I have spent the last couple of days judging the National Oldtime Fiddler’s Contest, and let me tell you, this is not a job for those who lack stamina. We start judging at 8:00AM, and don’t get done until 10:00PM or later. (They do give us some breaks, and food along the way, but it really makes for a long day.) And, I’m happy to be a part of such a cool event.
All day (and night) long, for the whole week, there is a ton of music going on all around the town of Weiser, Idaho, but especially on and around the high school grounds.
Some people think that the National Fiddle Contest is only about contest style fiddling, but today’s post goes to show that this is just flat wrong. There is a ton of old-time and bluegrass jamming going on too.
At quarter ’til midnight I sauntered up to the campsite of Isaac and Emily Callender, where a hot bluegrass jam was in progress, and invited them to join me for fiddle tune a day. The of course agreed, as soon as they finished the song they were about to go. By the time we were ready to do today’s tune, there was less than 10 minutes left, but we squeaked Goldrush in just under the wire. ps. This tune is also a record for the longest fiddle tune a day recording so far.
GOLD RUSH. Bluegrass, Breakdown. Composed by legendary bluegrass mandolin player Bill Monroe and his fiddler at the time, Byron Berline (The late Monroe had over 63 fiddlers in his group at various times), around 1967. It is only Monroe’s name on the credits, however. After graduating college, Berline played with Monroe for about seven months before being drafted into the US army. “Gold Rush” was recorded by Mike Yates in 1980 from the playing of fiddler Pug Allen of Stuarts Draft, Augusta County, Va. At the time Allen was adamant that he knew the tune years before Monroe’s recording was issued. Dave Barton relays that Missouri fiddler Fred Stoneking says the tune was modeled after a local tune called “Burt County Breakdown,” and suspects that Berline (who is from Oklahoma) may have reworked an older tune he heard. The “Burt County” title and tune was sourced to Burt County, Nebraska, fiddler Bob Walters (by Howard Marshall), however, and the breadth of its dissemination is unknown. Caney Mountain Records CLP 228, Lonnie Robertson (Mo.), c. 1971‑72. County 2705, Kenny Baker – “Master Fiddler.” Musical Traditions MTCD321-2, Pug Allen (et al) – “Far in the Mountains” (2002). Philo 1023, “Jay & Lyn: Songs, Ballads & Fiddle Tunes” (1975). Voyager 340, Jim Herd – “Old Time Ozark Fiddling.”