HG Roberts, Sr., one of the original and most fervent backers of the Grand Master Fiddler Championship in Nashville died March 22 in Joelton, TN. He was 94 years of age.
In addition to his vigorous and ongoing support of the Grand Masters, Roberts was a fixture backstage at the Grand Ole Opry for years, typically found in Roy Acuff’s dressing room where he would video any fiddling or jams he could find. He managed to attend every Grand Masters contest since 1971, all 48 of them.
HG also became a notorious Nashville character through his Fiddlers BBQ restaurant, where all the fiddlers in town would congregate on Nolensville Road. Opened in 1972, it was a haven for the likes of Howdy Forrester, who became his best friend, and nearly every notable Music City artist and sideman who can share stories of the tasty meats and sides served at Fiddlers. Mac Wiseman was a regular, as was Alan Jackson.
Howard Harris, who currently manages the Grand Masters, started by his father, Dr. Percy Harris, shared a few remembrances of the Fiddlers BBQ.
“It grew out of HG’s love for cooking BBQ, and giving smoked shoulders to friends and clients of his insurance business. Folks pushed him to open a restaurant and so he and his wife, Dorothy, did. HG, Dorothy, daughter Cathy, and son HG, Jr. along with other staff, were open 6 days a week. There was a wall of fiddle albums and a featured ‘Fiddler of the Day’ was prominently displayed in the center case each day. Albums by great fiddler like Howdy Forrester, Kenny Baker, Chubby Wise, Paul Warren, John Gimble, Mark O’Connor, Benny Thomasson, Louis & Larry Franklin, Deanie Richardson, Randy Elmore, Daniel Carwile, J’Anna Jacoby, Rudy Meeks, and many more were always subject to having a 33 1/3 needle run through them.
Often you would see music personalities like Roy Acuff and the Smokey Mountain Boys, Porter Wagoner, and HG’s beloved Metro Nashville Police Officers enjoying a great meal and some fiddle music. Alan Jackson, Mac Wiseman, Senators, Governors, and other folks all loved Fiddlers BBQ. H and Dot catered many parties for the Grand Master Fiddler Championship, Hee Haw, the Opry, and a long list of Grand Ole Opry members enjoyed their Fiddlers BBQ and sides.
I ate many meals with my father, Dr. Perry F. Harris, at a small table in the kitchen, and could watch masters at work. When I was dating my wife, Susan, I took her to impress her. It was a real priveldge to eat in the kitchen of Fiddlers BBQ! I wonder if that’s why sweetie married me?”
In 2011, HG Roberts was given the Dr. Perry F. Harris Distinguished Fiddler Award by the Grand Master Fiddler Championship, putting him into the company of previous winners Roy Acuff, Howard “Big Howdy” Forrester, E.W. “Bud” Wendell, Charlie Daniels, Charlie Bush, Porter Wagoner, Dolly Parton, Mark O’Connor, Larry Franklin, Paul “Woody Paul” Chrisman, Fletcher Bright, Buddy Spicher, Buck White, Senator Robert C. Byrd, and Jim “Texas Shorty” Chancellor.
A graveside services was conducted yesterday (March 26) at Middle Tennessee Veterans Cemetery.
Another icon gone.
R.I.P., HG Roberts.