MELFORT — Scott Woods and the Scott Woods Band are coming to Melfort to set the boards alight with toe-tapping old-time fiddle music.
The famous group and fiddle legend himself will hit the stage at the Melfort United Church Saturday, May 18 at 7 pm for one night only.
Woods, who studied classical violin from age four, is a multitalented instrumentalist.
Playing drums, bass, piano, guitar, saxophone and clarinet, Scott is a multiple winner of the Canadian Open Fiddle Contest, the Canadian Grand Masters Fiddling Championships and a Canadian Fiddle Entertainer of the Year.
Known affectionately as the “Flippin’ Fiddler”, Woods earned the nickname – and notoriety – from his signature trick fiddling routine doing somersaults and walking on a barrel all the while, playing nonstop.
Taking time out of his extensive touring schedule to talk to Yorkton This Week about an performance in Yorkton the day before he comes to Melfort, Scott gave a sneak preview of what to expect, as well as some fun stories from throughout his storied career.
“I started playing violin when I was four. I was the youngest of four kids,” Woods said.
“I couldn’t wait to join the rest of the family because Dad played fiddle, and his dad played fiddle.
“It goes back three or four generations on my dad’s side; and my mom’s side, her grandfather was a quite a well known fiddler that goes back five or six generations.
“In fact, mom and dad met because dad had an old time dance orchestra and in 1956, they needed a new piano player.
“He hired my mom as a young teenager and had to call my grandmother and ask permission for my mom to go and be able to play music with this band.
“Four or five years later, they got married and four kids came along, so we all joined the family band.
“Growing up, we all studied classical violin and piano because my parents knew the technique of legit classical music was so critical to be able to play well. To play in time, and play in tune. That was so important to them.
“Then, as a reward for practicing scales and studies and that sort of stuff that otherwise might be boring to a four or five year old starting out, dad would teach us fiddle tunes,in the style of Don Messer.
“They always had Don Messer’s radio programs on first, and then his television program. That’s pretty much the same for most fiddlers across the country.
“They’d say, ‘I learned this tune off of Don Messer’s fiddle program, and I think you should play this one,’ so it was a lot of fun to learn in the old style.”
This year, Scott promises, is an exciting, fresh show with a bevy of talented musicians with faces both familiar and new.
“This show, this year, is a brand new show. It’s called ‘Fiddlin’ Around’.”
“Each year, we travel across the country. Our fans are very loyal, so I always try very, very hard to make sure they see something significantly different than what they saw last time,” Woods explains.
“So, ‘Fiddlin’ Around’ is a fun show; it is a show that is kind of tongue in cheek in a lot of cases. We have a lot of silly stuff that happens, we’ve got some costumes, my sister does a little mini rural comedy routine, and there’s lots of corny jokes in the show anyways. We have some things that happen, without giving away too much of the show -- you don’t want to spoil it! -- but there are some really fun aspects to the show.
“There are times we bring it right down and be serious. We talk about bullying and some of the current, relevant issues in today’s society with respect to the traditional country -- how some of these songs, Coat of Many Colours, is an example [of that], from Dolly Parton of years ago.
“It’s a show that has a real variety, and you don’t have to be a fiddle fan or a country music fan.
“So, we’ve got myself and my sister Kendra. She plays twin fiddles with me, and there’s five of us altogether.
Woods is quick to share the spotlight with his fellow musicians, all incredibly accomplished in their own right.
“Kendra also plays piano and covers the bass, for parts of the show with the left hand on the piano and we have Steve Piticco playing the lead guitar.
“Now, Steve, is known as the ‘Telecaster Master’. He’s hung out with people like Merle Haggard, and he’s backed up Dolly Parton, and he’s backed up, over the years, Gene Watson. Learned from the best. He’s been on the road since he was 15 years old playing music professionally, so he’s just a real pro.
