Ramblin' Rhodes: Fiddler to bring new music to Oka'Chaffa Indian Festival

One of the new offerings of the second annual Oka’Chaffa Indian Festival will be fiddler and violinist Arvel Bird, who has toured with several country stars including Glen Campbell, Loretta Lynn, Louise Mandrell and Ray Price.


Bird, a native of Boise, Idaho, and whose heritage is Scottish and Paiute Indian, will perform the two days of the festival. It takes place 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10, at Phinizy Swamp Nature Park near Bush Field Airport.

Admission is $12 for adults, $6 for children 6 through 12 and free for kids 5 and younger.

More than 7,000 people attended last year’s festival co-organized by the Southeastern Natural Sciences Academy at Phinizy Swamp and Rolling Thunder Enterprises in Jasper, Ga., headed by part-Cherokee Chippa Wolfe.

Other offerings include Native American dance and drum competitions, the buffalo Thunder, swamp life expert Okefenokee Joe, Birds of Prey demonstrations, the Aztec Dance Company, story tellers and a Tipi village.

As a prelude to the event, the William G. Hatcher Sr. Native American Symposium will be presented free 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1, in the second floor auditorium of the Augusta Museum of History.

Assistant professors Thomas Jennings and Ashley Smallwood, of the University of West Georgia, will talk about the Southeastern Clovis Indians.

When Arvel Bird performs classical-themed and Celtic music, he is referred to as a violinist, but when he performs Appalachian-themed, American Indian-influenced and bluegrass music, he is described as a fiddler.

It’s all a matter of the listener’s point of view, notes Bird, whose newest six-song CD is titled The Indian In Me even though some Indians prefer the term Native Americans.

“I’ve heard it go both ways,” Bird said in a call earlier this week. “Really, most Native American people want to be called by their nation.

“If a school girl asks, ‘Are you a real Indian?’ I prefer to say that I’m a real descendant of the Paiute tribe.”

Bird said there are offensive words Native Americans have tolerated when other races do not put up with similar derogatory terms.

“One of the biggest examples is the Washington Redskins (football team), especially if you knew where the term ‘red skins’ came from,” Bird said. “The name Atlanta Braves is not nearly as derogatory.”

Bird began studying classical violin at the age of 9 after his family moved to Salt Lake City.

He attended Arizona State University on a music scholarship and later transferred to the University of Illinois at Champagne/Urbana, where he studied classical violin with a Hungarian violinist.

“When you think of classical music, you think of sheet music with everybody reading the same music and playing together,” Bird observed. “You need that structure for a large group, but to me that wasn’t music.

“I had seen bluegrass and Appalachian fiddlers playing and they weren’t reading music. I wanted to do that too and play freely and have it come from my heart rather than a sheet of paper.”

Bird lists bluegrass music fiddlers Vassar Clements, Kenny Baker, Bobby Hicks and Chubby Wise among those who really inspired him.

One of Bird’s big breaks was a result of going through a period of bad luck.

He had been living in Fort Wayne, Ind., for eight years when the economy took a downturn. He had married and had a new baby and was going through tough times even though Fort Wayne was where he had formed his first band and made his first album.

So in 1986 he decided to return to Arizona where his parents were living. He was going to give up music as a profession and go into accounting with his father.

He started playing with a country band, and they won the Marlboro cigarette-sponsored state competition for Arizona.

That led to his touring with country star Glen Campbell for six years, which prompted a move to Nashville in 1991 and tours with other country music stars.

In all, Bird has released 20 CDs and two DVDs ranging from his classical Tribal Music Suite: Journey of a Paiute, a Celtic and Native American to his most recent CD Titanic Centennial: Commemorative Special Edition, honoring the victims and survivors of the Titanic ship sinking.

He especially was intrigued to learn that a victim of that 1912 sinking, U.S. Army Maj. Archibald Butt, has a bridge named for him in Augusta. Bird hopes to get to see it during his two days at the Oka’Chaffa Indian Festival.


GOODFELLERS IN TOWN: Nashville-based country-rocker Anthony Orio and his band The Goodfellers will perform at 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1, at the Country Club Dance Hall & Saloon in Augusta.

Cover is $3 women and $5 men after 8:30 p.m.

Orio and The Goodfellers have been named the Best Local Band by The Tennessean daily newspaper for two consecutive years.

Orio, reared in Philadelphia, moved to Nashville in 2000. His second CD, Between Home & The Bright Lights, was released in 2012.

“George Strait was my earliest influence and then I branched into other country acts as Garth Brooks and Alabama. I also used to listen to classic rock such as Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones,” Orio has said.


MILITARY INVITED TO SEE TIM MCGRAW: Active-duty military members from any base (including Fort Gordon) with valid ID and their families can attend a concert country music superstar Tim McGraw is performing on Sunday, Nov 10, at U.S. Naval Station Mayport near Jacksonville, Fla., to celebrate Veterans Day.

The concert will be broadcast live on the Pentagon Channel and online at TimMcgraw.com and www.youtube.com/user/
timmcgraw starting at 8:45 p.m.

McGraw and Chase, the U.S. consumer and commercial banking business of JPMorgan Chase & Co. have partnered for more than a year to create the HomeFront program awarding more than 70 mortgage-free homes to wounded warriors and military members in need.


MARKING 43RD ANNIVER­SARY: This column marks the 43rd anniversary of my Ramblin’ Rhodes weekly music column, which had its debut in the Saturday afternoon edition of the Savannah (Ga.) Evening Press on Oct. 31, 1970.

Once again, dear readers, thank you for being along on this remarkable journalistic journey and for sharing your lives and passion for music with me.



• 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 7, David Donehoo and the HIT String Band playing mountain music, Lincoln County Historical Park, 147 Lumber St., Lincolnton, Ga.;

• 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band with Yungchen Lhamo, Imperial Theatre;

• 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 8, B.J. Thomas, Newberry Opera House;

• 11:30 a.m.- 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, Sixth Annual Eryn Eubanks & The Family Fold Music Festival, Kroc Center, 1833 Broad St.;

• 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, Blue Highway with Sierra Hull, Imperial Theatre;

• 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23, Pioneer Day, Lincoln County Historical Park, 147 Lumber St., Lincolnton, Ga.



WHAT: William G. Hatcher Sr. Native American Symposium

WHEN: 5 p.m.-6:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 1

WHERE: Augusta Museum of History, Sixth at Reynolds streets; second floor auditorium; free



WHAT: Second Annual Oka’Chaffa Indian Festival

WHEN: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 9, and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 10

WHERE: Phinizy Swamp Nature Park near Bush Field Airport

ADMISSION: $12 for adults, $6 for children 6 through 12 and free for kids 5 and younger. For coupons worth $2 off adult, $1 children, go to google.com and type “Oka’Chaffa Festival, coupon” and use link. All military veterans and active-duty military with identification will be admitted free on Sunday, Nov. 10.