Michael Cleveland to the Fiddler Hall of Fame

On March 30, Michael Cleveland was inducted into the 2018 class of the National Fiddler Hall Of Fame in Tulsa, OK. Fellow inductees for this year included Bobby Hicks, Benny Martin, Jeff Cook, and Violet Hensley.

Since 2007, the Hall Of Fame has recognized a number of highly influential fiddlers each year, taken from the fields of country, bluegrass, jazz, old time, cajun, and swing music. They list their mission as “To honor individuals for their contributions to fiddling, to preserve, educate and promote the art of fiddling and its historical and social significance.”

We caught up with Michael this morning to discuss his induction, and he was still beaming from the experience.

“Man… it was a blast. It was a real honor for me. I went in with Bobby Hicks and Benny Martin, who are two of my favorite fiddlers. Also Jeff Cook from Alabama. They had my band and Ricky Skaggs perform at the show.

There were quite a few people there, and I spoke briefly when I was inducted. Byron Berline was there, and Tim Crouch was in the audience. No pressure!”

Cleveland tells us that the Hall Of Fame contacted his agent, Jim Roe, to announce the induction, and to book Flamekeeper to perform. Michael said he had never been to the Hall Of Fame before, but was aware of their existence from a video he saw on YouTube when the fiddlers from the Time Jumpers were brought in last year.

To conclude the show, which was held at the Mabee Center on the campus of Oral Roberts University, all of this year’s inductees who were in attendance came up on stage, along with many special guests and former inductees, for a closeout jam.

And before the show, Michael got to jam some backstage with the guys from Kentucky Thunder, which banjo man Russ Carson captured on his trusty headband-cam. Here’s their version of Bluegrass Breakdown with Cleveland on mandolin, taken at ludicrous speed.

When we mentioned to Michael that Monroe never played it that fast, he gave up a hearty laugh and said,

“I shared Russ’ video on Facebook and posted, ‘I got to jam with Kentucky Thunder. Eat your heart out, Ricky Skaggs!’

Those guys are awesome; great players and great guys as well. I really like their fiddler, Michael Barnett. I’ve been enjoying his album, Portraits In Fiddles.”

To see more of Carson’s videos, visit his YouTube channel.

A complete list of inductees to the National Fiddler Hall Of Fame is available online.

Congratulations to Michael Cleveland, and all the worthy recipients of this honor!

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.