Grand Master Fiddler Championship crowns 2018 master

I have been honored for many years to serve as the celebrity host of the Grand Master Fiddle Championship, now held at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville.
I have watched had the honor of watching a new generation of fiddlers come of age as I have watched from the wings or the podium. One such young fiddle from Birch Tree, Mo. has competed for several years, each year becoming a little better. Three times he came in second to other fiddlers but this year he advanced taking the top position becoming the Grand Master Fiddler. His name is Trustin Baker. Trustin took home $1,200 in cash, a $500 gift certificate courtesy of D’Addario, a Grand Master Fiddler plaque, and will appear on the Grand Ole Opry in 2019. He also won the Charlie Bush Traditional Fiddler Performance Award presented in honor of late director Charlie Bush.

Grand Master Fiddler Champion Trustin Baker (second from left) of Birch Tree, Mo. of receives his award, from left, GMFC Director Ed Carnes, GMFC Host Keith Bilbrey, GMFC Host Randall Franks, and GMFC Director Howard Harris. (GMFC Photo: Michelle Mize)

“I can’t hardly believe it,” Baker told me after receiving the title. “It’s been a contest I have wanted to win ever since I started playing the fiddle.”
Among his winning tunes in this competition were “Grey Eagle,” “Gardenia Waltz” and “Black and White Rag.”
“I think maybe I am becoming more consistent with my playing,” he said. “I am looking forward to playing the Grand Ole Opry.”
The two-day 47th annual Grand Master Fiddler Championship is the nation’s premier championship event held on Sept. 1 and 2, 2018.
I am honored to walk in the footsteps of former celebrity hosts Porter Wagoner and Roy Acuff continuing the tradition of the Grand Ole Opry’s fiddle event now coordinated by the founder’s son Howard Harris and fiddler Ed Carnes and a non-profit board.
“It seems with every passing year we surpass the previous one with the level of talented fiddlers who participate and the amazing enthusiasts who fill the seats,” said Howard Harris, GMFC President. “Fiddlers came from coast to coast to add to the legacy of fiddling at our event. The amazing skills shown brought hours of applause and cheers from the audience and yielded some tough decisions for our judges.”
The Grand Master Fiddler Championship, Inc. is a Tennessee non-profit and a U.S. IRS 501(c)(3) charitable corporation, formed to educate about and perpetuate fiddling as an art form and cultural treasure.
Fiddlers competed for over $15,000 in prizes.
In honor of its founder, the organization presented the Dr. Perry F. Harris Award to Dr. Robert “Roby” Cogswell, retired Tennessee Arts Commission Folklife Program Director and guitarist.
WSM All Nighter’s Marcia Campbell and Keith Bilbrey of “Larry’s Country Diner” and “Huckabee” joined me in co-hosting the event.
The other top winners included in descending order: Ridge Roberts of Granbury, Texas; Andrew Lin of Lexington, Ky.; Billy Contreras of Nashville. Tenn.; Ivy Phillips of Chapmansboro, Tenn.; Matthew Lin of Lexington, Ky.; Wes Westmoreland of Temple, Texas; Joel Whittinghill of Bowling Green, Ky.; Mari Black of Cambridge, Mass.; Karissa Nugent of Fort Worth, Texas; Mark Ralph of Whitesville, Ky.; Kerry Varble of Salem, Ohio; Benjamin Lin of Lexington, Ky.; Bill Jones of Covington, Ga.; Jason Andrew of Whitewright, Texas; Noemi Turner of Otis Orchards, Wash.; Cody Stadelmaier of Fort Collins, Colo.; Blakeley Burger of Louisville, Ky.; and Josiah Colle of Batesville, Ark.
The Grand Master Traditional Champion is Tyler Andal of Nashville, Tenn. who won $300, a $500 gift certificate

