The Contest

Sara (the guitar) with the third place trophy
Sara poses with her third place trophy from the National Thumbpicking Guitar Contest

“It’s Merle Travis weekend,” I overheard from the breakfast table next to mine. “They have a contest out at the Folk Center today.”

And there I was. The night before, while listening to Comer “Moon” Mullins play from the stage in the music auditorium at the Ozark Folk Center, I had my first real “What am I doing here?” moment. Listening to Moon, Ben Hall, and Eddie and Martha Adcock, and thinking about the people who had played from that stage over the years, it was a little overwhelming to think that I’d walk out there with Sara, sit in that same spot and play.

In case you don’t know, Sara is my main go-to guitar. We’d been together for several years before Debbie and I met.

However, many of the goals for the trip had been accomplished before ever setting foot on the auditorium stage. I experienced and participated in the musical fellowship in Mountain View. I met other folks who play and enjoy thumbstyle guitar music, and I made several new friends. I moved a little deeper into the community of thumbpicking guitar.

That, for me, is what the National Thumbpicking Guitar Contest is all about. It’s a good reason to get people together who love and play this style of music, who share an appreciation for the great pickers who have gone before. Contestants get to support one another and hear each other perform. The contest helps form and maintain the community.

Making finals was the competitive goal, and after achieving that, being able to bring home the third place trophy was gravy. I was honored to sit on the same stage and compete with some really fine pickers. They were all fabulous players and fabulous people. I can’t think of anyplace I would have rather been.

Below, I’ve included video clips of Randy Buckner from Springfield, Mo., who finished second, and Shannon Stine from Rossville, Mo., who took home top honors for the second straight year.

Randy Buckner

Randy is a top-notch picker who was blessed to have met and spent time with Merle Travis as a young man. When he sets out to play a Travis tune, he gets about as close as anyone to getting the Travis sound. Here’s a video of him from last year’s Home of the Legends contest playing I’ll See You in My Dreams.

Shannon Stine

Shannon took home the first place prize for the second consecutive year at Mountain View. She’s a student of Randy’s, so he must be doing a pretty good job. In the video below, she’s playing the classic Travis tune Nine Pound Hammer. Unfortunately, the video is a still image with audio, so you can only hear and not see how clean and smooth she plays.

2 thoughts on “The Contest

  1. Theda Shirley says:

    Just wanted to let you know, I really enjoyed your competition tunes. On Saturday night’s show I did a short set with Moon. He and I have performed together for many years; when we both lived in Mtn View; I lived there for 20 years — now have an apartment there and am there about half the time — spend the rest of my time in Vicksburg, MS where my son and daughter live. Mtn View still feels like my home; made my first visit to Mtn View in 1976 — haven’t missed a year coming since then. Moved there in 1987 — also, I love the thumbpicking style of guitar playing — so, I’m always there for that event — Sure hope continues!!

    1. Dean says:

      Theda, thank you so much! I enjoyed the set you did with Moon a whole lot. You and he seem to blend so naturally together. I saw you downtown after the concert on Saturday. I had joined the group playing on the porch of Mountain View Music and was hoping they could talk you into coming up and singing a song or two. It surely was a chilly evening, though.
      I hope the competition continues as well. One of the reasons I plan to keep competing is because I want to see this style of music preserved and carried forward. It does my heart good to see a young man like Ben Hall so proficient at such a young age. What a talent!
      I totally and completely fell in love with Mountain View and am already making plans to be back for Travis Weekend next year. I’ll look forward to seeing you, and I’ll make sure to come up and say hello.

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