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Fiddle player to the stars Varnado to be inducted into museum

More about David Varnado



David Varnado and Loretta Lynn.

Country music artist Vince Gill and David Varnado.

NEDERLAND — The names roll off his tongue as easily as ticking off old friends — Sammy Kershaw, Neal McCoy, Chris LeDoux, Loretta Lynn, Joel Sonnier, Johnny Paycheck — and for David Varnado, these music legends are his old friends.

“Fiddlin’ Dave” Varnado, a Port Arthur native and Nederland resident, may not be a front-man musician but his skills with the fiddle are well known and sought after by those in the Cajun, country and Texas swing music industry.


Professional fiddle player David Varnado poses next to Tex Ritter’s suit at the Windmill Museum in Nederland. Varnado is set to be inducted into the Music Hall of Fame at the Museum of the Gulf Coast at 4 p.m. Nov. 16.
Mary Meaux/The News


And now, after more than 30 years of wowing crowds and earning numerous awards he will be inducted into the Music Hall of Fame in the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

“I want to personally thank the board of Port Arthur, Texas Historical Society for choosing me to be inducted in the Music Hall of Fame in the Museum of the Gulf Coast on Nov. 16 at 4 p.m.,” Varnado said. “Also thank you to Dr. Sam Monroe and Tom Neal. I can’t thank y’all enough. I’m so proud to be a part of this museum. This will be a day I will never forget.”

Earlier this year Varnado earned the 2017 Texas Country Music Association’s Fiddler of the Year award and on Oct. 25 he received the Texas County Music Association’s “Johnny Gimble Fiddle” award, which is something close to his heart.

“I am so proud to say Johnny Gimble was a hero of mine. Also a friend and a great fiddle teacher for me when I was a child,” he said. “He is the greatest western swing fiddle player to walk the face of this earth. Mr. Gimble, played on so many number one hits for George Strait, Merle Haggard, Ray Price, Willie Nelson and the list goes on. Also played fiddle for Bob Wills and his Texas playboys. I never thought in a million years — just doing what I love to do playing my fiddle that things would ever go this far. God is good.”

A few of Varnado’s music industry friends are set to attend the induction ceremony including Grammy award winning county-Cajun artist Joel Sonnier, award wining country singer Mark Chesnutt, songwriter Don Rollins who wrote “It’s 5 ‘O’Clock Somewhere” for Alan Jackson as well as hit songs for Randy Travis, Reba McEntire and Ronnie Milsap. Also scheduled to attend is Don Meehan who coproduced and engineered Bob Dylan’s album “Desire” and coproduced and engineered Barbara Streisand, George Jones and James Taylor’s “Bartenders Blues.” Jeffrey Jones, the son of legendary musician George Jones, will also be at the event representing his family.

The late Johnny Gimble, left, and David Varnado in 1998. Gimble was a master fiddle player and teacher to Varnado, who was recently awarded the “Johnny Gimble Fiddle” award from the Country Music Association of Texas.
Courtesy photo

Tom Neal, director of the Museum of the Gulf Coast, explained why Varnado was chosen by the historical board for inclusion.

“David has been a musician for most of his life and if you look at his accolades — he’s been working with some of the top people in the music industry,” Neal said. “His accolades are quite amazing and we felt like he needed to be represented properly.”

Neal called Varnado impressive.

“When people meet David they realize he’s a talented and gifted musician and we’re glad to be able to include him in the music exhibit.”