Tyler Andal won the Grand Master Traditional Fiddler Championship at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum on Sept. 1. From left, GMFC Celebrity Host Randall Franks, GMFC Director Ed Carnes, Andal, and GMFC Director Howard Harris. (GMFC photo)

courtesy of D’Addario, a Grand Master Fiddler plaque.
Andal, who has been playing 18 years, said it is one of his favorite competitions and divisions. He said the most impactful tune that he presented was “Lost Child.”
“It’s really exciting to me to get to play with people that know what is going on,” he said.
“It’s a lot of fun to do it with friends like Mr. Rob Pearcy that back you up in the competition and make some groovy dance music.”
Other winners in descending order are Giri Peters of Nashville, Tenn.; Tessa Dillon of St. Albans, W.V.; Clelia Stefanini of Nashville, Tenn.; Henry Barnes of Washington Court House, Ohio; Andrew Magill of Asheville, N.C.; and Hillary Klug of Shelbyville, Tenn.
The Grand Master Youth Champion is Leah Bowen of Sparks, Nev.
She won $300, a $500 gift certificate courtesy of D’Addario, and a Grand Master Fiddler plaque. She has been playing for four years. Her winning tunes included the Tennessee Wagoner and Rose of Avenmore Waltz and Black and White Rag.
“It’s not really about the winning,” she said. “Winning is great, but it’s about being with the people and the guitarists.:

GMFC Directors Ed Carnes (left) and Howard Harris (right) presents Grand Master Youth Champion Leah Bowen of Sparks, Nev. (Photo: Randall Franks)

Other winners in descending order are Miles Quale of Alameda, Calif.; Emilie Miller of Otis Orchards, Wash.; David Lin of Lexington, Ky. Teo Quale of Alameda, Calif., Jane Eby of Whitehouse, Ohio; Kate Ward of Kuttawa, Ky., Devon Waite of Goodlettsville, Tenn.; Christiana Nugent of Fort Worth, Texas; and Nathan Pedneault of Fort Worth, Texas.
Winning guitar accompanists are Drew Miller of Otis Orchards, Wash., Rob Pearcy of Smyrna, Tenn.; Jonathan Trawick of Portland, Ore.; Elijah Baker of Birch Tree, Mo.; Jim Reina of Conroe, Texas; and Todd Varble of Salem, Ohio. Miller who took first, won $200 and a certificate.
As a fiddler since the age of eight, whose instrument has taken me places I could never imagine the music it played would open doors from coast to coast, from backstages to board rooms allowing me to become known around the world. It is exciting for me to see their youthful dreams coming to fruition and watch the dream grow even bigger for their futures. I am honored to be watching  these talents from the wings!
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New music from Dailey & Vincent and Kiefer Sutherland takes to the road

Actor/entertainer Kiefer Sutherland, star of TV’s “Designated Survivor” is getting back on the road this year to play in more than 20 cities.

Momentum continues for Kiefer Sutherland’s music career and debut album, DOWN IN A HOLE, which includes 11 co-written tracks by Sutherland and producer Jude Cole.

Recently, Sutherland performed “Can’t Stay Away” on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” and “Calling Out Your Name” on “The View.”

Sutherland, known for his starring role in and Fox series “24,” also starred in movies like “Stand By Me,” “The Lost Boys,” “Young Guns,” “Flatliners,” “A Few Good Men,” “A Time to Kill,” “Dark City” “Melancholia” and most recently, a western called “Forsaken.”

Keep up with Sutherland on the road by visiting

Upcoming Grand Ole Opry stars Dailey & Vincent will release their eighth album, Patriots & Poets on March 31. The project features collaborations with bluegrass music’s top musicians including Steve Martin, Doyle Lawson, Bela Fleck, and David Rawlings.

The project features 16 all-new tracks that were all written or co-written by Jamie Dailey and Darrin Vincent, with a collection of energizing upbeat songs, along with slow sing-along anthems. Standout tracks on the project include the feel-good track “California” which features a very special verse by comedic and bluegrass enthusiast Steve Martin. Other highlights on the project include thought-provoking songs like, “Beautiful Scars” and “American We Love You,” all highlighting harmonies by 6-time “Male Vocalist of the Year” winner Jamie Dailey and 5-time Grammy® winner Darrin Vincent. Another feel-good moment on Patriots & Poets includes the track “Bill and Ole Elijah.”

Also, their hit RFD-TV program, “The Dailey & Vincent Show” is back with season one and season two of the popular variety series, now airing on Friday nights at 7:30pm ET, throughout all of 2017.
The IBMA award-winners were recently honored by the International Bluegrass Hall of Fame and Museum with the brand new exhibit, “A Decade of Dailey & Vincent: An American Music Journey,” which features artifacts and memorabilia from their decorated career as a duo and beyond. Fans can also catch the hit makers appearing at venues and festivals nationwide, including their annual music festival Dailey & Vincent LandFest in the Mountains, presented by Springer Mountain Farms.

