"To promote an interest in the old time American fiddle styles and to create more opportunities for interested parties to learn about the lineage of fiddle music in America, to promote activities related to old time fiddling (jams and concerts, and contests), to foster a sense of community in this shared musical treasure, and to preserve a truly American art form."
Sign our guest book and let us know you were here.
District Representative: Mark Hogan
President: John Clendenen
Vice-President: Don Coffin
Secretary: Judith Jones
District Treasurer: Mike Drayton
Membership Secretary: Kathy Clendenen
Advisory Council: Janette Duncan ~ Tim Rued ~ Sue Condit
Web Site admin:
February 24th 10:30am ~ Cloverdale Historical Society
and March 24th 10:30am ~ Cloverdale Historical Society.
~ Membership Form ~
*The 43rd Cloverdale Old Time Fiddle festival*Check it out here for all the infomation!!!
*Friends of the Festival form...*
~ Sessions ~Ely Stage Stop
9921 Soda Bay Rd. Kelseyville, CA 95451, about 1/2 mile from Hwy 29 on the left.
Contact: Don Coffin at:email@example.com 707-995-0658
Andi Skeltonskeltonmusic@jps.net 707-279-4336
The Redwood Cafe
8240 Old Redwood Hwy, Cotati
Contact: Janette Duncan for more info.
Contact:Janette Duncan or Chris Carney for more info.
Murphy's Irish Pub
464 First Street, Sonoma
189 H Street, Petaluma
Sebastopol Grange (one half mile east of Morris Street on Highway 12, east of Sebastopol, next to Weeks Drilling)
6000 Sebastopol Ave, Sebastopol
~State and other district links:~
Cloverdale Fiddle Festival Results 2015
Cloverdale Fiddle Festival Results 2017
Cloverdale Fiddle Festival Results 2018
Charlie Pooleand The North Carolina Ramblers
Poole was born near the mill town of Franklinville in Randolph County, North Carolina. He was the son of John Philip Poole and Elizabeth Johnson. In 1918, he moved to the town of Spray, now part of Eden. He learned banjo as a youth. He played baseball, and his three-fingered technique was the result of an accident. He bet that he could catch a baseball without a glove. He closed his hand too soon, the ball broke his thumb, and resulted in a permanent arch in his right hand.
Poole bought his first banjo, an Orpheum No. 3 Special, with profits from making moonshine. Later, he appeared in the 1929 catalog of the Gibson Company, promoting their banjo.
He spent much of his adult life working in textile mills.
Poole and his brother-in-law, fiddler Posey Rorer, whom he had met in West Virginia in 1917 and whose sister he married, formed a trio with guitarist Norman Woodlief. The band was called the North Carolina Ramblers. They auditioned in New York for Columbia Records. After landing a contract, they recorded the successful "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down Blues" on July 27, 1925. This song sold over 106,000 copies at a time when there were estimated to be only 6,000 phonographs in the southern United States, according to Poole's biographer and great-nephew, Kinney Rorer. The band was paid $75 for the session.
For the next five years, Poole and the Ramblers were a popular band. The band's sound remained consistent, although several members came and left (including Posey Rorer and Norm Woodlief). The band recorded over 60 songs for Columbia Records during the 1920s, including "Sweet Sunny South", "White House Blues", "He Rambled", and "Take a Drink on Me". Former railroad engineer Roy Harvey was one of the guitarists. Fiddlers in various recording sessions were Posey Rorer, Lonnie Austin and Odell Smith.
Bill C. Malone, in his history of country music, Country Music, U.S.A., says, "The Rambler sound was predictable: a bluesy fiddle lead, backed up by long, flowing, melodic guitar runs and the finger-style banjo picking of Poole. Predictable as it may be, it was nonetheless outstanding. No string band in early country music equaled the Ramblers' controlled, clean, well-patterned sound."
Poole composed few, if any, of his recordings. Nevertheless, his dynamic renditions were popular with a broad audience in the Southeast United States. He is considered a primary source for old-time music revivalists and aficionados. Songs like "Bill Morgan and His Gal", "Milwaukee Blues", and "Leavin' Home", have been resurrected by banjo players. Poole developed a unique fingerpicking style, a blend of melody, arpeggio, and rhythm (distinct from clawhammer/frailing and Scruggs' variations).
Poole had been invited to Hollywood to play background music for a film, but died before getting there. He died after a heart attack due to alcohol poisoning in May 1931. According to some reports, he'd been disheartened by the slump in record sales due to the Depression.
Columbia issued a three-CD box set of his music, entitled You Ain't Talkin' to Me: Charlie Poole and the Roots of Country Music in 2005. The album, produced by Henry "Hank" Sapoznik, was nominated for three Grammy Awards. It chronicles the music made for Columbia by Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers between 1925 and 1931, including such important songs as "Don't Let Your Deal Go Down" (the first country mega-hit), "Can I Sleep in Your Barn Tonight, Mister?", "Old and Only in the Way" (the title of which was used by Jerry Garcia to name his 1970s bluegrass band with David Grisman, Old and in the Way), and "White House Blues", adapted by John Mellencamp, who in 2004 updated the politically charged lyrics and changed the title to "To Washington". In addition to 43 of Poole's original recordings, the package features performances by other early roots music players and singers, including Fred Van Eps, Arthur Collins, Billy Murray, Floyd Country Ramblers, Uncle Dave Macon and The Red Fox Chasers.
