The fiddlers’ convention was a world of its own, with no organization to speak of, except for signing up to play in the little auditorium there at North Arkansas Community College. Oh, and they designated certain rooms a s “Electric” and “Texas-style.” Other than that it was just non-stop jamming, with a different group in every room. Kinda surreal. It was as though the janitor wandered off and left the school building unlocked and all the classrooms open, and a very large band of wild gypsies had just moved in. When we left Friday night about 11:30 p.m. only five or six groups were still playing. The next morning at 10, the rooms were all full again, as well as the lobby, the corridors, and good swath of the entrance and beyond. Saw several people I knew there, including Kim and Jim Lansford and Mike and Rachel Luster and baby Owen (and almost baby brother).
But the highlight for me was the duo of Billy Ward and Tedi May. May, who is a little bit of a thing, is an
outstanding wielder of a giant German upright bass (named Rastus). Ward plays an ancient piece, although that’s putting it much too lightly, like something that would take place in the normal world. Instead, the snuff-spitting, horse-laughing country boy turns into a dervish with the fiddle in his hands, roaring off into riffs that roll out to the edge of comprehension and jump off that edge, only to land solidly on his feet, on the beat and in tune, making it look easy. When I first heard I would be working with him I asked Kim Lansford who he was.
He’s a wild-ass Texas fiddler, she replied. That doesn’t say the half of it.
Check out some of these YouTube clips.
Jerry Helen Billy Tedi
Tedi May and Billy Ward Train
Tedi May records Scratch Tracks for My Ice Cream’s Too Cold in 200+ year old Indian cabin
Jazz Banjo, at The Fiddlers Convention in Harrison, AR