Veteran local musician wins Louisiana State Fiddle Championship in Natchitoches

You can't keep a good Louisiana fiddler down. That's the lesson learned as a longtime favorite musician won a big state award.

Ron Yule of DeRidder, Louisiana was named the Grand Champion of the 2019 Louisiana State Fiddle Championship which was part of the 40th Annual Natchitoches-Northwestern State University Folk Festival.

“Louisiana country fiddling and fiddle contests have always been an interest of mine since I started playing,” said Yule. “I attend fiddle contests to connect with other fiddlers, especially old friends, and pick and jam.”

“As luck would have it, I actually won this year for the second time at the age of 76 after fiddling for 50 years,” said Yule. “I feel honored to be the Louisiana State Champion and represent the face of Louisiana fiddling.”

Yule said he feels that the Championship is incredibly vital to Louisiana's traditional culture and that he will continue to support it as he has since 1974.

“The Championship provides a showcase of rural traditional Louisiana fiddling which continues to evolve as the music scene changes,” he said. “I encourage all fiddlers to attend and experience this contest as well as the other music genres and styles showcased at the Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival.”

According to Yule, any involvement with the contest and festival allows a beginner, as well as a seasoned fiddler, a chance to be a part of the learning process of handing down the fiddling tradition.

“As we hold on to this fading musical tradition, we must realize that this music was an integral part of nearly all early rural country social exchanges from country dances, family reunions, political rallies, and house parties,” said Yule. “Its history is unique. At one time the fiddler was the town’s entertainer in many cases.”

Ron Yule began playing the fiddle in 1968 while a student at the University of Texas. In 1973, Yule started producing fiddle contests and promoting bluegrass shows throughout Louisiana and southeast Texas.

He and his wife Georgia produced the first bluegrass/fiddle club and newsletter in the state of Louisiana, “The Southwest Louisiana Fiddler and Bluegrass Club,” from 1974 to 1977. Yule has continued promoting and playing folk music for the last 40+ years with numerous bands and groups.

Following his retirement, Yule started a written documentation of fiddling, bluegrass, Cajun, and country music in Louisiana with a focus on southwest Louisiana, resulting in several articles and papers as well as six books, including “When the Fiddle was King” (2006), “My Fiddlin’ Grounds” (2007), “Louisiana Fiddlers” (2009), and “Cajun Dancehall Heyday” (2017).

Yule had also won the Championship in 2000.

The second-place winner was Joe Suchanek of Merryville, Louisiana. Owen Meche of Arnaudville, Louisiana placed third.

The Championship was held in Magale Recital Hall on the NSU campus.

Meche also took first place in the 21 and under championship division. Suchanek took first in the 60 and up championship division, with Yule coming in second, Birgit Murphy of Opelousas in third, Mark Young of Basile in fourth, Wilfred Luttrell of DeRidder in fifth, and Ron Pace of Alexandria in sixth. Luttrell and Yule also took first place in the twin fiddles competition.

Dr. Shane Rasmussen, director of the Championship and the Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival, remarked that “the level of talent of the players in this year’s Championship was phenomenal. Each of this year’s contestants is an extraordinary player who is helping keep this important tradition alive.”

Photo above: Ron Yule of DeRidder, far left, was the winner of the 2019 Louisiana State Fiddle Championship held as part of the Natchitoches-NSU Folk Festival. Other top finishers included, from left, Joe Suchanek (second place), and Owen Meche, far right. Accompanist Waylon Meche is second from right. (Photo by Peter Jones)