Full circle moment for Sister Sadie members at Smithville Fiddlers 2024

The Smithville Jamboree committee presents the 2024 Blue Blaze award
to Sister Sadie – photo courtesy of Dwayne Page/WJLE Radio

Two members of the Grammy-nominated bluegrass band Sister Sadie have their roots firmly entrenched in the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree. Fiddling sensation Deanie Richardson, and talented vocalist/ guitarist Jaelee Roberts, from the all-female troupe, grew up spending their Independence Day weekend at the jamboree.   

“I remember being here probably as young as 10 years old,” Richardson said prior to taking the stage Saturday night (July 6). “Frazier Moss used to hang out at the other side of the courthouse by that tree over there. I have fond memories jamming under that tree with him, and him teaching me songs. My brother is a dancer so they used to get in that little concrete area over there next to the courthouse, and I’d fiddle for them all day long in the heat. I’ve met so many lifelong friends that I still play music with, talk to, and like to hang out with here at this place.”

The fiddling ace also used to play shows at the jamboree alongside mandolinist Danny Roberts of The Grascals fame.

“I was a member of the band that Jaelee’s dad was in, New Tradition, and we used to enter band contests,” Richardson says. “We’d come in here and all of us would enter our individual categories. It was such a great time.”

The Sister Sadie founding member says winning the Beginner Musician Award is probably her most vivid memory.  

“I entered mandolin that year, and I entered fiddle that year. It was the first year of the Beginner National Championship title. We all wanted that title so that was a big deal. I won my first appearance on the Grand Ole Opry from winning that title. That was kind of the blast off!”

Later, when Richardson became a teacher, she started bringing her students to the Jamboree. Many of her students, like Ivy Phillips, took home the same coveted prized Richardson first earned, the Beginner Musician Award. This past weekend her student, fiddler Ella Derby of Franklin, TN, won the National Championship for Country Musician Beginners. Richardson, who played with Derby earlier in the day before playing that night with Sister Sadie, invited Derby to join Sister Sadie on stage to perform the last song of the set with the IBMA Entertainers of the Year. After the show, the band was presented with the Jamboree’s 2024 Blue Blaze award for helping to keep the embers of bluegrass music glowing for future generations.

Sister Sadie’s Jaelee Roberts is one of the newer members of the group. The multi-talented singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist is part of that future generation of bluegrass, but already has a solid history in performing as a child in her summers.  

“I started coming here when I was around eight or nine,” Roberts said. “I was in buck dancing competitions. I was on the square dance team. We had the best times. There was one year, I think I was 11 or 12, I placed in fiddle, guitar, mandolin and singing, the gospel duo singing. Our square dance team placed, and I placed in clogging.”

“The jamming here is so fun. We would jam off stage. Getting to be here is like a family reunion almost, especially now, getting to come back and see everybody I’ve been with forever is the best!”

Roberts fondly recalls the family atmosphere of the jamboree.

“It just feels like you’re competing, not against, but with your friends and family. You don’t care if you don’t win because if you see your friends win, you’re just as excited as if you’re winning. That’s one thing I love about it. I’ve always said music family is like actual family, because they’re always around. You have these deep friendships and connections forever.”

Roberts played the Jamboree stage in her dad’s band in 2016 when Danny Roberts received the Blue Blaze award. Jaelee was 15 at the time.

“I hadn’t really played fiddle in a band setting yet. I had been practicing for a whole hour set with dad. He had all these great, awesome musicians lined up for that day and that set for him receiving the award. I was so excited because I got to play in the actual band setting with dad and mom was playing. It was the best, and I remember how nervous I was. But it was so exciting!”

“Dad’s history runs so deep here too. He would get in the contests and back all the fiddle players up, especially Deanie. He always backed Deanie up. It’s a really insane full circle moment because now I’m here playing in a band with Deanie, and Deanie was also one of my instructors as well.”

“I haven’t been able to be in Smithville the past few years, and as soon as I walked in, I saw a bunch of people I haven’t seen in a long time,” Roberts says. “We picked up like we never left off. It’s just great. I love Smithville, and I love being here.”

Past Blue Blaze award recipients include Darin Vincent of Dailey & Vincent, Sierra Hull, Ronnie Reno, Michael Cleveland, The Kody Norris Show, and the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band.

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About the Author

Bill Conger

Bill Conger has been a music journalist for 23 years for a variety of TV, radio, print, and websites including TNN, CMT, CMT.com, GACTV.com, Country Music Today, Bluegrass Unlimited, and www.songwriteruniverse.com.