About The Artist
Kenneth V. Sidle was a champion fiddler from Licking County, Ohio, who in addition to winning several state fiddle championships over the years, also became a 1988 recipient of a National Endowment Award.
Kenny was born near the hamlet of Toboso where his father Vernon taught him the basics of the fiddle from the age of five.
By 1946, he and his sister Marge played at Ed and Millie Ruton's Hillbilly Park near Newark on weekends where they and other local musicians provided warm-up entertainment for the big name acts from the major radio stations such as WWVA, WSM, WLS, or WLW. From 1949, they also appeared locally over WCLT in Newark.
A newspaper photo in 1950 indicates who the "Hilarious Hillbillies" were that backed up the big name shows at Hillbilly Park on Sundays and holidays.
The group picture included Tony and Dot, the Mexican Songbirds; Bob Spangler; Lee Adkins; Bob Vaughn; Smokey Smith; Bob Weber and Kenny Sidle. The picture also included Uncle Eddie Ruton, the owner and operator of the park which had been open since 1945.
After 1953-1955 spent in military service, Sidle returned to play at Hillbilly Park and in April 1955 he married Evelyn Wright (who survives), reared two sons, resided in Hanover, Ohio, and took a regular job at Owens Corning.
He turned down Opry band opportunities, preferring to remain closer to home. He did, however, serve stints on the staff band at the WWVA Jamboree in Wheeling, the Country Cavalcade at WMNI Columbus, and the Paint Valley Jamboree in Bainbridge, Ohio. He also filled in occasionally with name artists when needed such as Doc and Chickie Williams.
North American Country Cavalcade (WMNI — Columbus, OH)
Upon further research, we found a more details about this show. It started on Saturday night, November 23, 1974. Columnist Frances B. Murphey wrote of a visit to see the Southern Theatre in Columbus, Ohio. It was built in 1895. It was the home of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra as well. Past performers there included Lillian Russell, Sara Bernhardt, John Barrymore, Eddie Cantor, Jimmy Durante and others.
But her article went on and readers learned of this show. She stayed long enough to take in the 63rd weekly North American Country Cavalcade. She said it was patterned after the Grand Ole Opry. It was broadcast over radio station WMNI which was located in the Southern Hotel. William Mnich bought the hotel and station in 1974.
A newscaster by the name of Tom Allen on WMNI was tapped to direct the show when it started. The show started from the ballroom where people could eat and see the show. Due to its popularity, it moved from the 115 room hotel to the Southern Theater next to the hotel. Seating capacity was 987 seats, including air conditioning. The doors opened at 7:30pm and the show started at 8:00pm. There were usually two 90 minute programs with a half hour between each show.
Mr. Allen told her that they do not try for the 'big-big names'. Even with someone like Conway Twitty performing across town the previous Saturday, their show was near capacity.
During the intermission, guest entertainers get to meet the public, sign pictures and sell records in the hotel lobby. One such performer there as Earl (Thomas) Conley who was from Portsmouth).
Don Marshall was an Irish tenor that appeared weekly almost from the start. The cast for the show was flexible, similar to the Opry. One might see Margo Smith, Lisa Peck, Billie Larkin, or Luke Gordon.
The backup band for the show is provided by the Country Cavalcade Cutups (she wrote they played behind nine mikes). Ms. Murphey was "most fascinated by the amplified violin" by Kenny Sidle. On lead guitar was Chuck Bonham, steel guitar was handled by Tom Kiley. Drummer was Ricky Lee, Rhythm guitars were played by Dan Scarbury and Connie Sarina.
The theatre was in need of repairs. Seats were threadbare, faded classic murals over the box seats, paint peeling from the ceiling and faded grandeur. Mr. Allen said they were going slow with renovations as "it costs a great deal."
On Saturday November 1, 1975 the two hour show as broadcast live over the Mutual Network, which then had over 680 radio stations. The broadcast would be the first hour of the second show that ran from 10:00pm to midnight. Tom T. Hall was starting his career and was the star of that night's show.
A Fran Murphey wrote in January 1980 indicated the show had been discontinued, but the hotel was still operating.
Paint Valley Jamboree
Kenny was also a part of one of the longest running shows in Ohio called the Paint Valley Jamboree in Bainbridge, Ohio. The first performance was on February 27, 1965 at the old Paxton Township Hall (also known as the Bainbridge Opera House). It was the result of a partnerhip between James Sweeney and Lou Harris; they wanted to bring "...a live country and western show" to the area.
It grew "wildly in popularity with its mix of local talent and Nashville's up and coming stars of the time." The show featured such stars as Waylon Jennings, Dottie West, Merle Haggard, Connie Smith, Johnny Paycheck, Minnie Pearl, Conway Twitty, Loretta Lynn, Little Jimmy Dickens, Porter Wagoner and many more.
Kenny Sidle was inducted into the Paint Valley Jamboree Hall of Fame at some point, one of the many honors and awards he received in his life. The first member of that Hall of Fame was Sadie T. Brownfield (1933 - 1999); she was inducted in 1992.
The show was still providing performances in 2021, but on an irregular basis. For 2021, shows were scheduled for April 17, June 12, August 14, October 9 and December 11.
However, he made his major reputation as a contest fiddler, winning numerous state championships. His notable victories included Ohio (five times), Pennsylvania (three times), and Kentucky (twice). He also won other contests in Ohio, West Virginia, and Tennessee, competed creditably at Galax and the Grand Masters in Nashville. He was typically supported by master guitarist Troy Herdman and usually by Oscar Ball, mandolin; Frank Hoy, bass; Les Wilson, banjo; and sometimes son Gary Sidle on drums.
Kenny's recording career was rather limited. In 1957, he played fiddle on a forgotten bluegrass classic "Rosie's Gone Again" by Jimmy John (a k a James Fullen) released on Dot. In 1978, he recorded a long-play album Favorite Fiddle Tunes (Rome LP 1128) which included one of his contest signatures, "Lime Rock," with liner notes by Ivan Tribe. A dozen years later, he did Fiddle Memories with liner notes by Kenyon College scholar Howard Sacks which initially came out on cassette on the Rome-related label Starr Records. In later years he played with the local bluegrass band Frosty Morning which may have also included cassettes.
As he aged, Sidle still played square dances at Flowers Hall near his home in Hanover where he was much mourned, passing on several weeks after his 90th birthday.
Credits & Sources
|Printer Friendly Version
Yes, Hillbilly Music. You may perhaps wonder why. You may even snicker. But trust us, soon your feet will start tappin' and before you know it, you'll be comin' back for more...Hillbilly Music.
It's about the people, the music, the history.
Copyright © 2000—2023 Hillbilly-Music.com