Bob Wills Fiddle Fest

David Sawyer on the Bob Wills fiddle fest stage finals - photo © 2014 Tom DunningSixty five contestants from 10 states converged on Greenville, Texas last weekend to compete in the Bob Wills Fiddle Festival and Contest and honor the “King of Western Swing.” As a “cousin to bluegrass,” western swing continues to be a popular musical genre in much of the country with the strongest following in the Texas/Oklahoma area. The region also has a rich tradition of fiddle contests dating back to the 1930s.

In addition to the contest, the event featured performances from The Time Jumpers, featuring Vince Gill and Ranger Doug, Jody Nix, Jason Roberts Band and Texas Playboy Leon Rausch, Bobby Flores as well as youth stage sets by SweetGrass, Twinkling Fiddles, The Sawyer Family and Kristyn Harris. Wills’ daughter Carolyn and Wills biographer Dr. Charles Townsend were also in town to lend their insights about the bandleader.

Ridge Roberts on The Time Jumpers' set at the Bob Wills Fiddle Festival - photo © 2014 Tom DunningThe Time Jumpers concert included a performance of Right or Wrong by 11 year old Ridge Roberts that brought the house down. This caused Time Jumper Vince Gill to grab a fiddle to play Maiden’s Prayer after the band returned to the stage. Gill joked with the audience that he would “hunt down” anyone who posted a video of his fiddling and explained that he “sucked” at fiddle.

The preliminary round was held in downtown Greenville’s Texas Theatre built in 1890 but restored as first-class music venue. The finals were held in the larger Greenville Municipal Auditorium. Categories included Junior/Junior (age 12 and younger), Junior (age 13 to 17), Adult (age 18 to 59), Senior (age 60 and older), Open, Accompanist and Bob Wills. The event was a fine showcase for young fiddlers who are developing their skills as fiddlers in the bluegrass and western swing traditions.

Finalists, except during the Bob Wills competition, played a breakdown, waltz and tune of choice (other than a breakdown or waltz) but the Bob Wills Category finalists played tunes associated with Wills and in a western swing style. First place awards ranged from $150 in the Junior/Junior division to $1,000 in the Open division.

The results of the competition were:


  1. Regina Scott
  2. Ridge Roberts
  3. Dani Jo Meeks
  4. Emilie Miller
  5. David Sawyer



  1. Harrison Schuman
  2. Katie Crawford
  3. Elliot Dean
  4. Karissa Nugent
  5. Eliza Cain



  1. Faith Nugent
  2. Michelle Kuhlman
  3. Kimberly Meeks
  4. Amanda Poulos
  5. Kevin Freeman



  1. Starr McMullen
  2. Tom Fonville
  3. Hollis Howell
  4. Gerry Lay
  5. Shirley Hunter



  1. Ray Franklin
  2. Darin Meeks
  3. Devon McCauley
  4. Royce Franklin
  5. Simon Stipp
  6. Bobby Christman



  1. Mia Orosco
  2. Katie Glassman
  3. Bubba Hopkins
  4. Jake Duncan
  5. Trustin Baker
  6. Aarun Carter
  7. Douglas Thompson
  8. Jason Andrew


Bob Wills:

  1. James Mason
  2. Katie Glassman
  3. Ridge Roberts
  4. Laura Cash
  5. Trustin Baker
  6. Aarun Carter


Ray Franklin warming up in the green room at the Bob Wills Fiddle Fest - photo © 2014 Tom DunningThe Accompanist Division included Ray and Royce Franklin who are members of the Texas Fiddle Hall of Fame and have been participating in fiddle contests for decades. Both in their 80s, they could be seen throughout the weekend backing up contestants as well as jamming backstage with fiddlers of all ages.

Champion fiddlers Sherry and Joey McKenzie of Twin Fiddle Productions organized and promoted the contest with support from the City of Greenville, The Bob Wills Estate, The Bob Wills Heritage Foundation and local area sponsors. McKenzie said they were pleased with attendance and the quality of the contestants and are making plans to hold another festival in 2015.

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About the Author

Tom Dunning

Tom Dunning is a music fan from Edmond, OK. A former newspaper photographer and University of Oklahoma journalism graduate, he enjoys photographing music events in Oklahoma when he is not trying to improve his own flatpicking skills.