years Valerie’s Music Studio in Burleson, Texas has launched hundreds -if not thousands- of students into the world of Texas fiddling. The studio has grown to the point that, without the dedication and help of sister Lydia, daughters Julie and Jennifer, longtime friend Mary Lamb, and a score of other generous and able assistants throughout the years, its continuing growth and success would be difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

Valerie reminisces that, insofar as she had always wanted to be in business for herself, operating a teaching studio seemed the obvious thing to do. Moreover, raising two young daughters precluded the thought of touring and, in general, playing in a “band- type environment.” Although the operation of a teaching studio demands much of her time, Valerie continues to find opportunities to play her fiddle for appreciative audiences all across the U.S.A. “Now that my daughters Jennifer and Julie are grown, I enjoy going to places like California and Wyoming and Tennessee for a few days and playing. My husband, Rich O’Brien, performs at quite a few cowboy gatherings across the country and I enjoy going and playing with him. But I’m always glad to get back home and be with my three beautiful little grand babies, Bernard, Nicholas, and Isabella. They are a source of incredible joy to me.”

Valerie’s skill as a fiddle player has enabled her to share the stage with such luminaries as The Chieftains, with whom she performed at Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall in 2000. Her Texas- style approach fit Paddy Maloney’s Emerald Isle style like a glove and, though it need not be said, a good time was had by all in the sold- out performance!

In 2006 Valerie returned to Bass Hall at the invitation of singer/songwriter Michael Martin Murphey as his special guest for his annual Cowboy Christmas tour. Again, Valerie’s playing and poise made it appear as though she had always been a permanent part of the Rio Grand band. Lately, Valerie has performed with Texas music legend Red Steagall both onstage and in the recording studio. Additionally, she coordinates and organizes the fiddle contest held at the annual Red Steagall Cowboy Gathering and Western Swing Festival in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards each October.

And if all the above isn’t enough, she still manages to play a few gigs each year with her all-girl instrumental band, The Half Note Heifers, which features daughter Julie on guitar, sister Lydia on mandolin, and friend Billie Kauhs on upright bass. Valerie’s reputation as a consummate instrumentalist is eclipsed only by her dedication and skill as a perpetuator and teacher of the music she loves. In 2004, Valerie was recognized by the Zonta Club of Johnson County as one of two Women of Achievement in business.

“ The world seems to get crazier every day and to be able to do something positive in a wholesome environment, like teaching in my little studio, is something I’m very grateful for. It’s like I heard Dolly Parton say once, ‘If you can make a living doing something you enjoy, you’ll never have to work a day in your life.’ And I don’t plan to ever fully retire because I love what I do.”

Valerie Ryals O’Brien is a Lone Star treasure. And Phern and Lenn Ryals are proud of what she has done… and rightfully so.

Rex Gillentine 2008

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Rex Gillentine
Inducted in 2008

orn in Graham, Texas on October 27, 1953, to Henry and Betty Gillentine, Rex was the youngest child and has one sister, Sherry who is married to Robert Rose. His dad was a fiddle player, and his grandparents were musicians, so Rex grew up listening to music. His family often performed at musicals and participated in jam sessions around Graham.

After moving to Mineral Wells, Texas in 1967, and breaking an ankle by falling from a horse, Rex started learning guitar. He said, “I couldn’t do anything much, so I started trying to play guitar for my dad.” Rex’s father was playing with the Marshall Holmes Band and Rex would go along and watch Marshall play, and tried to play as Marshall did. This led to entertaining at musicals around the area, and it was at one of these musicals that Rex met Jack Burger, who “started him off right.” While playing at jamborees, Rex met Randy Elmore and Bill Gilbert. Rex and Randy spent many weekends together playing at jamborees, fiddle contests, and jam sessions at Bill Gilbert’s home and at McMinn’s Peach Shed.

This is where Rex began learning from Tommy Burger and Chris Hazlewood. Moving to Plano in 1971, Rex finished high school, graduating in 1972. During this time he continued attending fiddle contests and jam sessions, and played with a local band. He was always anxious to meet and work with good musicians. He credits such associations with giving him the incentive to improve, and says that he then began to understand how talented Omega Burden, Buddy Weeks, and so many other guitar players were.
In 1973, Rex teamed up with Terry Morris, beginning a long association with the Morris family. The two would attend fiddle contests from spring through fall, and take odd jobs during the winter. Terry would win the fiddle contests and Rex would usually win the guitar prize. Between contests they would stay with various musicians or with Louise and Willie Howard (Terry’s mom and step-dad).

