Chattanooga Now Old-time fiddlers convention returns

Chattanooga Now Old-time fiddlers convention returns

March 18th, 2011 by Casey Phillips in Chattnow Music


What: Great Southern Old-Time Fiddlers Convention.

When: 4 p.m.-midnight Saturday.

Where: Lindsay Street Hall, 901 Lindsay St.

Admission: $5; free to ages 12 and under.

Phone: 755-9111.

Venue website:


4 p.m. Registration/performance by Hogslop Stringband

5 p.m. Old-time dance competition

5:30 p.m. Special performance (artist to be announced)

6 p.m. Old-time banjo competition

7 p.m. Stringband competition

8 p.m. Performance by Leroy Troy

9 p.m. Fiddle competition

11 p.m. After-party at JJ's Bohemia, 231 M.L. King Blvd., featuring Hogslop String Band, New Binkley Bros., Gerle Haggard and others

Enthusiasm for last year's Great Southern Old-Time Fiddlers Convention didn't quite match the level of the festival in its heyday, but organizers said it provided a solid foundation to improve on this year.

When it returns to Lindsay Street Hall again Saturday, attendees to the festival will experience a slightly tweaked version of last year's acoustic celebration of old-time music, said organizer Matt Downer.

There was little that needed changing, based on the positive feedback organizer Matt Downer said he received from the 400 attendees and 60 contest entrants.

"It was very good response and great weather," Downer said. "[Last year] I hoped to educate people more on that type of music [old-time]. We definitely did that. It was successful in that regard for sure."

The Great Southern Old-Time Fiddlers Convention was based on similar events held in the 1920s and 1930s in the Chattanooga area, which was a hotbed of old-time music at the time. At the height of its popularity, the conventions attracted thousands of spectators and hundreds of competing musicians.

Although the event was resurrected for one year in 2006 by a group from Atlanta, it didn't have enough momentum to become an annual event, Downer said.

Downer, who also plays in the local old-time trio New Binkley Bros., said he would like to see more entrants this year, an area he hopes to improve on by cutting registration fees for the fiddle, banjo, string band and dance contests.

Other minor tweaks this year include an improved lighting setup and a curtain backdrop to improve acoustics in the 150-seat event hall.

The goal this year is for attendance to exceed 500 and for 100 musicians to enter the contests. Even if it doesn't reach those levels, however, just bringing the event back is an achievement, Downer said.

"To me, it's a success already because it's happening, 86 years later. It's not really dependent, to me, on turnout," he said. "Hopefully, more people will come out, out of curiosity.

"It's neat for people to see the history of the music locally."

Contact Casey Phillips at or 423-757-6205.

Q&A: Matt Downer, organizer of the second annual Great Southern Old Time Fiddlers Convention