For more information, visit

Bill Anderson and Charlie Monk reflect on life in the country

Songwriting icon and legendary performer “Whisperin’ Bill” Anderson released his new autobiography Whisperin’ Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life In Country Music recently.

AndersonCompA2.indd In addition, listeners can sit back and enjoy a NEW audio book narrated by Bill Anderson. The audio book bundle also includes a Bonus CD featuring 10 never-before released self-penned acoustic recordings by Anderson, including smash hits like “Whiskey Lullaby” (Brad Paisley/Alison Krauss), “Give It Away” (George Strait), “City Lights” (Ray Price) and seven more.

Whisperin’ Bill Anderson: An Unprecedented Life In Country Music is a representation of Anderson’s journey, and published by University of Georgia Press. Read by Bill Anderson himself it features eye-opening personal stories from his nearly eighty years of living – from early days of radio broadcasting in Georgia, to standing alongside the greatest country music stars in the world onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, to meeting Elvis Presley, to being named BMI’s first ICON Award winner in the country music genre.

The book is a 360-page reflection of Anderson’s journey includes Peter Cooper as a contributing writer. It includes rare, never-before-seen photos and eye-opening personal stories from Anderson’s nearly eighty years of living – from early days of radio broadcasting in Georgia, to standing alongside the greatest country music stars in the world onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, to being named BMI’s first ICON Award winner in the country music genre.

With the 2015 success of Mo Pitney’s “Country,” Anderson has become the only country songwriter to tally a Top 40 hit in seven consecutive decades, and he stands today a legendary performer, who recently celebrated his 55th Anniversary as a member of the Grand Ole Opry.
The book is available for $29.95 at Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million, various independent book stores, and online at and

If you work in the Nashville music business and don’t know the name Charlie Monk, you probably haven’t been around very long.  After all, he is the “Mayor of Music Row.”  This year, Monk is celebrating six decades of blood, sweat and tears in show business.

“When I started out in 1956, I wanted to be a radio or TV star or maybe an actor,” recalls Monk.  “I found out when I moved to Music City that I was a lot better at nurturing other talented people which got me into the management, publishing and production side of music.  I’m proud that I have made a good living for my family, had a lot of fun hanging with super talented folks and doing a lot of different things in the entertainment world.”

Monk recently attended his 60th high school class reunion in his hometown of Geneva, Alabama.  During his visit, the town presented him with his very own roadway, “Charlie Monk Lane.”

“Everybody in Geneva, Alabama, population 4,500, knew that I was the poorest kid in town but they knew that I was a hard worker and many of them gave me jobs and encouragement,” he says.  “It took a village to raise me. I am unbelievably honored with this recognition and thank the mayor and city council for having the ceremony during a reunion of my 1957 high school graduating class. ‘CHARLIE MONK LANE’… that’s pretty cool.”

Charlie Monk may know everyone working in Nashville’s music community. Outside of that community, Monk may very well be Nashville’s most influential unknown. Whether entertaining America on his daily SiriusXM radio show, managing Monk Family Music or hosting a major music event, he is honest and frank in everything he does. It’s his unique personality, combined with 60 years experience in show business, that has made Monk one of the most respected executives on Music Row.

Through the years, Monk has developed strong instincts. In 1983, for example, Monk signed a young singer/songwriter named Randy charlie-monkTraywick — now known as Randy Travis. He signed Kenny Chesney to his first songwriting deal and negotiated his first record contract with Capricorn Records. Songwriters Monk has signed “off the street” include Marcus Hummon, Holly Dunn, Jim McBride, Keith Stegall, Aaron Tippin and Philip Douglas.

Monk Family Music Group published songs have been recorded by Travis, Tippin, Led Zeppelin,  Lonestar, Reba, LeAnn Rimes, Tracy Lawrence, The Mavericks, Cheap Trick, Kenny Rogers, Sandi Patti, Glen Campbell, Otis Redding, Louise Mandrell, Trick Pony, Carolina Rain, Ike & Tina Turner, Jeff Treece, and John Michael Montgomery.