Rex moved back to Graham in 1976, continuing contests and playing jobs on weekends. He married Sue Reeves in 1987, and a year later his son, Nicholas (a budding guitarist), was born. Family responsibilities required Rex to take a job that required working weekends, ruling out all but perhaps a contest per year. Moving to the family farm in 1999 allowed more time to participate in contests and to enjoy musician friends who drop by to visit and jam.

Teaching guitar workshops, including at the National Old Time Fiddlers’ Contest in Weiser, Idaho, and for Jana Jae’s Fiddle Camp, has allowed Rex to share his knowledge of music. His guitar tablature has been printed in Acoustic Guitar Magazine, Swing Essentials, and other publications. He has played with such fiddle players as Orville Burns and Matt Hartz on the Grand Ole Opry, and has recorded with Terry Morris, Dale Morris, Sr., Randy Elmore, Wes Westmoreland, Johnny Smith, Ricky Boen, Bubby Hopkins, Matt Hartz, Danita Rast, and many others.

Among those to whom Rex gives credit for his musical development are his parents, Jack Burger, Tommy and Elsie Burger, Marshall Holmes, the Elmore family, the Morris family, Sleepy Johnson, Omega Burden, Buddy Weeks, the Franklin family, the Solomon family, Chris Hazlewood, Bill Gilbert, Bartow Riley, and many more.

Rex wishes to extend a thank you to all who have helped and encouraged him through the years, and says the “fiddle family” friends are the greatest!

Ricky Turpin 2008

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Ricky Turpin
Inducted in 2008

Ricky Turpin was born in Lubbock Texas on October 3rd, 1964 to Weldon and Jo Turpin, he has one brother Russ, who also played rhythm guitar. Ricky started his interest in fiddling at age twelve and was influenced by his dads fiddle playing . There is a story about how his dads old fiddle kept breaking and it would sit for a long time then he would repair it again and it would break again, this made it hard on Weldon to play so he quit for awhile. According to Ricky; “We were pheasant hunting with my dads friend who had just purchased an old student fiddle and it was there that I decided that I wanted to learn how to play the fiddle before he had even bought it!” (Ricky still has that same fiddle today.)

His primary influence was by Dick Barrett, Texas Shorty and Benny Thomasson albums as well as Terry Morris who became his primary influence and friend. Ricky’s favorite two fiddlers are Terry Morris (Texas style fiddle), Johnny Gimble, “I like practically everything about his fiddling: swing, back up fiddle, and waltzes. ”

Ricky found out early a violin is like a human voice,” he said. “It’s a very versatile instrument. You can back your bow close to the bridge and apply lots of pressure and you’ll get like a harmonic and it’ll sound like a flute.

You can make it sound exactly like a bird. With the bow you can make your notes short, like a pick, or if you draw a long bow, you can make it last as long as you want to – like somebody’s blowing a horn. It’s just neat.”

When Ricky was twenty-two he was the first recipient of the Tom T. Hall Endowed Scholarship in Country Music at South Plains College, he said school officials neglected to tell him it was a scholarship award of $5,000. He thought the honor was as top music student in the Country and Bluegrass Music program. One of Ricky’s instructors at South Plains College, Ed Marsh, said, “Turpin is one of the most capable and outstanding musicians ever to have been enrolled in our program. We feel Ricky is an excellent choice for our first recipient and will set high standards for scholarship recipients in years to come.”

Ricky has been the Texas State Fiddle Champion twice, a World Series of Fiddling Champion, first runner-up for the Grand Nationals Championship and a two-time Grammy winner. On the recommendation from Johnny Gimble, considered by many to be one of the best fiddle players ever, Turpin came to New Braunfels in 1988 to play with Clay Blaker and the Texas Honky-Tonk Band.

After two years with Blaker, Turpin joined Johnny Bush for a year and a half. Next, Ricky went to work for Ray Benson and Asleep at the Wheel band. Larry Franklin had recommended Ricky to be his replacement, in the two and a half years while playing for Asleep at the Wheel he won two Grammy’s.

On the tribute album for Bob Wills, Ricky recorded with some of the ex-Texas Playboys like Johnny Gimble, Herb Remington, and Eldon Shamblin. And with assorted celebrities including artists like Huey Lewis, Merle Haggard, George Strait, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, Chet Atkins, Marty Stewart, Lyle Lovett, Suzy Bogus, Riders In The Sky, and Willie Nelson. With all his many awards and accomplishments he still remains passionate about the old time fiddle style itself.

