March 2018: The National Fiddler Hall of Fame is celebrating their 10th year of inducting some of the greatest fiddle players in the world. This year’s class of inductees is a group that will shine like bright lights at the 2018 Induction Gala and Concert on March 30 at the Mabee Center in Tulsa. Over the past decade, dozens of outstanding musicians have been honored by the organization for their vast contributions to the art of fiddle and the world of music in general. These outstanding artists are truly awe-inspiring people who have overcome some of the toughest odds to do what they love most, and that is making music. The 2018 National Fiddler Hall of Fame celebrates this year’s class of inductees: Ricky Skaggs, Michael Cleveland, Violet Hensley, Bobby Hicks, Jeff Cook and Benny Martin.
The National Fiddler Hall of Fame (NFHoF) was founded in 2007 and is headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The very first inductee was none other than the “greatest fiddle player of them all”, Mr. Bob Wills. What a great inaugural induction for the National Fiddler Hall of Fame. Where do you go from there, after honoring the iconic Bob Wills? You don’t have to search far to find extraordinary fiddle players, some of whom call Oklahoma home. Take a look at some of the NFHoF’s past inductees, you just might have heard of a few: Roy Acuff, Charlie Daniels, Jana Jae, Buddy Spicher, Jay Ungar, Johnny Lee Wills, Byron Berline, Kenny Baker, Stephane Grappelli, Doug Kershaw, Curly Lewis, Stuff Smith, Mark O’Connor and many more. The 2017 inductees were the three fiddle players from the Time Jumpers, Joe Spivey, Larry Franklin and Kenny Sears. A fabulous event took place at the Mabee Center in Tulsa last February and included a concert by Vince Gil and the Time Jumpers. It was an intimate evening filled with melodic tunes as well as some foot stomping, hand-clapping, stand-to-your-feet western swing. Bob Fjeldsted is the president of the National Fiddler Hall of Fame and has been with the organization from its inception.
This year’s induction concert and gala promises to be a night filled with great fiddle music for all ages. While Bluegrass fiddle will dominate the evening, there is something for every musical palate. This year’s special recognition award will go to 15-time-Grammy award winner Ricky Skaggs, who, along with his band Kentucky Thunder, will give a full concert. Skaggs, who comes from a musical family, began singing and playing mandolin at age four and at age six, he shared the stage with the “Father of Bluegrass” Bill Monroe. His life’s path has led him to various musical genres, from bluegrass to striking out new musical journeys, while still leaving his musical roots intact. Ricky has been performing and recording his chart-topping hits for over 50 years and continues to do his part to lead the recent roots revival in music.
Tickets for the 2018 National Fiddler Hall of Fame are available by calling the Mabee Center at (918) 495-6000 or online at www.mabeecenter.com. VIP and reserved seating tickets are available. VIP seating includes table seating, light hors d’oeuvres, a pre-show by the bluegrass band The Baker Family, and a meet and greet with the artists and inductees.
Michael Cleveland, who was born completely blind and as a child lost 80% of his hearing in his left ear, picked up a fiddle at age four. At age nine, he was invited to jam with the legendary Bill Monroe at the Bean Blossom Bluegrass Festival. Soon after, Cleveland brought his virtuosic style to the Grand Ole Opry as a guest of Alison Krauss. In 2006 Cleveland formed his own band Michael Cleveland & Flamekeeper. This year, Cleveland received a Grammy nomination in the Best Bluegrass Album category for his solo release, Fiddler’s Dream.
Yet another inspirational force in this year’s lineup of inductees is a multi-Grammy award winner and one-third founding member of the band Alabama. Known for his “hot licks” on the fiddle, Cook announced last April that he would be limiting his touring schedule due to complications associated with Parkinson’s disease. Jeff’s faith and positive outlook keep him hopeful of improved health and is optimistic to once again join cousins Randy Owen and Teddy Gentry on tour. Recently, Jeff sent word that he is planning, health permitting, to attend the 2018 NFHoF gala and concert.
Bobby Hicks, who learned to play the fiddle at the ripe young age of nine, won the North Carolina State Championship at eleven and was playing fiddle with Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys by 1954. Monroe dubbed Hicks as “the truest fiddler he had ever heard”. In 1981 Hicks joined Ricky Skaggs band, a stint that lasted for 23 years. Hicks is a 10-time Grammy winner and has been with the Grand Ole Opry for over 60 years.
While most people won’t live to see their hundredth birthday, this whittling fireball is still dazzling audiences with her show stopping fiddle playing. Hensley celebrated her 101st birthday last year and remarks that she takes life one day at a time. Known for her signature move playing her handcrafted fiddle atop her head while clogging to her dynamic delivery of one-line zingers, Violet has carved her niche in fiddle history. Entertaining audiences for over five decades, Hensley is going strong and still performs at Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri.
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