PICKENS — A lifelong musician and Union County resident won a music championship as he continues to represent South Carolina through his preservation and performance of a genre of music which is indigenous to the region.
Musician and Buffalo resident Freddie Vanderford — known for his mastery of the harmonica — placed first in his division during the 2016 South Carolina State Fiddling Championship at Hagood Mill Historic Site and Folklife Center in Pickens.
The competition — featuring musicians from throughout the Southeast — included the categories of Adult Old Time Fiddle, Junior Fiddle (ages 16 and under), Senior “Wild Cat” Open, Junior “Wildcat” Open, Old Time Banjo, Guitar, and Old Time String Band.
Vanderford entered the Wildcat Open and placed first in the category. Second place went to Owen Grooms of Pisgah Forest, N.C., and third place was won by Bob and Melody Thomason of Santee, Ga. Hagood Mill refers to the “open” category as the “Wildcat Open” because anything goes as long it is truly traditional music such as singing, harmonica or quirky instruments such as spoons or hambone. This was the second time Vanderford won the Wildcat Open Championship at the competition, as he took the title in 2011.
In 2010, Vanderford was presented with the state’s Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award for his work in preserving the Piedmont blues genre — an art form indigenous to the region that Vanderford perfected as a teenager through an apprenticeship with recording artist and medicine show performer Arthur “Peg Leg Sam” Jackson. Upon reception of the award in 2010, Vanderford performed along with Brandon Turner on the floor of the South Carolina State House of Representatives during session. Vanderford performed on the State House floor again in 2011 — playing one of his signature songs “Greasy Greens” — when Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill naming collard greens the official South Carolina state vegetable.
The traditional South Carolina State Fiddling Championship dates back to the 1920s when Clemson University opened the doors of Tillman Hall to local musicians of the nearby mountains for their music competition. For more information about the competition or about Hagood Mill Historic Site and Folklife Center, visit www.hagoodmill.org.
This is the ribbon master harmonica player and Buffalo resident Freddie Vanderford received for placing first in his division during the 2016 South Carolina State Fiddling Championship at Hagood Mill Historic Site and Folklife Center in Pickens.
Derik Vanderford can be reached at 864-762-4128.