“You have to study and be familiar with a style to get use to what it sounds like. The kind of music I like to play the most is the breakdown fiddle tunes we play in contests and western swing because I like the drive and the swing beat- it moves me. When you get a good rhythm the music just flows out and you come up with some stuff you’ve never heard before in your life. That’s when it’s really fun.”

Bobby Christman said once, “I’d say Ricky’s goal is to be someone like Johnny Gimble. Anytime anyone wants a good fiddle player, I mean with a top name, anywhere, they’d call Johnny Gimble. I’d say that’s what Ricky wants and I’d say he ain’t far from that.”

To quote Ricky, “ I want to play music as long as I can.” Ricky is living in the New Braunfels area maintaining a busy musical career.

Steve Williams 2007

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Steve Williams
Inducted in 2007

Stephen Ray Williams was born in Houston, Texas on September 13 th1951 as the only child of Carroll and Marcie Williams. He was about 6 years old his Dad introduced him to fiddle music and tried to get Steve to play the fiddle, but this was not the instrument of his choice as Steve heard the guitar calling his name. His Dad had Jams at his house that included Chuck Goss, Dave Davison, EJ Hopkins all of and these musicians were instrumental in Steve’s interest in playing the guitar. Steve’s Dad owned a Martin D-28 guitar but he was not allowed to play it in fear that it would be scratched. What really got the ball rolling was when EJ Hopkins let Steve play on an old J-45 Gibson guitar that belong to his brother.

Early one summer morning around 4 a.m., his mother woke him up and told him to go to the kitchen. He could hear the sound of a fiddle and guitar playing music; it was Norman Solomon and Omega Burden playing “Leather Britches.” After seeing Omega’s style of guitar playing he became imprinted for life. Bill Northcutt also played a big part of Steve’s younger life by hauling him around to every contest they could make. Summers were spent at the homes of Omega Burden, Norman Solomon’s and the Franklins, learning the music. Whenever Steve (11), Larry Franklin (9) and Gordon Townsend (9) could get together at the contest they were like the three musketeers.

Others who inspired him along the way playing guitar during his early teens were: Buddy Weeks, Royce & Ray Franklin, Major Franklin, EJ & Violet Hopkins, Lewis & Louise Franklin, Dave & Glena Davidson, Chuck Goss, Norman & Betty Solomon and Jessie Mears.

In 1970 Steve married his “high school sweetheart” Jackie Allen, recently they celebrated their 37 th anniversary on March 14 th. During his high school days, he played bass guitar for a country western band, which became a turning point in his life. The following 9 or 10 years Steve kept busy playing bass with several country western bands on the weekends plus going to fiddle contests when he had a chance. He did all this along with his regular daytime job, thus giving him the nickname “Done Gone,” by his Dad. When his Dad would call for him, it was either,”he’s done gone to work, or he’s done gone with EJ & Carl to a contest.” By this time Steve had his own little tribe started. His three daughters, Tammy, Christy, and Marcie will tell you about their childhood saying, “All I remember is being hauled around to fiddle contest and dollaring my Daddy to death for the carnival rides.” Still he tried to make the contests whenever his 2 nd job of playing bass in the bands would allow him some breaks on the weekends. In 1980 Steve went back into the fiddling circuit and won the TOTFA State Championship Guitar contest in Burnet, Texas. In 1987 Steve moved to Porter, Texas where he lived for 19 years. In 1990 he held the TOTFA and Fiddlers Frolic Guitar Championship title and repeating this feat again 2006.

The call of playing bass for dances was so strong that in 1990 Steve started playing again for a country western band named “The Winchesters,” until 2000.

Starting his own company in 2001 as a State and Federal Inspector for different engineering firms that design airports in Texas. He could not continue playing with the Winchester Band due to his busy job requirements. By this time his tribe had grown and blessed Steve and Jackie with many grandchildren. After having three daughters, a wish for a grandson was in order, but he would have to wait. His first two were granddaughters, Audrey Denmon (13) and Shelby Cooper (10). Still he insisted to his daughters that some grandsons were needed in this family then BOOM! Just 4 months apart, he got his wish, two grandsons, Stephen Denmon (5) and Austin Mosley (5) (nicknamed Dynamite and Demolition). After a while came another grandson, Cole Mosley (4), another granddaughter, Taylor “Tatorbug” Cooper (3) and one on the way.

