Judges for the 2021 Competition

Ketch Secor  (Traditional only)

Ketch Secor is a fiddle player and founding member of the Grammy award winning group Old Crow Medicine Show.  The band, whose sound is heavily influenced by old time and Appalachian music, has received many honors since it was founded in 1998. They  became Grand Ole Opry members in 2013, and have received two Grammy's, including one for "Best Folk Album" in 2015. Their recording of the song "Wagon Wheel", which was co-written by Secor and Bob Dylan, sold over 1,000,000 copies and received Platinum certification in 2013.  The song was covered by various artists, including Darius Rucker, whose release reached triple Platinum status in 2014. 


Ridge Roberts

Ridge Roberts lives in Granbury, TX 


Junior Marriott


Junior Marriott began playing rhythm guitar at the age of seven for his dad, who played the fiddle.  By age nine he was playing bass and at fourteen he began playing the fiddle.  At the age of sixteen he won the Missouri State Fiddle Championship, a title he has won several times, including the 2010 championship.  


Junior has won various contests and other state championships as well.  Some of these include Kansas State Fiddle Championship, Arkansas State Fiddle Championship, fifth place at the 2000 National Fiddle Championship in Weiser, Idaho, and Grand Lake Fiddle Festival Champion in 2006, 2007, and 2010. 


A few major fiddle contests Junior has judged include Missouri State Championship, Arkansas State Championship, Grand Lake Championship in Grove, Oklahoma, the Texas State Championship in Hallettsville, Texas and the Grand Master Fiddler Championship.  He enjoys traveling to contests all over the United States.  


Junior lives in Ava, Missouri and recently opened Marriott Music, a full-line music store, specializing in vintage Gibson guitars.  He teaches fiddle, guitar, and bass lessons.  Junior also buys, sells, trades, and repairs instruments. 


Larry Franklin


Larry Franklin grew up on a farm in Whitewright, Texas and began playing the fiddle when he was seven years old under the guidance of his father, Louis Franklin. Louis and his Uncle, Major Franklin, are legends in the world of Texas Style Fiddling and they were the ones Larry first learned to emulate. Larry eventually won most every fiddler’s contest in the state of Texas including the World Championship when he was l6 years old.


He began honing his chops with dance bands in high school and after a 3-year stint in the Army went on to co-found “The Cooder Browne Band”. They were signed by Willie Nelson to his label “Lone Star Records” and toured with Willie and released one album. After that Larry led “The Larry Franklin Band” across the country entertaining everyone with his brand of fiddle music. He went on to perform with “Asleep At The Wheel” for seven years, receiving two Grammies for Instrumental of the Year. The first in 1987 for String of Pars, a song he co-wrote, and again in 1988 for Sugarfoot Rag. They won again in 1999 with Bob’s Breakdowns on the Ride With Bob tribute album to Bob Wills featuring Larry, Vince Gill, Steve Wariner and Tommy Alsup, bringing his Grammy total to three! His style has grown from the diverse influences of Texas contest fiddling to embrace Country, Blues, Rock & Roll, Jazz and Western Swing.


He moved to Nashville in 1991 and began his career as a session musician and has performed on hundreds of hit records as you’ll see in his Discography. He currently resides in Brentwood, TN with his wife Donna. He continues to play on recording sessions and performs each Monday night with the Time Jumpers at “3rd & Lindsley” a night club in Nashville. The Time Jumpers are an 11-piece Western Swing/Country Group comprised of a group of very elite musicians and singers and features the 3 fiddles played by Kenny Sears, Joe Spivey and Larry.


He plans to continue recording and releasing his own albums. He has a home studio that doubles as a place to work on his songs as well as projects for other Artists and Songwriters


Deanie Richardson


Making her debut appearance on the Grand Ole Opry at the tender age of 13, Deanie Richardson took the stage and never looked back. Raised just outside of Nashville in the small town of Kingston Springs, Deanie grew up in a musical family. With both of her grandfathers and her daddy playing music it was just natural for Deanie to want to play along. At the age of nine she picked up the fiddle and the rest is history.


Once the bow touches the strings of her 1880 Collin-Mezin (Deanie’s weapon of choice) you understand why she is known as one of country and bluegrass music’s most revered fiddle players. She can play anything from upbeat, fast-paced bluegrass tunes to lonesome, tear-jerking country melodies. This is not an easy feat. As Vince Gill was quoted saying about Deanie, "Sometimes great country fiddlers aren’t great bluegrass fiddlers and vice-versa, but she encompasses those styles. She knows the difference and plays the difference." No doubt that part of that can be attributed to the fact that Deanie studied for three years at the Blair School of Music with Craig Duncan.


Deanie has several titles under her belt, entering and winning numerous fiddle contests before she started playing bluegrass or bluegrass festivals. She has been nominated for the Academy of Country Music Awards Top Fiddle Player of the Year for 2010 putting her up against Stuart Duncan, a fellow fiddler she admires greatly. She includes Stuart along with Mark O' Connor, Howdy Forrester, Kenny Baker and Tommy Jackson in the list of musicians that have influenced her playing over the years.


