Granite Quarry Fiddler’s Convention honors Jim Fraley

Jim Fraley is honored by Vivian Hopkins at the Granite Quarry Fiddlers’ Convention – photo by Gary Hatley

Jim Fraley, North Carolina banjoist and 20-year band member of Deeper Shade of Blue, was honored at 56th Annual Granite Quarry Fiddlers’ Convention this past Saturday night (October 8). Held at East Rowan High School near Salisbury, NC, Fraley was awarded a plaque and heralded by Randy Mauldin, Grass Strings banjo-picker, for his lifelong commitment to bluegrass music. The 66-year-old five-string picker has made significant strides within the music industry.

Fraley shared, “I had the privilege to play with Chubby Wise, Mac Wiseman, and Bobby Hicks. In 1977, I was fortunate enough to win the North Carolina state championship. Also about 1991, I was fortunate enough to receive the first annual Snuffy Jenkins Memorial Award.”

For the past two decades, Fraley was banjoist with the quintet, Deeper Shade of Blue. In 2020, Fraley stepped down from that position due to health reasons.

Sammy Shelor, banjoist with the Lonesome River Band and recipient of the Steve Martin Banjo Prize, sent praises. “Jim Fraley is one of a long line of the great banjo players to come out of western North Carolina. As tasteful and melody driven as you will ever hear, he always knows what to play and when! He has been a dear friend and hero of mine for many years.”

The talent contest is an annual -fund raiser for the Granite Quarry Civitan Club. The 2022 convention was held in memory of Bill Fisher, a very active member of the club, who passed away earlier this year. 

Vivian Hopkins, former president of the North Carolina Bluegrass Association, assists the service club as convention coordinator for the acoustic competition. 

“This convention is a direct spin-off of the Union Grove Fiddlers’ Convention,” she told the large audience in the school’s auditorium. 

The idea for a fiddlers’ convention came from the late James Mathis. Relocating from Union Grove where its fiddlers’ convention was a highly successful fundraiser, Mathis became principal at Granite Quarry Elementary School, joined their civitan club, and along with the late Don Livengood, founded the Granite Quarry Fiddlers’ Convention.

Big T Lassiter served as master of ceremonies. A musician himself, he provided insightful comments and reflections on the musicians and their music throughout the five-hour event. The evening featured competitions in both youth (21 entries) and adult categories (25 entries), entertainment by the area band, the Grass Strings, and the special award ceremony recognizing Fraley which included a performance by Deeper Shade of Blue. Fraley joined his former band mates on stage for a couple of tunes.

Below is a complete listing of all winners from the 2022 Granite Quarry Fiddlers’ Convention.

Adult Category

  • Bluegrass Band: first-Morgan Brown & Railroad Street Revival, second-Cabarrus Station, third-Jake Ritter Road
  • Bluegrass Gospel Band: first-Last Hour Bluegrass, second-Crossroads Bluegrass, third-Strings of Victory
  • Fiddle: first-John Hofmann, second-Malachi Freeman, third-Alec McCallister
  • Banjo: first-Alex Edwards, second-Peden Williams, third-John Lee
  • Guitar: first-Steve Kilby, second-Jake Goforth, third-Caleb Munson
  • Mandolin: first-Angel Paez, second-James Thompson, third-Tom Isenhour
  • Bass: first-John Fogleman, second-Ricky Blackwelder’ third-Bailey Wagner
  • Dobro: first-James Paquette, second-Pammy Lassiter, third-Sandy Hatley
  • Vocal: first-Angel Paez, second-Morgan Brown, third-Peyton Brown

Youth Category

  • Bluegrass band: first-Brothers of Bluegrass, second-Dogwood Ridge
  • Fiddle: first-Tyndale Smoker, second-Teddy Smoker, third-Addie Webster
  • Banjo: first-Elijah Freeman, second-Riley Surratt
  • Guitar: first-Ethan Wagoner, second-Lois Chaney, third-Nathaniel Smoker
  • Mandolin: first-Luke McCallister, second-Jonah Chaney, third-Nicholas Allman
  • Bass: first-Garrett Walmsley, second-Matthew Chaney
  • Dobro: first-Caleb Parker
  • Vocal: first-Chelsea Edenfield, second-Brayden Howell, third-Gabrielle Rogers

Don and Margaret Livengood Memorial Youth Award: Garrett Walmsley

2022 Granite Quarry Civitan Fiddlers’ Convention Honoree: Jim Fraley

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.