TOTFA Stories

Jake Glidewell's Obituary Story

There aren't enough hours in the day for family and friends to tell their stories about local fiddler and music enthusiast Jake Glidewell, who died Thursday at 94. Glidewell, a fiddler for more than 80 years, was a compassionate person who was a friend to everyone, his friends and family said Sunday.

He grew up on a farm in Bells in Grayson County as the oldest of eight children. Music became a passion of Glidewell's from a very early age. He learned the banjo and guitar before moving on to the fiddle. Glidewell chopped cotton for 50 cents a day until he earned enough money to order his own fiddle from Sears, Roebuck and Co. for $9.50, according to information on the Texas Fiddlers Frolic Hall of Fame Web site. He stopped playing the fiddle when he moved to west Texas in 1928. Glidewell moved to Victoria in 1951 to work for DuPont, where he was an electrician for 23 years. He didn't pick up the fiddle again until 1969 when he had a stroke. His doctor suggested he start playing again as therapy to help him regain use of his left arm and fingers on both hands, according to the Web site. When he started playing he was once again unstoppable and spent most weekends at fiddling competitions in Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and even Idaho, his son Cotton Glidewell said Sunday.

Thirty years later, Glidewell was inducted into the Texas Fiddlers Hall of Fame, associated with the Texas State Championship Fiddlers' Frolic in Hallettsville. He was also involved in several fiddling organizations from their beginnings including the Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association, the Lone Star Fiddler Organization and United Fiddlers Association. Friend Mary Ann Riley of Victoria said while a lot of people quit playing around 65 Glidewell was still competing in his 90s. He even played while in his hospital bed recently, her husband P.T. Riley said "He was a real good friend of the family and a fiddle enthusiast," Mary Ann said. "He was a father figure to us and a grandfather figure to our daughter."

Glidewell's enthusiasm rubbed off on other people and one of his favorite things was to get younger people involved in fiddling. The Rileys' daughter Bonnie was 11 when Glidewell introduced her to fiddling and she is still playing today at 18. "He was always getting people involved," Cotton said. "He liked to keep things stirring." Glidewell also got Victoria musician Wade Stockton interested in the fiddle when he was 13. "He hauled me around to jam sessions and fiddle contests," Stockton said. "He had a great sense of humor and loved the young guys." "He was quite a character. He was always in a good mood and loved being a fiddle player," Stockton said. "I'll sure miss him."

Glidewell was married for almost 66 years to his wife Bessie before she died in 1998. The couple had two sons, four grandchildren and five great grandchildren. "He was a good father to me and my brother," Cotton said. "He always helped us and supported us in whatever we did." Cotton said his father always wore a cowboy hat and had a cigar in his mouth. "He never slouched. It was self-pride," Cotton said. Cotton also said is father was a very smart man. "If he had an education he would have been one of the chief justices on the Supreme Court," he said. "He was real open-minded and knew there were two sides to the story." Cotton said his father didn't encourage him or his late brother Frank to take up fiddling. "He was afraid we would end up in a beer joint playing music." His love for musicians knew no age boundaries. "He loved all his musician friends," Cotton said. "He knew little bitty kids up to the old-timers. They are a breed all their own."

Many of Glidewell's friends are deceased, Cotton said. "He always said 'if you live long enough you'll outlive your friends so you have to keep making new ones.'" Mary Ann Riley has seen first hand how Glidewell picked up friends wherever he went. Last June when he turned 94 he went in to get his driver's license renewed but the Texas Department Public Safety wouldn't give him a new license without him first taking a driving test. "On his third try they gave him a license," Mary Ann said. "He came out of there with people glad to have met him." "If you didn't know him when you got there you did by the time he left," Mary Ann said. He was also involved with the Second Baptist Church in Victoria and the Masonic and Odd Fellows lodges.

Tara Sparks, Victoria Advocate, November 17, 2003