Graddick top fiddler in Carolinas

MYRTLE BEACH – Cedar Creek’s Jim Graddick has long been a fiddler favorite with locals, performing at restaurants and pubs in Blythewood and Columbia and showing up at meaningful home town events like the poignant closing of Cedar Creek Methodist church last spring.


But last weekend, Graddick, 29, added a new and significant notch to his musical bio. He was named Fiddler of the Year at the Carolina Country Music Festival in Myrtle Beach. Besting 18 competitors, Graddick said he was surprised and gratified not only because he won but because he’s beginning to see an uptick in the future for his passion – fiddle music.

“That is an especially important award for me because it focuses on original music, not cover bands,” Graddick said.

In an interview with The Voice, Graddick said his music career was launched at Blythewood Middle School, where he understood he’d have the opportunity to learn to play the musical instrument of his choice.

“Turned out they didn’t teach banjo,” Graddick said, smiling. “So I asked my mom if they taught fiddle at the school. ‘Well, yes. They kind of do,’ she said. But after I joined the orchestra, the fiddle turned out to be a violin,” he said, with a shrug and a laugh.

“Luckily, that first year, my orchestra teacher was also a good fiddler and we played a few fiddle tunes now and then,” Graddick said.

Graddick went on to earn a degree in classical music from the University of South Carolina, but he said he learned fiddling and music theory from hanging out at Bill’s Pickin’ Parlor on Meeting Street in West Columbia.

“I learned a lot from the great ‘teachers’ I met there and never paid a dime for those Friday night lessons,” he said.  “One was a guitar professor at Midlands Tech who always talked over my head. But he was great, and by the time I got into my music major at USC, I already knew everything they were teaching.  It’s funny, I went into orchestra thinking I’d learn to play fiddle, then I went to the blue grass place and learned music theory.”

Graddick now does what every musician dreams of – he earns a living playing fiddle and teaching music at Freeway Music’s Ballentine branch in Irmo.

He also enjoys mentoring up-and-coming young fiddlers who share his passion. One of those is Hayley King, now 17, who recently won the state fiddling championship for 16 and under.

“Some people say fiddling is dying out, but the future of fiddling is in the young fiddlers like Hayley. It’s going to be up to the people to bring fiddling back,” Graddick said. “I was recently heartened by a fiddler friend who started the Carolina Fiddle Club in Little Mountain. She invited fiddlers from all over to participate in workshops and learn fiddle tunes that might be becoming extinct. She has one fiddler coming all the way from Virginia for lessons. Things may be looking up,” he said.

Graddick said he feels one of the reasons fiddling is dying out is because young people today are too stressed out to be creative.

“The difference between fiddling and violin playing is that violin players follow directions on paper. Fiddlers just make stuff up,” Graddick said. “Fiddlers try to bring it out from the heart. We make up our music as we go along. Everything today is so fast paced. That stifles creativity when it comes to music. I think many people today are just so busy they don’t have time to improvise.

“I remember the first time I saw Claude Lucas fiddling on stage. He never stopped smiling up there. I said, ‘That’s what I want to do!’”


  1. Judy Lott says

    Great kid, has worked hard at his music,were all so proud of him. Congradulation cousin.

  2. Larry K says

    Well deserved and fitting award!

Speak Your Mind