In celebration of being recognized as the “Fiddling Capital of Kentucky,” the City of Leitchfield, this past Monday, April 11, paid tribute to the history and heritage of its most famous contribution to music.
During the event, Twin Lakes National Fiddler Championship organizers Ed Carnes and Harold Miller discussed the history of fiddling in Leitchfield and Grayson County and what it has meant to the local culture.
“This night is about celebrating the legacy of fiddling,” Carnes said. “Fiddling has been here forever.”
Fiddling’s roots in Grayson County go back to as early as the 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, and, later, to three of its most respected forefathers, Lonnie Pierce, Herman Alvey, and Bud Meredith.
Carnes recognized the families of Pierce, Alvey, and Meredith, and gave members of their families the opportunity to speak about what fiddling has meant to them.
Margaret Fey, the daughter of Herman Alvey, spoke about her father’s skill as a fiddler, as well as a violin luthier.
In commemoration of her father and local fiddling heritage, Fey presented a violin Alvey made in 1999 to Leitchfield Tourism.
Carnes then discussed the next phase of fiddling: the establishment of the Kentucky State Fiddle Championship, held for years at Rough River.
Local fiddlers Jodie Hall and Leo Mudd played an integral role in establishing the Championship, and their sons, Steve Hall and Kevin Mudd, are carrying on the tradition of fiddling.
“To some people, it was a contest,” said Kevin Mudd of the Championship. “To more people, it was a show, it was entertainment.”
Carnes said the Kentucky State Fiddle Championship established Grayson County’s legacy in fiddling, and then, in 1974, Jesse Haycraft helped further that legacy by establishing the first-ever orchestra program in Grayson County Schools, leading to the renowned group of local fiddlers known as the “orchestra fiddlers.”
This group consists of numerous musicians such as Carnes, Miller, and, perhaps most famously, Jimmy Mattingly, the latter of whom regularly performs with Garth Brooks.
Leitchfield’s fiddling heritage continues to grow, as the Twin Lakes National Fiddler Championship was established in 2012 and has since gone on to become the second largest contest of its kind in the southeastern portion of the United States.
This contest is held annually each July on Leitchfield’s Public Square, musicians from across the nation travel to Leitchfield to participate.
Carnes said Leitchfield and Grayson County’s steadfast support of fiddlers is “why this town deserves to be the Kentucky Fiddle Capital. This legacy is very unique to Leitchfield and Grayson County.”
Miller, echoing Carnes’ sentiment, said, “[Fiddling] has been such a good thing for our community for decades. I don’t think that any community, large or small, can rival the talent we have here.”
Leitchfield was recognized as the Fiddling Capital of Kentucky by both the State Senate and House of Representatives during their current legislative session.
District 18 State Representative Tim Moore said the House’s resolution, which passed unanimously on Feb. 23, merely recognizes Leitchfield as the Fiddling Capital of Kentucky; however, the city’s rich fiddling heritage already earned it the designation.
“This is not just about a contest. This is about an ongoing legacy,” Moore said.
The recognition from the state, as well as the Twin Lakes National Fiddler Championship, Moore said, add to the economy and vitality of Leitchfield by promoting the community on a national level.
District 5 State Senator Carroll Gibson said fiddling and the Twin Lakes National Fiddler Championship are “a showcase of what we have to offer in Grayson County.”
Gibson, who will conclude his final term in the State Senate this year, said he wants to become more involved with the Grayson County community after his term is finished, and, in that vein, it was an honor for him to present the citation recognizing the city as Fiddling Capital of Kentucky to the Senate.
Leitchfield Mayor William Thomason said being recognized as the Fiddling Capital of Kentucky “is a wonderful occasion for Leitchfield.”
Reach Matt Lasley at 270-259-9622, ext. 2015.