Monk’s entertainment career began in 1956, sweeping floors at WGEA in Geneva, Alabama. He landed a weekend air shift at the station and remained throughout his high school years.
A founder of the Country Radio Seminar, Monk produced and hosted the annual New Faces Show for over 40 years. He is an alumnus of Leadership Music, lifetime Director of the Country Radio Broadcasters, a member of the Country Music Association, the Academy of Country Music and the Gospel Music Association. He has served as VP of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, VP of the Nashville Songwriters Association International, VP of the Gospel Music Association, Board of Leadership Music, and local President of the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (now known as AFTRA-SAG).  Monk was inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame in 2014.
This year, Monk is nominated for induction into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame as well as the Country Radio Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

An American Legend and the Opry – Violet Hensley


Violet Hensley on stage at the Grand Ole Opry on Aug. 6. (Photo by Marcia Campbell/

There are moments which bring people together. Common experiences such as championship wins of athletes or sporting teams, pivotal events which shape our nation or world, or iconic performances or awards highlighting those who inspire us through performance.
I was honored to be among just such a group on Aug. 6, 2016. I traveled to Nashville to see a legendary folk fiddle performer and maker Violet Hensley. I spent a couple years of my life helping Violet bring together her life story for the book “Whittlin’ and Fiddlin’ My Own Way: The Violet Hensley Story.”
God Lord willing, Violet will mark her centennial as she celebrates her 50th year as Silver Dollar City’s longest serving spokesperson and folk artisan at a special event on Oct. 21 in Branson, Mo.
She has entertained countless millions both live and on television through appearances on American standards such as “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Captain Kangaroo,” “To Tell the Truth,” “Regis and Kathie Lee” and countless other shows through decades of performing.
One performance dream which she had yet to realize was an appearance on the Grand Ole Opry. The show came on the air when she was 9 years old and was initially heard on a battery-powered radio in the rural Arkansas farm area of Alamo where she grew up. Now known as the Whittlin’ Fiddler from Yellville, it was another Arkansas fiddler named Tim Crouch who read of her dream in her autobiography and called Grand Ole Opry star Mike Snider. Snider then arranged for her to guest on his portion of the Grand Ole Opry.
The hit making country group Shenandoah had just left the stage as a place was prepared for her and though now her sight is limited by macular degeneration, her daughter walked her to the stool that stage hands had placed center stage near where all the country legends have performed.
As the Opry announcer passed the show back to Snider, the excitement was already building. He began an introduction, and barely got out his first few words out: “I’ve had the privilege to introduce a lot of great people on the Grand Ole Opry but it’s rare I get to introduce a National Treasure and I have one sitting hear beside me. This little lady was born in 1916…”
When the audience responded with a standing ovation that filled the Grand Ole Opry House. A wave of sound flooded the stage as the centenarian’s face beamed, as did that of her daughter Sandra and grandson Sterling who joined her musically on stage with Snider’s band. That moment broadcast across the world on and on the same airways that she listened to as a girl with her fiddle playing father brought people lining the stage to tears.
She is one of America’s first nationally known female fiddlers and fiddle makers. She inspired generations of girls and boys on every imaginable children’s show from coast to coast to know they could play American music and even learn to build a fiddle if they desired. Someone who became the image of one of America’s most iconic theme parks and thus a part of the fabric of America itself.
Much like Dolly Parton is to Dollywood and Mickey Mouse is for Disney – Violet Hensley’s smile, laughter, wit and uplifting spirit, helped shape the family memories and experiences that fueled rhe Midwestern American culture. On this night America was giving something back to her – love for a century of entertaining, teaching, and encouraging, while all the struggles and hardships that went along with it.
Among the audience in the Opry house and listening were many of her descendants, but in a way, all of us whom she had touched through radio, TV and in person were her musical descendants. Had this occurred just a few years earlier, she probably would have placed the fiddle on top of her head and while she fiddled and sang “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain,: she would have danced a little jig, but tonight she selected the fiddle tune “Angeline the Baker” and seriously applied her expertise to make her Ozark forebearers proud.
She accomplished that goal and more. I think all that were touched by the moment will always remember it. Though now the focus of our attention is split between hundreds of media sources, unlike in the days when there were just a handful of clear channel radio stations like WSM or two or three local TV stations. In those days, you knew what everyone would be talking about the next morning.
This was one of those moments to talk about. If you missed it, maybe you can at least learn more about this amazing American Legend by visiting or liking “Whittlin’ and Fiddlin’ My Own Way” on Facebook. There is much to learn about life from someone who lived 100 years, raising a large family while living as a farmer, migrant farm worker, and keeping the tradition of Ozark music thriving.

Grand Ole Opry’s Jim Ed Brown – In Style Again

It is not often that I become enthused by the release of a new music CD, but ever since I heard that my long-time friend Grand Ole Opry star Jim Ed Brown will have a new project, I have looked forward to it.
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