Bonnie Riley; Texas Old Time Fiddler Extraordinaire from Victoria Texas
Article Below By: Charles Gardner (Former Texas Oldtime Fiddling Accociation President)
Among the many bright stars on the horizon of Texas fiddling that deserve honorable mention is Ms. Bonnie Riley, the attractive, personable, and talented daughter of Mr. and Mrs. P.T. and Mary Ann Riley of Victoria TX. She began fiddling when she was eleven but, this was predicated by an earlier developing interest in music, at age nine, when she began music studies in school and learning to play a wind instrument called the recorder. This was only the beginning of an affair with music that has culminated with an infatuation with and love for Texas old time fiddling. Bonnie’s parents, P.T. and Mary Ann are most supportive of Bonnie’s music efforts and each can boast of a music heritage. Mary Ann’s Grandfather, Nolan Wood, was a tri-state fiddler champion in East Texas, who later in life, lived in Amarillo and hobnobbed with Eck Robertson. P.T. also had kinfolks who were fiddle players and he picks the guitar left-handed and upside down as Bonnie’s accompanist at contests and similar events.
Bonnie’s initial encounter with Texas fiddling occurred in 1996, when Jake Glidewell and P.T. went to a jam session in Harwood,Tx and taped some fiddle tunes that were being played by Regina Matthews. P.T., amazed at the awesome skill of Regina, who at the time was only eleven, the same age as Bonnie, upon returning home, played the tapes for Bonnie who was also amazed and overwhelmed. But it was at the 1996 Hallettsville contest that was the real initiation for Bonnie for it was there that she met Regina for the first time and experienced the full impact of Regina’s fiddling skill. From that point, it has been uphill all the way and a labor of fiddling love for Bonnie.
Bonnie’s first violin instruction began with Ms Carolyn Arrington of Victoria. This was followed by lessons with Wade Stockton and Ms Carolyn White that ultimately led to a respectable level of expertise in Texas style fiddling. She is currently taking fiddling lessons from Ricky Turpin and spends much time in practice in an effort to achieve Ricky’s demanding expectations.
Bonnie loves to play anywhere and at any time as long as anyone will listen. She is not at all shy about performing. She will perform at the drop of a hat at contests, cemetery cleanings, trail rides, and more. She and her Dad are regular performers at the Victoria Country Opry, and they "hardly ever miss a contest, both sanctified and unsanctified." They have also performed as a team in Branson, Mo., in Nashville and they have an excellent working relationship mainly because they enjoy the same kind of music, "most anything country, especially western swing and Texas fiddling." Bonnie’s Mom, Mary Ann is their booking agent, press agent, photojournalist, video technician and all around general factotum.
Ricky Turpin and Terry are two of Bonnie’s favorite fiddlers. Others who have influenced and assisted her in the fiddling process include Jake Glidewell, Wade Stockton, Johnny Gimble, Jim Chancellor, Roy Thackerson, Smoky Butler, and the entire "Hopkins Bunch." May 1st, 2001 will mark Bonnie’s fifth year of Texas fiddling and it has all been "very exciting and much fun."
Currently a Professional Fiddle Player performing live in south central Texas. I started out at the age of 11yrs. old when my Dad P.T. Riley and I began attending Fiddling competitions. My Dad had been singing and playing Guitar since I could remember...he was my reason for wanting to learn to play an instrument...I thought it'd be fun to play songs together. Because of him I also made new friends that inspired me to continue to play- Regina Matthews, Dutch Wells, and the late Jake Glidewell.
Starting in May 1996 I took lessons from two fiddlers in my home town of Victoria,Tx one was Carolin Arrington and the other Wade Stockton. Then After 3 years of playing I began lessons with Ricky Turpin a Tx state champion fiddler and a Grammy winner with Asleep at the wheel. I soon began to learn more and more about playing freelance by booking gigs with bands and playing at state events that's where I learned how to play with professional musicians. I continued to play in as many fiddle competitions as possible and in yr 2000 won the South Texas International music championship where I was awarded the fiddle I play on today.
I've played at the Bob Wills festival with the Texas Playboys for almost 9 years. I also have taught for fiddle camps with Randy Elmore ,and Jana Jae the first lady of country fiddle. I also have self learned how to play the mandolin and am still learning the guitar. In addition I have done television news spots for different events in and out of the state. I most recently have worked for the past 9 yrs with The Penny Gilley show where we are filmed and shown on the Rural Free Delivery RFD-TV network internationally. I continue to play and live in Texas with various singer songwriting artists.