50th Annual Fiddle Fest & Southwest Fiddle Championship

Usually the 2nd weekend of the month, the date of the contest this year is May 7, a week earlier than usual. I’m afraid I may be too late in getting out this newsletter to reach the readership in time!

Details for the contest are:

  • Location: Groesbeck Convention Center, 100 E. Navasota St. Groesbeck, Texas
  • Divisions: 0-15, 16-35, 36-64, 65+, accompanist, & championship (top 2 from each fiddler division). This is not necessarily the order in which the divisions will compete.
  • Registration: 10 a.m. Contest starts: 11 a.m.

Groesbeck always puts on a good contest with a friendly audience. It will be indoors for the 2nd time in a row this year, so there will be no issues with weather. Groesbeck Masonic Lodge #354 is making a BBQ lunch available for purchase. Ample seating, great tunes, and no entrance fee! You must be a TOTFA member to compete, but 1-year memberships will be available for $30 at time of registration. Pre-registration is not required. I hope there is a large turnout by our membership despite my newsletter tardiness!!

Truman Rex Gillentine
October 27, 1953 – April 16, 2016

We lost a dear friend in April. Rex Gillentine was an excellent musician, but he also had a great sense of humor. I enjoyed his stories, and I have one of my own I’d like to share: We were at a contest a few years ago, I forget which one. Before it started he told me that he wanted to give me a letter. He said to be sure to remind him so he would not forget. I wondered, “What could this be, that
was so important?” By and by, the contest ended and Rex came over to me and gave me a folded up slip of paper, saying “I told you I was going to give you a letter, and here it is.” He waited until I unfolded the paper and saw that there was only a large “A” scribbled on it before he said, “See? I told you I was going to give you ‘Aaa’ letter.” And he drew out the long “Aaa” sound as he said it. Then he laughed, and I couldn’t help but laugh along. I will miss him, but will always
smile when I remember this. Here is Rex’s official obituary…

Truman Rex Gillentine passed away April 16, 2016 at his home near Graham. Funeral service was held at 11 a.m. Tuesday, April 19, 2016 at McMillan-Satterwhite Funeral Home. Interment took place at Newcastle Cemetery.

Rex was born October 27, 1953 in Graham, Texas to the late Henry and Betty (Brashears) Gillentine. He married Margaret Sue Reeves in 1987. Rex was an accomplished musician and was widely known in music circles across the United States. He was inducted into the Fiddlers Hall of Fame in 2008. Rex was a Past Master of Young County Lodge #485 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons and a member of the Bethel Baptist Church in Graham.

Survivors include his wife, Susie Gillentine; son, Nicholas Gillentine; sister, Sherry Rose and husband Robert; nephew, Allen Rose and wife Rhonda; several cousins and friends.

TOTFA, By the Numbers

TOTFA currently has 145 members
Bank balance, as of May 4: $5,721.47

The Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association wishes to publicly express their gratitude for Royce and Loyce Franklin’s very generous donation to the organization. We are honored. Thank you!

Minutes of TOTFA Board Meeting Held April 23, 2016

Board Attendees:
Bart Baker, Jason Andrew, Jordan Bankston, Elijah Stone
Meeting started: 8:30 pm. Meeting ended: 9:09 pm.

  1. Income - Possible Fundraiser: In addition to music, have other activities such as kornhole, washers, horseshoes. Might be able to organize contest in Whitewright in 2017. Possible contest or benefit in Victoria. • Discussion of increase in membership dues. To keep TOTFA going it would help greatly. Board is in a constant state of being short of funds. Jason motions the board take this to convention for membership vote, Jordan seconds, motion carries. • Idea of opening up membership and contests to allow divisions for dobro, mandolin, banjo, flatpicking – attract the bluegrass crowd. Fiddle contest would be the headline. Elijah will research this.
  2. TOTFA Contest/Convention - Partnering with Marty McPherson’s contest again this year. Board will focus on convention. If a contest comes along then great. If a lead develops then board will follow it.
  3. In General - Might be able to boost contest attendance by organizing a jam after. Be more welcoming to new members/attendees. Regarding grant money from Texas Folklife. Bart has made contact, but it may take some time for this to happen.
  4. Adjournment - Jason motions, Jordan seconds, motion carries.


The Devil's Box available for purchase here!The Devil's Box is a fast paced jam-packed look at the world of contest fiddling. Every year contestants from all over the United States flock to the town of Hallettsville, Texas, to compete for the title of best Texas-style fiddler. Featuring performances from some of the greatest legends of American roots music, The Devil’s Box explores the beginnings of the art form and showcases the rising talents that will dominate the traditional music scene for years to come. The Devil’s Box is an instant classic, filled with fantastic music and great family fun. The 3-disc set includes:

Disc 1: The Devil's Box documentary, an 84-minute look at the world of contest fiddling and all of the major players involved. Bonus features include an extended history section of Texas-style, a four-minute movie of the Hallettsville Bar-BQ Cook-Off, Song Writers Serenade featurette, and an interview with the director Jason Hammond and producer Beth Jasper

Disc 2: The Devil's Box Bonus Disc features 42 complete fiddle tunes played by contestants from around the country as well as performances by Larry Franklin, Texas Shorty, and many, many more.

Disc 3 The Lost Benny Thomasson Tapes: This disc is a wonderful hour-long interview with the master himself, Benny Thomasson. Benny tells the story of Texas-style as only he knows it and plays 19 tunes like only he can. This interview from 1976 has been cleaned up and remastered and is the ideal tutorial for any fiddler who wants to hear the tunes exactly as Benny played them and learn some fascinating fiddle history along the way.

To buy the 3-disc set, click the "Buy Now" button below. You may pay with a credit card or a PayPal account. Thank you for your support! And spread the word about The Devil's Box - the happy documentary!


April 2: Llano
April 23-24: Hallettsville*
May 7: Groesbeck
May 28: Athens*
September 9: Alvarado
October 1: Bowie
October 8: Seguin
October 8-9: Greenville*
October 15: Gilmer
October 22: Crockett*
November 12: Glen Rose
TBA: TOTFA Convention

*non-association contest


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You can renew your TOTFA member-ship, make TOTFA donations, or make purchases through PayPal at:

Of course, sometimes the old ways are best, and we can handle that too. Send your check to the address listed below.


Want to contact The Texas Fiddler newsletter? Email:

You can also mail content through the postal service by sending to:

TOTFA Newsletter
c/o John Crawford
277 Diamond Ln N
Burleson, TX 76028-6729


That you can now pay your TOTFA dues online? Check out our membership page.

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