TOTFA Stories

Vernon Solomon

This story of Vernon Solomon was carried in the Texas Fiddler in February, 1991. Vernon died in May of 1991 as a result of injuries received in an automobile accident.

Scene: Kaufman, Texas, January 12, 1991 8:15 p.m.

The old Kaufman Movie Theater sits just across the street from the courthouse in the town square. While all the stores are closed on the evening of January 12, a large hand-printed sign sits in front of the old theater. Most of the parking places around the square are filled as it takes two trips around to find a place to park. The sign in front of the theater reads:

The Solomons - 8:30 Championship Fiddling

Inside the theater, which is now the home of the Kaufman Opry on Saturday nights, most seats are filled and a local band is playing western songs and western swing music. The MC makes repeated references that in just a few minutes he is going to bring out the Solomons. The crowd cheers in anticipation. Finally, the MC announces the Solomons and out walks a tall slender man who from his appearance, if he put on a badge, with belt, holster and gun, might very well be a lawman in a western movie. The gentleman is Vernon Solomon. And since the crowd is awaiting fiddle music, they don't have long to wait as he begins with "Sally Goodin." Vernon introduces the band members, son Ricky on 5-string fiddle, son Terry on electric bass, Pat Dacus of Denton on rhythm guitar, Gary Carpenter of Fort Worth on electric steel guitar, and Charles Rickets from the local band on fingerboards. Vernon plays another favorite, "Leather Britches." Then the members of the band sing several western and country songs. Ricky sings two songs and is joined in the chorus by his brother Terry. Pat Dacus sings one song and the steel guitar player Gary Carpenter does a special tune. All the songs have strong twin fiddle parts played by Vernon and Ricky. The audience calls out requests, "Beaumont Rag," "Lime Rock." Vernon plays "Beaumont Rag." Then without pause, Ricky plays "Lime Rock" and play it he does as the crowd sits with rapt attention as Ricky plays this intricate and difficult tune with multiple slides and double stops. No doubt this young man lives up to the family reputation as a fiddle player. Throughout the show Vernon makes friendly, easygoing comments and has excellent rapport and contact with the audience. He mentions that he was born in Kaufman County, but left there during World War II to enter the service. As the show draws to a close more request are called, one being a religious number, "How Great Thou Art." On playing this religious song, Vernon removed his hat. At the request of the audience, Vernon and Ricky close the show with Orange Blossom Special to the enthusiasm, merriment and joy of the audience. This then is an evening's activities for one of Texas' nationally known and most highly regarded Fiddle Champions, Vernon Solomon.

Felix Vernon Solomon was born December 23,1924, the first child of Irvin and Beulah Solomon. He was born in Kaufman County, Texas. He has two younger brothers Norman and Dewayne. Norman is also a fiddle player of national reputation, who is now retired from General Dynamics and lives at Decatur. Dewayne, the youngest of the three brothers, lives in Mesquite and is retired from Texas Power and Light.

On July 16, 1947, Vernon married Ruby Bragg. Ruby's sister Betty Bragg, later married Norman, Vernon's brother. Vernon and Ruby had four sons: Mike, the eldest and a champion fiddler himself, was killed in Vietnam during that war. The other three children are Ricky, Terry and Stephen. All three are musicians. Ricky, a fiddle player, has played fiddle professionally with Red Stegall, Ray Price and Reba Mclntire. Stephen also played fiddle professionally for several years with Boxcar Willie. Terry plays the fiddle also and is a computer specialist at Denton. In addition to the fiddle, he plays electric bass and rhythm guitar.

Vernon has worked for General Dynamic for 41 years. Vernon is very proud of his family's musical heritage. He remembers hearing his grandfather Solomon play the fiddle. He says the one fiddler who had the greatest influence on his playing was his father, Irvin Solomon, who was one of the first fiddlers to be recorded in Texas. He remembers fiddle parties at his parents home when Red Steeley, Red Williams, and Benny Thompson would be there. At four and half years, he would take down his father's fiddle and practice. At about that age (4-1/2) he remembers the tune "Bully of the Town" just seemed to fall in place. He won his first contest at Athens, Texas, at about the age of 10 or 11. The prize was a gift certificate which his father used to get Vernon some new shoes and clothes. He says that soon after he began playing his brother Norman also began to play. As youngsters, while their father was away, they would practice and practice. At the fiddle parties, after the older fiddlers had played, he and Norman would be called on to play a few tunes.

Vernon is very proud of the wide reputation that Norman has throughout Texas and the entire country as a fiddle player. And Vernon can tell many interesting stories of the contest days when Benny Thomasson, Major Franklin, Louis Franklin, and he and Norman were making a lot of the contests. He tells, with sadness, but yet pride, of how their son Mike (who was killed in Vietnam) won his first major fiddling contest in Fort Worth. Mike's trophy from that contest sits in the living room of Vernon and Ruby's home in Rhome.

Vernon states that he has enjoyed fiddling mainly because of the many great people he has met who love the music. In1968, Vernon and Norman were selected to represent the state of Texas at the Smithsonian institute in Washington D.C., at the Annual Folk Festival each year a different state is selected as the theme state. Persons skilled in various areas of arts, crafts, and folklore are selected to represent their state and perform in their areas of expertise. In 1972, he won the first Grand Masters Fiddling Contest in Nashville. The next year he judged that contest and has judged at Weiser on several occasions and judged almost every year in contests in Oklahoma. He is a member of the Texas Old Time Fiddlers Association. In an association contest at Bowie in June, 1990, he won first place in his age group.