Steve and Jackie just recently moved a year ago to Lampasas, Texas on a 30-acre farm/ranch. Fiddle contests are no longer just contests; they’ve become family reunions for the whole William’s clan. So many life long friends have been made along the way, and so many stories to be told with not enough time or paper to list the names of my fiddling family who I would like to say “Thank You For Your Time And Talent.” And a big “THANK YOU” to my little brother (Carl Hopkins) for all the years of playing fiddle tunes and trying to wearing me down and my protege Anthony Mature who will carry on and help teach other young guitarist. My inspiration now is the younger ones, “WOW” they blow me away.

Anthony Mature 2007

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Anthony Mature
Inducted in 2007

Anthony Thomas Mature was born in Houston, Texas on November 8, 1966 – the third of three sons born to James and Margaret Mature. Anthony has been exposed to Texas old time fiddle music literally all of his life. His father, James, older brother, Robert, along with cousins E.J. and Carl Hopkins, neighbors Johnny & Jason Crisp, were all very active in the Texas fiddle scene and also in the burgeoning Texas Old Time Fiddler’s Association in the early 1970’s. Of important note is the life long bond Anthony formed at an early age with Jason Crisp. Through the years, the two would become lifelong friends, schoolmates and accomplished musicians together.

Although exposed to contests and jam sessions in these early years, Anthony did not show an interest in playing until his mid teens. Around the age of 13, he started working for Bill Northcutt at the Fiddle & Bow music shop in Houston. The jam sessions that Bill would host at the shop were key in piquing Anthony’s interest in fiddle music and especially in playing rhythm guitar. One night, at E.J.’s, Anthony was approached by Steve Williams. Steve saw potential in the young guitar player and asked him if he’d like some help. Anthony was particularly drawn to Steve’s playing and considered it a high honor for Steve to take him under his wing. Anthony started a sort of apprenticeship with Steve and started regularly accompanying his brother, Robert, Jason, Carl, E.J. and others.

C.I. Fryer’s house was another regular spot for jams. Texas Fiddle music can have no greater fan than Mr. Fryer was. He was especially fond of Anthony and supported him and his pursuit of music to the nth degree – as he did many other up and coming musicians. It was at Cliff’s house, in 1984, that he met Matt Hartz – a 14 year old fiddler from Idaho. This harmless encounter eventually gave way to Matt moving to Texas after high school graduation, living with the Mature family and attending college with Anthony and Jason at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Matt and Anthony continue a long friendship and each has significantly influenced the other’s musicianship.

The subsequent years have found Anthony jamming, performing and recording with many Texas fiddle legends including Norman Solomon, Orville Burns, Louis Franklin and Terry Morris among many others. This period also found Anthony accompanying his cousin, Carl Hopkins, and good friend, Wes Westmoreland as they made their ascent to the top of the Texas breakdown fiddle scene.

A long career as a much sought after accompanist has garnered its share of awards and accomplishments. Besides being in constant demand by top fiddlers around the country, Anthony has been the State Champion Accompanist here in Hallettsville, TOTFA Champion Accompanist and National Champion Accompanist in Weiser, Idaho – all multiple times. He has helped champion fiddlers to win all of the major contest events including the National Championship in Weiser, Idaho, the World Championship in Crockett, Texas, the Grand Masters Championship in Nashville, Tennessee and, of course, the Texas State Championship here in Hallettsville. In addition to fiddle contests, Anthony has performed on many stages across the U.S. including WSM’s “Grand Ole Opry” several times.

Anthony currently resides in New Waverly, Texas and is employed as an accountant for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. In his free time, you are likely to find him hunting or fishing with family and friends. His passion for the outdoors nearly rivals that of his passion for music.

Anthony’s induction to the Hall of Fame would not be complete without acknowledging the men who taught him and shaped his playing style. The respect and gratitude he has for these people is evident in his guitar playing and his character. Anthony would like to recognize his father, James Mature, Steve Williams, Bobby Christman, Royce and Ray Franklin and the legacy of Omega Burden.

Carl Hopkins 2007

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Carl Hopkins
Inducted in 2007

Carl Hopkins was the first of three children born to E.J. & Violet Hopkins in Conroe, Texas, on September 11, 1959, in Montgomery County. Carl has twin sisters who were born a year later in 1960, Sharon and Sheila. Being the son of E.J., a champion fiddler, along with the encouragement and support of his mother Violet (Carl’s biggest fan), Carl began to play the fiddle at 8 years of age. He entered his first contest when he was about nine years old.

