Cope Ashlock Invitational Fiddle Contest - Columbia, Missouri (1989)

Happy New Year everyone!  

2022 is off to a bitterly cold start here in mid-Missouri and what better way to spend it than digging through old recordings in between feeding the wood stove?!  I found two cassettes today that my long time friend and mentor, Bud Wyatt (a fine fiddler and guitar player from Centralia, Missouri), had copied for me back when I was just a teenager running around contests and jam sessions in the 1990's with his grandson, Matt.  

The original recordings were done by Bud at his home over his FM radio, dubbed, and then listened to at least a few hundred times.  The audio quality isn't the greatest I've shared on here, there's a few moments missing, but the quality of fiddling presented here that's closing out this era of 1980's in Missouri is definitely here!

Below I'm including notes that Dr. Howard Marshall shared with me about his experiences helping with the production that day. 

Don't forget that our friend, Dr. Marshall, is THE authority on Missouri fiddling and has published two books on our rich history (third volume to come!).
You can find volume one HERE and volume two HERE!

The Cope Ashlock Invitational Fiddle Contest was held in Columbia in 1989 in the KOPN radio studio. KOPN had just named the station's green room and record library in honor of J.C. (Cope) Ashlock.  Ashlock was a legendary violin maker and repair person, who for many years had his violin shop in that room, upstairs and rear room at 912 E. Broadway. That room where his shop was had become part of the KOPN studios in 1973 when the station was created.

The Cope Ashlock Invitational was meant to let listeners hear what a contest might be like, as well as hear some of Missouri's top-shelf contest fiddlers of that era. Charlie Walden and Julie Youmans organized the event, with KOPN staff. The fiddlers and accompanists were each paid the same, flat fee. Charlie Walden served as the contest emcee. I [Howard Marshall] served as doorkeeper to the live, on-air room in the studio.

Charlie Walden designed the contest like the old WOS AM radio contests in the late 1920s, where adjudication was accomplished by audience participation. (Some of the WOS contests were by audience phone calls, some by letters, some by telegram vote; one or two were by all three methods; see Charlie Walden's articles on WOS, or my 2017 book.) The audience therefore was the judges, and Charlie asked listeners to phone the studio and vote for their favorite fiddler / performance. Of course, everyone knew (audience, too) that the judging and results were not to be taken seriously, because judging by telephone response is not a fair or appropriate way to judge a contest. So everyone had a lot of fun, rather than obsessing over who played better than someone else that night.

The fiddlers who were invited to participate included Kelly Jones (Stover), Junior Marriot (Stover), Travis Inman (Stover), Nile Wilson (Bucklin), Jimmy Gilmore (Jefferson City), Pete McMahan (Harrisburg), and Taylor McBaine (Columbia). That was a pretty fair representation of top Missouri contest fiddlers of the 1980s, and included the top younger players (fTravis Inman and Junior Marriott) as well as top senior, and senior-senior players.

The day of the contest, Taylor McBaine was in Boone County Hospital and unable to participate.  He listened to the event on a radio by his bedside, with a few friends and hospital staff.

A small group of first-call accompanists and friends of the fiddlers provided the backup.   Fiddlers chose which of them would help them on the air when they played their rounds.  The accompanists were Wes Brown (Stover) and Kenny Applebee (Rush Hill), guitars; Jack Deck (Marshall), five-string banjo; and Forrest Rose (Columbia), acoustic bass.

Fiddlers played a breakdown, then a sacred tune or hymn (this is not a fiddle contest category), then a rag, then a waltz, then a twin fiddling number (twin fiddling is a category only in certain contests).

While they could have played anything, the breakdowns, waltzes, and rags represented the players' most successful "contest tunes," and therefore the list constitutes a nice tune list of what tunes were winning contests in Missouri in that time.

Here are my notes on what was played, etc.:

1. Charlie Walden talks with musicians, and all play "Liberty" and "Turkey in the Straw."
At many contests, after the contest is over, various musicians often come back to the microphone and play a tune such as those together, or sometimes play a hymn.

2. The "hoedowns" (breakdowns).
Junior Marriott, "Bill Cheatem"
Kelly Jones, "Arkansas Traveler"
Pete McMahan, "Grey Eagle"
Nile Wilson, "Soldier's Joy"
Jim Gilmore, "Lightening Hornpipe" (in B-flat)
Travis Inman, "Sally Goodin"

3. Sacred tunes.
Junior Marriott, "Old Rugged Cross" (in A)
Kelly Jones, "What a Friend We have in Jesus" (in F)
Pete McMahan, "In the Garden" (B-flat)
Nile Wilson, "What a Friend We have in Jesus" (F)
Jim Gilmore, "a Methodist hymn" (in F)
Travis Inman, "What a Friend We have in Jesus" (G)

4. Rags.
Junior Marriott, "Beaumont Rag
Kelly Jones, "Red Apple Rag"
Pete McMahan, "Fiddler's Shuffle" (F)
Nile Wilson, "Tiehacker Rag"
Jim Gilmore, "Black and White Rag"
Travis Inman, "Red Apple Rag"

5. Waltzes.
Junior Marriott, "Canadian Waltz" ("Ook-Pik Waltz")
Kelly Jones, "Missouri Waltz"
Pete McMahan, "Ozark Mountain Waltz" (B-flat)
Nile Wilson, "Goodnight Waltz"
Jim Gilmore, "Over the Waves"
Travis Inman, "Memory Waltz"

6. Tunes of choice.
(Ideally, in a real contest, a "tune of choice" should be something "other than a hoedown or waltz."  However, all these fiddlers played another breakdown / hoedown anyway -- as they often do in real contests, ignoring the "other than hoedown or waltz" rule, a rule that came to Missouri from Weiser, Idaho that has never been enforced or stressed at Missouri contests.)
Junior Marriott, "Smith's Reel"
Kelly Jones, "Devil's Dream"
Pete McMahan, "Leather Britches"
Nile Wilson, "tiehacker tune"
Jim Gilmore, "Whisky before Breakfast"
Travis Inman, "Hooker's Hornpipe"

7. Twin fiddle.
Kelly Jones and Junior Marriott, "Red Wing"
Pete McMahan and Jim Gilmore, "Three O'Clock in the Morning"
Kelly Jones and Travis Inman, "Down Yonder"

8. Last tunes.
Junior Marriott, "Sally Goodin"
Kelly Jones, "Walking in My Sleep" (a "tune of choice")
Pete McMahan, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" (a tune of choice)
Nile Wilson, "tiehacker tune"

To download this recording just click the album cover below!

 A huge thank you to everyone that follows this blog, helps me with the research involved, and all of you fellow music nerds who support my efforts here. There's a lot of hours after work, weekends, and a bit of money that goes into this site and storage. I always enjoy getting feedback, stories, and whatever so please leave a comment or email me at -


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