“And then we have young Leo Stock. Leo is 14 years old, and he is a great fiddler – a champion fiddler, a great singer. He’s also known as good ol’ “Spaghetti Legs” because he is a champion step dancer. Ottawa Valley style step dancing! So he puts on his dancin’ boots and comes out front, and shows us some of his fancy footwork a few times through the show. He is a true entertainer.
“And this year, we’ve added Naomi Bristow, and Naomi is Canada’s Yodelin’ Cowgirl. She is only 21 years old, but she’s got ten CDs to her credit already. She’s recorded with Vince Gill and and some of the big national stars, and is a regular on RFD-TV down in Nashville, and was on Canada’s Got Talent, one of the finalists there. She’s just a real, seasoned pro. It’s a real treat to have her on the stage and she’s just a real sweetheart.”
Woods is also known for his trademark physicality.
“I always seem to get asked if I’m still doing the trick fiddling,” he chuckles, “or if I’m too old to do it, and I am not too old yet! Haven’t eaten too many cookies, but sometimes the church ladies have a little reception for us and we’ll have some cookies, tarts, a piece of pie or something in. As much as I like that stuff I generally say no, and the reason for that is I’ll have to do a somersault the next day.
“I play behind my back, and under my legs, and I do a front running somersault. That’s where I got the name ‘The Flippin’ fiddler’. Then I’m going to walk on a barrel and play ‘Roll Out The Barrel.’ I’ve been doing it since I was about 10 or 11 years old, and it’s just kind of a fun spot of the show and one of the few carryovers from each year. We always do some trick fiddling.
“The routine changes sometimes from year to year, but the concept of doing the trick fiddling is at the end of the show.
Asked how one would start training for a physical regiment of trick fiddling, Woods chuckles.
“Well, see, years ago, in the fiddle contest circuit, I mean everything was fiddling, right? But the guys took it very seriously. Rudy Meeks, Graham Townsend, and Marty Moore and those guys were competing against each other. They hated each other’s guts when they were on the stage!
“Now, mind you, they’d go out and they would jam, and play tunes and have a drink and have fun together, but they really took it seriously to be known as the Canadian Fiddle Champion. It was a big deal. So, to try and break some of that tension in the contest part, the organizers of some of the competitions would come up with this idea of, ‘Well, we’ll just throw the rulebook away, and all the trick and fancy and novelty fiddling, you can do pretty much whatever you want.’ So, Al Turney, and King Ganam, and Sleepy Marlin used to come up from the US and do some tricks with his fiddle, all these guys. So, I just kind of watched them and learned and copied a lot of their stuff. I added the barrel, and I added the front running somersault, but some of them did some different tricks. They’d throw their bow up in the air and catch it. They would turn the fiddle upside down and play it. Or they would play it on their head or some darned thing.
“I did do a handstand, or, a headstand, really. I’d have to have somebody hold my feet up, because I couldn’t put my hands down because I need them to play the fiddle. It’s just silly stuff that you come up with.”
“Now, we’re touring all across Canada, and we’re often in the States. We had a run in the southern U.S. earlier this year. Quite often we do a fair bit in the midwestern US; the Dakotas, Minnesota, Colorado, Illinois, those places. The last two years we’ve been going to Europe as well. We’re kind of taking Canadian fiddle music and spreading it around the world as much as we can.
“The main thing about the show is we try and build it so it’s a show for the entire family. You don’t have to be a fiddle fan or a country music fan. It’s like a Vegas show. We put many smoke and mirrors and lights because, you know, it’s a travelling show – set up and tear down every day to a different venue, but it’s a big production, too.
“We have a big backdrop that we put up, pipe and drapes, and we have GoPro cameras up on stage [with a] live feed, and there’s visual images as well. It’s quite a big looking production.
“But it’s general, variety show entertainment. Anybody could come, and we get lots of compliments from people who say, ‘You know, I heard it was a fiddle show and I didn’t really want to go, because I don’t really like fiddle music. But I came because somebody bugged me and I said okay, and I came – and I really loved it.’
Scott Woods and the Scott Woods Band will perform at the Melfort United Church on May 18 at 7 pm.