Editorial: Davie fiddler wows Grand Ole Opry crowd

Published 7:11 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2023

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There he was, in his usual spot on stage, in the background.

Fiddle in hand, like always, he was ready to saw the crowd into a frenzy.

And when Jamie Harper belted out the first “Oh de lady a, de oh lady oh, de ladie” from Bill Monroe’s “Good Bye, Ole Pal,” the crowd at the Grand Ole Opry was in a frenzy.

You read it right. Davie’s own Jamie Harper played on the Grand Ole Opry stage last month in Nashville, Tenn. as a guest fiddler with Rhonda Vincent & The Rage.

Sure, Harper knew it was his first time performing on the Grand Ole Opry stage, but he didn’t know what was about to happen.

Rhonda Vincent, the band leader, was wishing another member happy birthday from the stage, when she turned to Harper.

“Our fiddle player, he’s our special guest. Come on up here, Jamie. It’s his very first time on the Grand Ole Opry.”

The crowd roared.

Vincent continued.

“Please welcome, Jamie Harper. It’s so exciting when someone is here for the very first time. He is steeped in rich bluegrass heritage. His grandmother, Betty Harper, was the very first female to lead a bluegrass band (Betty Harper and the Black Mountain Boys), so he has bluegrass in his blood.”

It gets better.

She asked him to sing a song.

“He had no idea,” she said, as Harper eased his way to the front microphone. “You should sing a song since it’s your first time here. I’ll bet your grandma might be listening. She just turned 93.”

One thing is for sure, Jamie Harper made his grandmother – and the rest of us from Davie County – proud.

“I’m rarely at a loss for words,” he said as he reached the microphone, plucking at his fiddle. “Well, uh, let’s see. Most kids, when they were little, got nursery rhymes,” Harper said to the delighted crowd. He got a roar when he said: “I got a song about a dead horse from Bill Monroe.”

The crowd erupted again when he started singing. And he didn’t miss a beat with his voice or fiddle.

Jamie Harper holds a special place in our hearts. He played music, and brought a friend to do the same, for a memorial service remembering my late step-daughter. They had been friends, and we had featured him as a child musician in the newspaper, so I knew he had talent. I learned that day that he has a big heart, too.

Hailing from a family of musicians, Jamie started as a child with a guitar, but the fiddle soon followed. He’s also learned to play the mandolin, bass and banjo, and keeps a regular teaching schedule. His main gig now is with the group “Sideline.”

Jamie has played in several touring bands, and occasionally sits in with local bands playing at local venues. He can play any type of music.

Thank you, Jamie Harper.

You’ve made us proud.

– Mike Barnhardt