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Vernon Solomon, Sleepy Johnson-Texas Breakdown

Center for Popular Music
Vernon Solomon, Sleepy Johnson-Texas Breakdown
MUSICIANS FIDDLE-VERNON SOLOMON TWIN FIDDLE-RICKIE SOLOMON GUITAR-BILL DEWBRE, RUSSELL GILLIAN, RICKIE SOLOMON MANDOLIN-BILLIE JOE FOSTER, STEVE GILLIAN BANJO-BILLIE JOE FOSTER, RUSSELL GILLIAN BASS-RICKIE SOLOMON, RUSSELL GILLIAN, STEVE GILLIAN DRUMS-STEVE GILLIAN THE SOLOMON TRADITION It was a November day in 1960, and I was in Tom Coburn’s violin shop in Fort Worth, Texas. I had just purchased a fiddle from Tom and was visiting with another customer in the shop who asked if I would like to go meet a good fiddler that night. I agreed, so he called Vernon Solomon who invited us up. That evening we journeyed about 25 miles north of Fort Worth to Rhome, Texas, where Vernon lives. A note on the door told us that he had gone to see one of his sons play basketball at the school and that we should just come in, make ourselves at home, and that he would be home shortly. It wasn’t long before the family arrived home. After introductions, Vernon asked to play my new fiddle. I quickly assented. I can’t remember the first tune he played, but it didn’t take long for me to decide that Vernon Solomon was the finest fiddler in Texas. Since then I’ve heard just about all the great Texas fiddlers, and while many may not agree with me, nothing has ever caused me to change my original opinion of Vernon. Born in the “fiddlin’ country” of North Texas, on December 23, 1924, Vernon grew up at Forney, a few miles east of Dallas. His father, Ervin, was a legend in Texas fiddling. There were always fiddlers visiting at the Solomon household. With people like Oscar Harper, Red Steele, Major Franklin, and of course, his father playing around the house all the time, it’s no wonder that Vernon took to fiddling. His father would not let Vernon play on his fiddle, so when the boy was five years old, his grandfather gave him a homemade instrument of bois d’arc. Vernon recalls that the first tune he learned to play was “Bully of the Town.” During the depression Ervin Solomon supported his family largely by competing in fiddlers’ contests around the state. When Vernon was seven he went to one of these contests with his father and competed for the first time. His efforts gained third place. It wasn’t until the next year at Athens, Texas, that he beat his father in a contest and won his initial first prize – a suit of clothes. His father kidded him that he would never take the boy to another contest if he was going to beat him. Of course he did, and Vernon went on to countless contests, winning many and losing a few. Vernon went into the Army in 1943 and served in the South Pacific. While on Iwo Jima he met Carl Hazlewood, another fine Texas fiddler. As Vernon tells it, “I listened to Carl for about four days playing around the barracks. I didn’t say anything but after the fourth day of listening to that fiddle I wanted to play so bad I was about to bust. I asked Carl could I try his fiddle and he consented. We got to playing around there till I thought we’d never quit. The rest of the guys in the barracks begged us to stop so they could finally get some sleep.” Receiving his discharge in 1945, Vernon returned to Texas. In 1947 he married his wonderful wife, Ruby, and they became the parents of four sons - - Mike, Ricky, Terry and Steve. All the boys became musicians. Ricky is heard with his father on this album. When Dr. Perry Harris initiated the Grand Masters Contest in Nashville in 1972, it was to be a contest that pitted fiddlers who had proven themselves champions in premiere contests around the country against each other. When that first Grand Masters Contest was over, Vernon Solomon was champion. Since then he has played in that contest in 1974, 1975, and 1977. He has always finished in the top ten. No easy accomplishment. The tunes on this album reflect Vernon’s versatility with the fiddle. From breakdowns to blues, from swing to bluegrass, the man does it all well. The two hymns are typical of Vernon, he being a deeply religious man. The two tunes, “Texas Breakdown” and “Ruby Waltz” show him to be a fine composer also. Vernon Solomon is a many sided man - - an outstanding fiddler, a wonderful family man, a good fishing partner, but above all else, a friend and a real gentleman. Bill Northcutt Houston, Texas March, 1978
Stock number:SFR DU 33038 Price:$15.00

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