Author: Rhynes, J.D.

State Fiddle Championship Contest at Madera CA, 1973
Last night I remembered that I had to write today's welcome message, seein' as to how it was gettin' to be the fourth Thursday of the month. What to write about? There's a number of things that have happened to me in my long Bluegrass journey over the years. Most of 'em I can write about, and then there's some that I'll NEVER share with anyone. Thankfully, there's not very many of those. I usually just let my mind rely on my "store house" of memories to come up with something that I think will be of interest to all of you, that read these daily messages. I was setting in my chair, with the Dish Bluegrass channel , turned down real low, reading a very absorbing book on mind control,when they started playing Sally Goodin' by Bill Monroe, and the Bluegrass Boy's. I layed my book down and turned the volume up and set there and enjoyed the fiddling of Byron Berline, on what I consider to be one or two of the greatest versions of that tune. It triggered memories of the first time that I met Byron, and got to pick with him onstage too. The year was 1973, and we were at the Old Time Fiddlers State Championship's, in Madera, California. We being Vern and Del Williams, Keith little and myself. We had left Valley Springs well before daylight and headed down Hiway 99 to the town of Madera, arriving there just in time to have breakfast . As we were getting out of my car at a nice Cafe, who should walk out the door but Alan Munde, who was a member of Byrons band at the time. Vern and Alan were friends from his day's in Nashville, and he introduced Alan to all of us. After eating, we headed over to the Fair grounds where the festivities were taking place. Now you have to remember that this was long before there were ANY Bluegrass Festivals to go to here in California, and we took advantage of any and every chance we could, to go where we thought there would be some Bluegrass pickers that we could play some music with. And there were plenty of pickers at this shin dig in Madera! EVERYONE that we knew was there! The Caffery Family was there as well as a very young 13 year old Mark O'Connor too. Our mutual friend Ray Park was entered into the contest, and he had talked his good friend Byron Berline to come up from So. calif., and being one of the judges at the contest. As a result, Byron had his band, Country Gazzette, come along with him to entertain the audience during the breaks in the contest. It was during one of these breaks that Byron told Ray: Why dont you and Vern and some of yer friends get up on stage with me and let's pick a few fer the audience. Boy! What a thrill to be on the same stage with this bunch of world class pickers! There was Vern and Ray, Byron, Keith Little, one of Byrons band members that I cant remember his name, another person who I cant remember on Bass, and myself on rhythm guitar. Vern and Ray sang a couple of tunes, and then Ray asked Byron to fiddle "Sally Goodin". FIDDLE IT HE DID! I had goose bumps on me that you could hang yer hat on! Here I was, on stage with Byron Berline playing rhythm guitar, on my favorite fiddle tune of all time, with THE fiddle player that Bill Monroe chose to record this tune with for the first time in his career! Needless to say, it brought down the house! WOW! I still get goose bumps, jes thinking about it! This was the first time that I got to meet Jack Sadler, who would go on to found the Calif. Bluegrass Assoc. with Carl Pagter, and Jake Quessenberry, in just a few short years. We picked all day and well into the evening, and the highlight of the whole trip was to see our good friend Ray Park announced as the winner of the contest and declared State Champion Fiddler fer the whole state of California! Ray was in such a state of shock at winning that contest, he had a hard time telling you what his name was! What a time! We stayed until it was around midnight, and we were all in the parking lot saying our good bye's, and Ray opened the trunk of his car to put his fiddle and guitar into it. About that time we all went to shake his hand and congratulate him, and he forgot all about putting the instruments into the trunk and closed it. If Jack Sadler hadn't seen the instruments setting right behind the tires, and let out a yell just as Ray started the engine, he would have backed right over about $50,000.00 worth of guitar and fiddle! We kidded Ray about that one fer many years to come! He told us later, that he was in such a state of shock over winning "The Big One", that he didn't even remember driving home to Placerville, that night! All he remembered was getting out of the car when they got home about daylight, and wondering, how did I get here? Well, we piled into my car and headed to valley Springs, and got there as the sun was coming up over Bear Mountain to the East. We were a happy, tired, bunch of pickers that morning. We were hoarse from singing all day, and most of the night on the trip home. I was so "charged" from the experience, I really didn't get a bit of sleep until that Sunday evening when I went to bed. Then all I could hear was Byron hitting the high notes, way up in third position , as he fiddled the Hell out of Sally Goodin! Sleep finally came, but for days to come, that tune ran through my mind like a freight rain! I had the good fortune to play onstage with Byron in later years with the Vern Williams Band, along with Ray Park, too, but I will NEVER forget the time that I got to play rhythm guitar on the tune Sally Goodin', that day in Madera, Ca., with my good friend Byron Berline, one of the greatest fiddlers of all time! As Vern would always say about Byron fiddlin' Sally Goodin; I'd quit eatin' a plate full of Biscuits and Gravy to listen to Byron fiddle that tune! And hope that he played the dern thing all night! Nuff said!
Posted:  10/25/2007

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