Born into a fiddling family in Sparks, OK, in 1920, and inspired by Bob Wills, Herman Johnson started playing professionally with his brothers in the Johnson Boys, and in the 1940s with a number of western swing bands, including Herman and the Melodiers, The Oklahoma Ragtimers and The Harmony Boys. After serving in the Army during the latter years of WWII, Johnson set aside his aspirations as a professional musician and concentrated on supporting his family. He confined it to sessions with friends, local jam sessions and, his house. In public he could be found competing in fiddle contests, where he proved a formidable contestant. Herman became attracted to fiddle contests while still quite young, participating in his first one at the age of twelve. Fiddle contests in the United States date back to 1736. To quote another legendary competitor, "when Herman showed up you knew you were playing for second place".
Herman continued to compete in fiddle contests from time to time and around 1960 started traveling often to contests in Oklahoma and Texas with guitarist and dear friend Ralph McGraw. In 1968, Herman and Ralph took their first trip to Weiser, Idaho to compete in the National Championship there. There were over 300 other fiddle players. Herman won the championship that year for the first time at the age of 48. He went on to win the championship another four times and today still holds the record as the only person to be undefeated in the event.
Herman Johnson has also won the Oklahoma State Championship, the Grand Master Fiddler Championship in Nashville, Tennessee, and the World Championship in Crocket, Texas. He is known as a gracious competitor, a sharp dresser, and a generous mentor. In an interview, when asked what he loved most about the fiddle, Herman replied, "I think a fiddle or a violin is the greatest instrument in the world, it can be used so many ways, you can use this with about any kind of music, four strings, and you get so much out of them." Herman Johnson, the legendary undefeated contest fiddler from Shawnee, Oklahoma, livedjust shy of 100 years.
It was my unique privilege to have a visit with the champion American fiddler Herman Johnson and Mrs. Johnson that summer in Oklahoma. It was a hot time. My wife's parents lived in Texas City, not close but not inordinately far from Shawnee, Oklahoma, the home of Herman Johnson, champion fiddler, 780 miles on Interstate 45 North through Houston, Dallas, and on up through Norman to Shawnee.
I was about midway into fiddling after decades playing guitar, and I cast about for a seminar, some one-time event to learn fiddle. There is a champion fiddler with a school in Montana. I called them. They said it would cost $500. I heard about Herman Johnson in Oklahoma. If it worked, I could see Mr. Johnson on a car trip from Texas City. I called him and said sure and he didn't charge just come on out and we’ll "get after it".
In the summer of 1994, I drove from Texas City north towards Shawnee. I bought a basket of peaches roadside for $4 to bring along. Mrs. Johnson used them for a peach pie. It was a hot and humid summer. I found their house out of town in a country setting. And soon enough I was in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Herman Johnson. They showed me my bedroom, and we had dinner, then we played fiddles. Mostly Mr. Johnson played because I'm with the most champion fiddler in the history of contests and I'm just starting. Mister Johnson played well and took a few moments to show me. Mostly I was reading music of his stuff that a student had copied.
I stayed 3 days that began with breakfast, then "getting after it", then lunch, then "getting after it", then maybe go out to their lapidary shop in the shed in the back, before dinner and "getting after it". One night a guitar accompanist came over and the two of them ran through a gamut of well-known fiddle contest tunes.
I'm a performer, a singer really. Play guitar with that like most do. I came to fiddling when I auditioned as a bass player for Doug Adamz country band Bravo. They didn't hire my bass playing, but Doug hired me to play guitar and sing at summer Wednesdays of hotel Bar B Qs.
I saw the impression he made with a fiddle and I bought my first one for $75; right out of the newspaper, a guy delivered it and all. As a beginner I entered every contest I could find, the first being the Marin County Fair contest. There were 5 ribbons and 5 contestants. I got fifth place and got my first ribbon. I was actually last but getting that ribbon was good and I've gone on to get some seconds, some thirds, some just for being there. And my one first place, the day nobody could beat me, at the Ojai Fiddle Contest, 1998. I competed twice in the Weiser National Old Time Fiddle Championships, coming in dead last the first time (early in my trajectory) and 28th the second time a few years later.
Mark O'Connor was conducting a class that year and out in the cool evening campgrounds I was present when Mark ran through songs long into the night with a crowd in awe. I've competed on 50 contests. I play a couple of things on the violin with my band but the demands of being a performer and writer caught up with my fiddle champion yearnings.
I saw Mister Johnson one more time. It was at Weiser. We were in the same hotel. Said hello but he was hurrying to judge that day. He was never beaten in any contest he entered. I think that's a record Herman Johnson will hold forever. When it came to smooth, clean fiddle playing with flawless technique, perfect intonation and rhythmic feel and, most importantly, some gorgeous renditions he composed of traditional breakdowns, waltzes, and rags, there was no one better than Herman Johnson in a fiddle contest.
He gave me copies of all his music a student had transcribed. I'm working on it. It was my unique privilege to have a visit with the champion American fiddler Herman Johnson and Mrs. Johnson that summer in Oklahoma. It was a hot time.
Jesse Kincaid 2019