Some of the fiddlers that have made a significant impact on Carl’s fiddling over the years were Benny Thomasson, Louis Franklin, Major Franklin, Norman Solomon, Vernon Solomon, Orville Burns, Robert Mature, Brad Riley, Terry Morris, and of course, E.J. Hopkins. Along with great fiddle players, Carl had the opportunity to be around and be influenced by some great accompanists, such as, Dave Davidson, Chuck Goss, Carol Williams, Royce Franklin, Ray Franklin, Betty Solomon, Richard Puckett, James Mature, Gayle Hopson, Steve Williams, and later on, Anthony Mature. Carl has many accomplishments to his credit, such as playing on the Grand Ol’ Opry when he was only 13 years old, winning the Texas State Championship title, and winning the World Championship title, which he currently holds.

In 1987 Carl won the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo contest and part of the prize was 2 airline tickets. Later that year Carl and Wade Stockton used the tickets to fly to the National Fiddling Contest in Weiser, Idaho. While he was there, Carl met Tonya Rast, an incredible fiddle player herself, and his wife to be. They were married on April 8, 1989, and now have two beautiful children, Cassidy, 12, and Hyatt, 10. Besides fiddling and raising his family, Carl’s other interests include hunting and fishing, which he is very competitive at each. Carl has been a long time member of the Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association.

He served as a director for several years and is an asset to the organization. Carl always attends as many of the fiddle contests as possible, and is usually responsible for a lot of the great jam sessions everyone loves to hear. Fiddle music is a very important part of Carl’s life, from the fellowship of other musicians to the fiddling itself, with the traditional breakdowns being where his heart lies. Carl grew up in an atmosphere of fiddle music, and through his life he has carried on the tradition. Carl is definitely a genuine Texas Fiddler.

Gordon W. Townsend

Kenneth Henneke 2006

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Kenneth Henneke
Inducted in 2006

Kenneth Henneke was born in Hallettsville, Texas to Fred and Hattie Tiemann Henneke. He was the youngest of four children: The oldest brother, Fred Henneke Jr., lost his life on December 16,1944 at the Battle of the Buldge; Dickie Henneke resides in Vsetin, Texas; and sister, Thelma Mikulenka, resides in Hallettsville. In 1961 Kenneth married Annie Mae Kallus of Hallettsville. Together they were blessed with five children: Randall Karl, who died at six weeks, Donna Lynn who married Michael Tater of Inez. Warren married Lisa Koncaba of Hallettsville. Amy married Bobby Machicek of Hallettsville. The youngest is Brian, who married Mary Gail Kuester and lives in Yoakum.

Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s Kenneth Henneke was appointed to the lector position of the Knights of Columbus Council #2433, which provided programs and entertainment for the monthly council meetings. Loving music, Kenneth would often recruit some of our local musicians, Frank Zaruba, Harry Hruzik and Richard Staha, to entertain their brother Knights, and e veryone loved it. At the same time, the neighboring community of Ezzell sponsored a fiddle jam session every year at theirl Community Center. Frank Zaruba, who would attend each year, was amazed at the success of the event, and at the next KC meeting, Frank approached Kenneth with the idea of throwing such an event of their very own. Kenneth agreed and suggested a state championship fiddling contest. Kenneth made contact with a good friend who also loved fiddle music, Mr. Cliff Fryer, who loved the idea and even put up the 1 st place prize money of $100. At one of the KC council meetings in the fall of 1970, Kenneth made a motion that the Knights of Columbus sponsor a new project, the Texas State Champion Fiddling Contest.

The proceeds would go towards the building of a new Knights of Columbus Hall, Frank Zaruba 2 nd the motion and the motion carried. Shortly afterwards, Frank came up with a more upbeat and catchy name, The Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics. Frank, Kenneth, Cliff and Velda, realizing that they had taken on a little more than they expected, became the co-founders and co- chairmen of the Fiddlers’ Frolics. Kenneth, not knowing a stranger, was selected to promote the event. He would handle advertisement and additional entertainment for the weekend.

First on the agenda was to set a date for the 1 st Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics. The co-founder’s decided on the 4 th Saturday in April. The latter part of April would provide comfortable spring weather and the Lavaca County countryside would be blanketed with beautiful wildflowers for all traveling to the contest to enjoy. The first ever Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics’ was held on April 24, 1971, at Weid Hall, just west of town. The Friday night preceding the Saturday contest would be a hospitality night for all the musicians and families who traveled to Hallettsville for the contest. This night proved to be a huge hit. It was the time when the knights could meet the contestants and their families, the musicians could jam and all could enjoy refreshment. Many new friendships were made at this “jam session” and to this day it is a reunion looked forward to each year. Saturday began the fiddling competition. A country-western dance followed after the contest on Saturday night. The first year a Hallettsville native performed, Miss Martha Lynn Head, who had her own band and country-western television show during these years. The problem was that she did not get to take the stage until 11:00 that night, as the fiddle contest had gone until almost 10:30.

