(Leitchfield, KY) - Any competition relies heavily on good organization and a reputation of fun and fairness. This was very important when the new Twin Lakes National Fiddler Championship was developed. With this in mind, the judges from last year’s inaugural event will return to judge the competition this year as well.
Contest Director Ed Carnes grew up in Leitchfield and has been involved in contests for many years as a fiddler and is a Nationally Qualified Fiddle judge. “If you get fair, respected, and qualified judges, fiddlers will come” said Carnes. It is a bit unusual, but not unknown, to get the same judges as a previous year according to Carnes, but he felt that their stature in the fiddling community plus their experience and suggestions on making the event even better than last year was a deciding factor.
“We had 45 fiddlers last year and that tells me that we did a great job in selecting judges. I know each of the judges personally, I know they are competent and fair, and each have judged at the Grand Master Fiddler Championship in Nashville and the U.S. National Championship in Idaho.” says Carnes. “We are very lucky to get them all back to help us again this year and we expect even more fiddlers this year”.
Let’s meet the judges:
Mark Ralph grew up in the Short Creek community of Grayson County, Kentucky. He joined the Grayson County Youth Orchestra when he was eleven years old and started an ongoing contest fiddling career soon afterward.
Notable wins include: Kentucky State Fiddling Champion (4 times); Tennessee State Fiddling Champion (3 times); Indiana State Fiddling Champion (3 times); Alabama State Fiddling Champion; Walnut Valley Fiddle Contest in Winfield, Kansas; and the TVOTFA Fiddle King in Athens, Alabama. He also has several top ten finishes in the Grand Master Fiddle Championship in Nashville, Tennessee and in the Grand National Championship in Weiser, Idaho.
Mark played professionally as a member of The Bar-J Wranglers, a western group based in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, during the mid-1980s. He has served as a judge at numerous contests, including: the Grand National Championship in Weiser, Idaho; the World Championship in Crockett, Texas; the Grand Lake Contest in Grove, Oklahoma and the Kentucky and Tennessee State Championships. In addition, he helped revive the Alabama State Fiddling Championship and serves as its chief coordinator.
Mark is a practicing general dentist residing in Huntsville, Alabama with his two children, Jake and Wade. Samples of his playing are available on several National Oldtime Fiddlers Championship CDs as well as on his own ‘Gone to Texas’ CD.
Junior Marriott began playing rhythm guitar at the age of seven for his dad, who played the fiddle. By age nine he was playing bass and at fourteen he began playing the fiddle. At the age of sixteen he won the Missouri State Fiddle Championship, a title he has won several times, including the 2010 championship.
Junior has won various contests and other state championships as well. Some of these include Kansas State Fiddle Championship, Arkansas State Fiddle Championship, fifth place at the 2000 National Fiddle Championship in Weiser, Idaho, and Grand Lake Fiddle Festival Champion in 2006, 2007, and 2010.
A few major fiddle contests Junior has judged include Missouri State Championship, Arkansas State Championship, Grand Lake Championship in Grove, Oklahoma, the Texas State Championship in Hallettsville, Texas and the Grand Master Fiddler Championship. He enjoys traveling to contests all over the United States.
Junior lives in Ava, Missouri and recently opened Marriott Music, a full-line music store, specializing in vintage Gibson guitars. He teaches fiddle, guitar, and bass lessons. Junior also buys, sells, trades, and repairs instruments.
Bobby Taylor is a fourth generation West Virginia fiddler who has played the fiddle for over 40 years, starting at the age of 13. Bobby has also studied countless American fiddle styles and conducts workshops showcasing his special blend of various styles. He retired from playing contests in 1977 to start coordinating contests for the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Among his wins is the 1977 West Virginia State Open Fiddle Championship in Elkins, WV.
Bobby has been the coordinator of West Virginia’s Vandalia Gathering musicians’ contests at the State Capitol in Charleston, WV, since 1979. He was the coordinator of the Appalachian Open Championships from 1984-1987, a contest that drew many great fiddlers, including some of the Grand Master fiddlers. He is currently the coordinator of the Appalachian String Band Music Festival in Clifftop, WV, an old-time music festival started in 1990. He continues to judge fiddle contests extensively throughout the country. He is also a consultant for contest promoters in the Eastern United States and beyond regarding rules and guidelines for musical competitions. He was a judge at the 2008 National Old-time Fiddlers’ Contest and Festival at Weiser, Idaho. Bobby is a former judge here at the Grand Master Fiddler Championship.
Personal musical performances have included many major festivals for more than 40 years throughout West Virginia and the Eastern United States. Bobby played in Germany in 1979 as a part of the Friendship Force, at the Florida House and the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC., and at the Chicago Folk Festival. In November 2005, he played at the Bluegrass and Old-time Music Festival in Harrietville, Australia and was an invited performer at the National Folk Festival in Canberra, Australia.
The Fiddle contest will be held Saturday, July 20, 2013 on the Courthouse Square in Leitchfield, beginning at 10 a.m.