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Local Fiddle Player David Varnado Up For ACM Award

Chrissie Roberts
Chrissie Roberts

The ACM Awards are this Sunday. Local fiddler, David Varnado, is up for Fiddle Player of The Year. The Port Arthur, Texas native says, “I’m in fantastic company for this award. I don’t expect to win it, but I’m going to Las Vegas Sunday. It’s sometimes an overused phrase, but it really is an honor to be nominated.”

Varnado says he started playing the fiddle when he was five years old. “My Dad taught me how play, and by the time I was ten, I was playing with a Cajun Band.”

David’s Dad also brought him to Lafayette and introduced him to famous Cajun fiddle player Rufus Thibodeaux, who took him under his wing, taught him a lot more about playing the fiddle, and eventually took David to Nashville, introducing him to people who would later change the course of his life.  “I had to grow up a little first,” David said. “When I was 18, I started playing with George Dearborne, when he formed George Dearborne and Branded. That’s the first country band I played with, and we had a good time.”

Then, David got the call from Nashville and went to play with Ty England. Ty had been playing with Garth Brooks before heading out on a solo career. His hit in 1995 “Should’ve Asked Her Faster” went to number two on the Country charts.

“When Ty started slowing down, I was lucky enough to be picked up by Johnny Paycheck’s band,” David said. He played for Johnny Paycheck and Loretta Lynn until Johnny Paycheck stopped playing, then he worked full time for Loretta Lynn. “That was an incredible experience. Loretta Lynn treated her band like royalty, it was amazing, I enjoyed every minute”.

Then Mike Palmer called. Not only was Mike Palmer the drummer for Garth Brooks from the beginning, but he also worked with Chris LeDoux. David explained, “Playing for Chris Ledoux was a rockin’ rodeo show. A lot of pyrotechnics and very different from the traditional country music I’d been playing, and I loved it.”

When Chris LeDoux became ill, “everyone thought he would recover,” said David. Holly Newfield asked him to come play with Trick Pony until Chris LeDoux got better, but LeDoux lost his battle with Cancer the following year. “Chris was one of the most generous people you could ever work for.” David and he is still in touch with the LeDoux family today.

David’s career didn’t end there; he played for Neal McCoy for four years. David said Neal taught him to work out everyday. “He is such a super entertainer and a good friend.”

David is having lunch with Neal next week. He also played for Sammy Kershaw, and filled in when George Jones needed a fiddle player, which are experiences most of us can only imagine.

This isn’t the first time David has been nominated for an ACM Award. He was also nominated in 2001 for Fiddle Player of the Year.

“It’s great to be nominated for the ACM Award,” David said. “There just aren’t very many fiddle players and steel players  in today’s Country. I’m glad they are still recognizing us, because the music doesn’t always reflect it.

Now David has come full circle. He is one of the four original band members playing with George Dearborne and Branded. You can see them just about every weekend, in Southeast Texas or Southwest Louisiana. Not this weekend, though. David will be in Las Vegas, seeing his friends and celebrating Country Music with the ACM.

Several of the awards given Sunday aren’t part of the televised award show, including the musicians, but they will announce the winners at some point. Be looking for David Varnado’s name, and when you get the chance, go hear him play.

We’re rooting for you, David!

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