For many years to come, the co-founders, and, occasionally, their wives, made the rounds to every fiddle contest they could find across the state of Texas in order to promote the Fiddlers’ Frolics. It was in doing so that they found many great fiddlers and guitar pickers. They invited them to come jam at the Frolics and enter the Fiddling Contest. The more they promoted the Frolics’, the more the competition grew into the prestigious contest that it is today. There were countless trips to radio and television stations, as well as newspaper interviews. They would jump at the chance to play for any media that would have them come to share their love for a true American pastime. Early on, they invited constructive input from fellow knights, fiddlers, guitar pickers and fans of the contest. They strongly feel that the contest has grown into what it is today due to their interaction with all who attend this weekend, many hours of service by the devoted knights, and the wonderful families who support them. Over the years, numerous individuals, sponsors and the great city of Hallettsville have contributed greatly to the success of the Frolics. Thanks to the help of so many great people, part of America’s heritage is celebrated each year at Hallettsville’s very own Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics.

Frank Zaruba 2006

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Frank Zaruba
Inducted in 2006

Frank Zaruba was born on August 17, 1932, on the family farm in the Vsetin area of Lavaca County, Texas. When he was 9 years old he bought a fiddle for $5.00. His older brother, Robert, bought a guitar for $2.25 before he went into the service, and told Frank and his other brother, Joe, not to touch the guitar while he was gone. Ignoring the admonition, Frank and Joe took the guitar out to play as soon as their brother left. A friend came to the house, tuned the guitar, and taught them three chords, G, C and D. Frank thought that those sounds from the guitar were the most beautiful sounds he had ever heard, and he learned more chords as he played.

His love for this music was off and running.Frank completed his primary education at the country school in Vsetin, and then attended and graduated from Hallettsville High School. Although Frank played baseball and tennis in high school, he also continued playing the guitar, and was asked to play in a newly formed band Sonny and the Texas Hillbillies, which made as much as $10 a night in the Kenedy, Texas, area on weekends, and $3 a night at Renger’s Bar in Hallettsville on Tuesday nights. After, high school, Frank attended Victoria College, where he played semi-pro baseball for the Victoria Rosebuds. He then graduated from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos with a BBA degree as well as a teacher’s certificate, and played tennis for the college team. There were not many musicians in college, so he had to keep up his skills on his own.While working on his Masters Degree and teaching at San Antonio East Central High School, Frank was drafted and served in the United States Army from 1956 to 1958.

Once again, there were not many musicians in the Army, so Frank had to continue on his own, but when leaving the service his Sears & Roebuck guitar was destroyed in shipment back home. After getting married, Frank received a small amount from an oil lease on land he inherited from his mother, and bought a sewing machine for his wife and a Martin guitar for himself that he has been playing ever since. Frank and Rita Grahmann were married on November 8, 1958, in Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Hallettsville. They have two children, Jack, born in 1961, and Donna, born in 1966. Jack married Sandy Mikes in 1982, and they have three children, Mark (1982), James (1986), and Michael (1996). Donna married Kevin Walker in 1991, and they have two children, Annie (1996), and Ethan (1999).

Frank has worked in accounting for his in uncle in the automobile business, then was the Chevrolet dealer in Hallettsville from 1975 to 1991, and has been an independent petroleum landman since 1974. Frank has been a little League baseball coach or sponsor since the early 1950’s, served as a Hallettsville I..S.D. board member for many years, and is currently serving as a member of the Hallettsville Economic Development Board. Frank loves playing and watching tennis, and he is an avid rancher and deer hunter. He enjoys tracing his family ancestry, spending time with his grandchildren and following them in their activities.

Rounding it all out, of course, is Frank’s love of music. He really loves attending bluegrass festivals with his wife, making music with his friends by playing the guitar and mandolin, and serving as a co-chairman of the Texas State Championship Fiddlers’ Frolics for these 35 years; he’s even designed and made the State Champion plaque. Indeed, Frank, as co-founder of the Fiddlers Frolics, is why we are all here today, and that is a whole other story!