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Fiddlers Violet Hensley, Randall Franks Chronicle 10 Decades

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Whittlin' and Fiddldin' My Own WayCo-authors Violet Hensley and Randall Franks debuted the new book with opening weekend signings in Branson, Mo. and Nashville, Tenn. “Whittlin’ and Fiddlin’ My Own Way: The Violet Hensley Story” reflects nearly a century of experiences through the eyes of Silver Dollar City personality Violet Hensley.

“I never thought I would be writing about my life, my music and my fiddle makin’,” she said. “I could have never dreamed coming from a farm in the backwoods of Arkansas that the things I learned on that farm would make me a TV personality and gain me fame around the world.”

The Arkansas Living Treasure Award winner from Yellville, Arkansas learned to fiddle in 1928 and make fiddles watching her father George W. Brumley in the community of Alamo, Arkansas in 1932. She is now entertaining Silver Dollar City visitors for her 47th year and will appear through Oct. 26. She will mark her 98th birthday during the final week of the National Cowboy and Harvest Festival at Silver Dollar City.

Hensley joined in a three-year effort with award-winning journalist and author Randall Franks, “Officer Randy Goode,” from TV’s “In the Heat of the Night,” to complete her memoir. While Hensley greeted fans and signed books at Silver Dollar City Sept. 27 and 28, Franks did the same at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, Tenn. as he served as Grand Master Fiddler Championship celebrity host. Franks, is an International Bluegrass Music Museum Legend and champion fiddler who performed with numerous legends including Bill Monroe and Jim and Jesse and guest starred for the Grand Ole Opry for many years.

Book coverFranks notes, “It was an amazing experience to work with Violet weekly to refine the experiences from her life and compile a book which not only reflects what many rural families endured in America in the 20th century but what was most unique about Violet as she grew artistically, to find folk music stardom at nearly 50.” He said Hensley raised a family of nine with her late husband Adren while he moved the family from town to town and state to state.

“With the advent of the folk music revival, Violet’s blossoming musical and fiddle-making talents, caught the attention of Grammy ® winner Jimmy Driftwood and the owners of Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri,” Franks said. “She joined the crafter’s cast at Silver Dollar City in 1967, becoming part of the City’s celebrities who used radio, television, and newspapers to invite visitors to the amusement park.”

Peter Herschend, Herschend Family Entertainment co-founder and owner, said Violet is one of the City’s most unique citizens. “In the early years of Silver Dollar City, Violet, Don Richardson and I, along with an interesting assortment of the City’s colorful characters, would spend weeks on the road together…all devoted to promoting SDC,” he said. “I came to know Violet for the amazing wonderful woman that she is. She would amaze us with stories of field plowing with her mules. Then a new Violet would seem to appear when she would sit for an interview with some grizzled reporter (reporters who probably didn’t believe she was real), and she would proceed to win them over with her charm, her skills as an artist, and her talent as a musician.’

Sharing her talents in front of millions, Hensley became one of the first woman fiddlers to reach a large international audience appearing at the Smithsonian’s Festival of American Folklife, festivals, colleges, and on countless local, regional and national television and radio shows such as “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “Captain Kangaroo,” and “Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee.” according to Franks.

“I hope folks will enjoy getting a glimpse at what my near century on this world has been,” she said. “It’s been a hoot so far and what’s even better is while the book is written – the story continues. I hope folks will join me for what is yet to come, they can start by reading the book.”

The 258-page soft cover book from Peach Picked Publishing includes 145 photos and is available for $20 plus shipping. For more information about the book, visit http://violethensley.com, http://randallfranks.com/, or order it through fine booksellers everywhere. The book can also be liked on Facebook.

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