Thriving on diversity, she has shared the stage with such artists as Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, Dale Ann Bradley, Emmy Lou Harris, Ry Cooder, David Olney, Hank Williams Jr, Del McCoury Band, Marty Stewart, Travis Tritt and Holly Dunn to name a few. Deanie is currently touring with the Chieftains. With appearances on Letterman, Leno, Conan and the Today Show at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, London’s Royal Albert Hall as well as touring all over including France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Scotland, Ireland, Denmark, Norway, Holland, Austria, Belgium and Switzerland Deanie has had the opportunity to play the wide range of styles that she does so well. She doesn't limit herself to just the fiddle, Deanie also plays mandolin and acoustic guitar.


She has been a mentor to many young musicians, something that Deanie feels very fortunate to be a part of. Working with kids has given her the opportunity to nurture the next generation of bluegrass pickers, something she believes in with all of her heart. She has shared her liveliness and love for music with many students over the years.


For the year 2020, Deanie was awarded the International Bluegrass Music Association's Fiddle player of the Year.  The band which she help to cofound, Sister Sadie, also won Vocal Group of the Year and was the first all-female band to win Entertainer of the Year, in the IBMA's history.  She was the most awarded artist at the 2020 IBMA awards, winning four awards. She also took home an award for a collaborative event with Becky Buller, "The Barber's Fiddle".


Deanie is a presence on stage. She radiates a type of contagious energy; literally bursting at the seams of her small frame so that you feel you are a part of the magic when she takes one of her breaks. She says that her beloved fiddle vibrates her entire body as she plays; maybe that's what you feel as you listen to her music. Or maybe it comes from within. They say you get back what you give out. If that’s true then Deanie’s cup is overflowing.



Bobby Taylor


Bobby Taylor is a fourth generation West Virginia fiddler. He plays several styles of old-time and contest fiddling, but got his early start from the legendary Clark Kessinger, who influenced a world of fiddlers. He has a melting pot of old-time fiddle styles including the styles of his father Lincoln Taylor (1911-1995), Ed Haley, Mike Humphreys, Benny Thomasson, Reece B. Jarvis, Doc Roberts, French Carpenter and scores of others to name a few. He was the 1977 West Virginia State Open Fiddle Champion. In 2003, Bobby received the FOOTBRIDGE AWARD. This award was presented by FOOTMAD (Friends of Old-Time Music and Dance) for his contributions to old-time music. Bobby was presented The 2010 VANDALIA AWARD by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. The Vandalia award is West Virginia’s highest folk-life honor. When fiddle enthusiast West Virginia Senator Robert C. Byrd passed away in July of 2010, Bobby was honored to be chosen to play Senator Byrd’s favorite fiddle tunes during the public visitation in the West Virginia Capitol Rotunda, and for the official memorial service. Bobby was also requested by the Byrd family to play for the private funeral services. He was inducted into the Mountain State Art and Craft Fair Hall of Fame in Ripley, WV in July of 2012 for his musical contributions to the State of West Virginia.  


Bobby has been the coordinator of West Virginia's Vandalia Gathering contests at the State Capitol in Charleston since 1979. He was the contest coordinator of the Appalachian Open Contest from 1984 through 1987, and he has been the contest coordinator of the Appalachian String Band Music Festival contest since 1990. All of these events are sponsored by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. Bobby recently retired after serving for many years as the Library Manager of the West Virginia Archives and History Library Section of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History.


Bobby has judged the Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia state championships, and is a regular judge at the Old Fiddlers Convention in Galax, Virginia. He has judged the Grand Master Fiddle Championship in Nashville, TN since 2006 to present. He was selected to judge the 2007, 2010 and 2012 Western Open Fiddle Championship in Red Bluff, CA. He was a judge at Jana Jae’s Grand Lake National Fiddle Fest in 2006, 2007 and 2009 in Grove, OK. He was selected as a judge at the Grand National Fiddle Championship in Weiser, ID in 2008. Bobby is a certified national fiddle judge. He is a nationally recognized consultant on rules and judging procedures for heritage music competitions. He has taught fiddle workshops at the Augusta Heritage Center, Allegheny Echoes in West Virginia, the 2012 Midwest Banjo Camp in Michigan and at the 2013 Festival of American Fiddle Tunes in Port Townsend, WA. He has performed on musical tours in Australia and Ireland, and was a featured performer at the National Folk Festival in Australia in March of 2008. He was a featured performer at the Library of Congress and at the Kennedy Center on August 16, 2012. The Library of Congress show was recorded for their permanent collection.


In 1990, Bobby apprenticed and constructed a violin under the guidance of Harold M. Hayslett. Mr. Hayslett was a Violin Society of America “Gold Medal” winner for tone at the 1980 international competition.


Bobby currently judges extensively and presents historical showcases on fiddle styles with his old-time band “Kanawha Tradition.” It is not uncommon for historic fiddles once owned by great fiddlers such as Clark Kessinger and Ed Haley to show up at these events.  Bobby is the custodian of these historical instruments. 


The 2021 Grand Masters will return to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum's Ford Theater on September 4tth and 5th (Labor Day Weekend). Visit this website often for updates.

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