Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 15, 2012

Talented musicians compete at Fiddlers’ Convention

TAZEWELL, Va. — Spontaneous combustion of music emerged from every tent, stage and tailgate on the Tazewell County Fairgrounds Saturday afternoon as competition heated up around Nuckols Hall.

“We were grateful that we decided to hold the competition inside on Friday because of rain in the forecast,” Charlotte Whitted, director of the Tazewell County Old Time and Bluegrass Fiddlers’ Convention said. This marks the 10th year for the convention in Tazewell County. “We’re also grateful we held the competition inside (Saturday) because of the heat.”

Soon after he completed his performance in the stand-up bass competition, 14-year-old David Chrisley of Wytheville, Va., walked outside and got recruited by a pair of guitar pickers and a banjo picker to play the bass line in the song they were rehearsing.

“I can talk if you wait just a minute,” Chrisley said as he saw what key the song was in and started playing flawless bass licks without looking at the neck of his double bass fiddle. “I’ve been playing bass fiddle for four or five years,” he said as his fingers kept plucking away at the strings. “I like doing it because of the music.”

He didn’t know the other pickers who he was playing with, but he picked up the song and played along as he answered questions.

“I talk with young students all the time and encourage them to pick an instrument and learn how to play,” Eddie Marrs, 53, of Princeton said. Marrs, a multiple champion at the convention on banjo, fiddle and dobro, who also won the dobro competition at the Galax Fiddler’s Convention. “Playing music is a blessing they can enjoy throughout their lives.

“If they just participate in sports, most will never play beyond the high school level, and you can only kick or hit a ball so long,” Marrs said. “But I tell kids that music is something they can take with them for a lifetime.” Marrs, a Norfolk Southern employee by day, and his band, Black Diamond, had the best selling CD at Tamarack for two consecutive years. “I started playing when I was 6 years old, and was on stage performing when I was 12,” he said.

Saturday was a special day for Marrs. Later that evening, he, along with Jeff Brown and Norman Hagerman were scheduled to receive “Lifetime Achievement Awards.” Marrs, his father Charlie Marrs, and brothers Don and Danny, are scheduled to kick off the “Bluegrass Gospel Sings” concert on Friday, July 20, at 5 p.m., in the Kovach Auditorium of the old Pocahontas High School.

“We have about the same number of competitors here as we did last year,” Whitted said. “We have a really talented group of people who come here every year. Pam Hunt drove here from Mansfield, Ohio to perform again this year. I think she’s been here about every year, and that’s quite a haul, driving all the way from Mansfield.”

The convention is a fundraiser for the Historic Crab Orchard Museum and Pioneer Park. About 50 volunteers turn out each year to make the event possible. “That includes volunteers who staff the gate, judges and everyone who picks up the trash,” Whitted said. “We’ll be doing that before we go home tonight.”

Members of the Jeffersonville Skirmish Band — Ron and Rory Mullennex on banjo and guitar respectively along with Donna and Jerry Correll of Elk Creek, Grayson County, Va., on upright bass and fiddle respectively — were jamming on a tune in the shade of their tent.

“We get together a few times every year and play at some Civil War re-enactments,” Rory Mullennex said.

“Mostly, we just follow Ron around,” Jerry Correll said.

“It’s getting deep in here,” Ron Mullennex said as he kicked off another Old Time music tune. The Jeffersonville Skirmish Band played on without missing a beat.

There are no activities scheduled for today, so campers can sleep in and leave at their leisure. The gates to the fairgrounds will close at 3 p.m.

— Contact Bill Archer at

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