Lots of Fiddling Around at Annual Musical Event : Top amateur players, young and old, are set to strike up a tune at Sunday's contest at Oak View Community Center.


Up at the Oak View Community Center on Sunday they'll be asking, "Does it have a beat and can you dance to it?" But forget American Bandstand. These folks will be talkin' about reels, hornpipes and hoedowns, not rap and hip-hop. That's because in the Ninth Annual Old-Time Amateur Fiddle Contest, the efforts of each contestant--from Pee Wee to Senior division--will be judged on bowing, style and a danceable beat.

So if you enjoy traditional American folk and country music, head for this free, family-oriented event. And to get the most out of the day, try to arrive for the children's competition, which ends at noon.

Sponsored by District 8 of the California State Old-Time Fiddler's Assn., this year's contest again will have contestants ranging in age from 6 to 86. As usual, Ches Willis, 71, will be backing the kids up on guitar. And seeing the young ones play might inspire some of your own stubborn offspring to take up an instrument.

"Each contestant must play a waltz, hoedown and tune of choice within four minutes," said Charl Ann Gastineau, violin teacher and member of the Acousticats, a popular Progressive Bluegrass recording group. This year, 27 of her students, ages 6 to 15, will participate. Among them will be 10-year-old fiddler, Rebecca Kappen of Camarillo and her 11-year-old brother, Jimmy, who will accompany her on mandolin.

As the day moves on you'll get to hear folks who don't need any lessons, like Rae Huffman, 72, a former "State Ladies Fiddle Champion" and her "twin fiddles" partner, Marv Johnson, 81, the current "State and National Senior Senior Fiddle Champion." And watch for the the club's Old Country Trio Plus One.

You may hear mainstream or New country music played at the club's meetings, but Joe Hunsinger, former club president and current chair of the contest, said the purpose is to preserve and perpetuate the musical tradition of reels, jigs and ballads--fiddle tunes--brought from the British Isles. That's why the association's rules require a fiddle player among any group taking the stage.

Ironically, a majority of District 8's 400 members don't even play an instrument, according to vice president, Ben Chapman. "We call them enthusiasts,"' he said. "They come to listen and dance."


Speaking of fiddles--the 15-minute twin fiddle Orange Blossom Special featuring Tom Ricardo of Darlene O'Connell & the Dixie Flyers and the Fender Benders' Lee Rollag with Dan Wilson on mandolin was the highlight of a six-band jamboree held at the Crazy Bull recently. And when they play, listen for the Fender Benders' hot instrumental showcase pieces--a Ricky Skaggs tune, "One-Way Rider"--and what Wilson described as "a piece by Albert Lee. We don't know the name of it. But we do know how to play it."


If you look on Page 65 of the current issue of Country '95 magazine (Billy Ray Cyrus is on the cover), you'll find a photo of Jon Randall, the new RCA recording artist who dropped by the K-HAY studio two weeks ago and played an acoustic set on Matt Michaels' Santa Fe Cafe evening request show. This is a great new feature and I hope the station invites more artists to visit and explain their work.

Randall's got a lovely tenor voice and performed three cuts including the title song from his first CD, "What You Don't Know," due out in April. I predict "What You Don't Know" will be a chart-topper with it's lap steel, finger pickin' and piano sound. Lari White did the background vocals and the song has a distinctive vocal hook that Randall described as "howling" during our interview earlier that night. Tricia Yearwood sang with Randall on his own composition, "I Came Straight to You," a lovely ballad. These are heavy-hitters to have on your first album. But before getting his own record deal, the 25-year-old Dallas native toured with Holly Dunn and then spent five years as guitarist for Emmylou Harris. So this bluegrass flat-picker has come a long way since he headed for Nashville straight out of high school. And he's paid his dues--just ask him about his time spent delivering balloons dressed in a gorilla suit.


* WHAT: California State Old-Time Fiddler's Assn. Ninth Annual Amateur Fiddle Contest.

* WHERE: Oak View Community Center, 18 Valley Road, Oak View.

* WHEN: 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday.

* FYI: The public is invited to this free, family-oriented event. And there is no registration fee for contestants. The Old-Time Fiddlers normally meet at 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Sundays of every month except December, with line dance lessons at 3:15 p.m. Annual membership includes a monthly newsletter; $12 per couple or family, $10 individual.

* CALL: 527-0227.

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