‘Fingerless’: Ingenuity & Skill to the Tune of a Texas Fiddle

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For some, making music is a love and passion that can be stopped by no obstacle. Roy Thackerson, “The Fingerless Fiddler” from Ranger, Texas, is one of those determined individuals. At the age of six in 1944, growing up in Cisco, young Roy came across a dynamite cap. Taking it out to the back alley, he lit it with a match and the resulting explosion destroyed his left eye and took off the majority of each finger on his left hand.

Roy’s parents and brothers all played musical instruments – fiddles or guitars or both. Roy became just as determined to play as well, and with much patience, he learned how to pick a guitar dobro-style. This led to playing in area bands, and in 1968, he saw a notice for a fiddling contest at the De Leon Peach and Melon Festival. With a friend’s assistance, he devised what he called a “gut strap,” which was a belt-like device that circled his waist, with a vertical wooden bar attached to it in order to hold up his fiddle. Allowing him to fret it from over the top, Roy learned how to play, and soon enough he was amazing audiences at fiddle contests and bluegrass festivals throughout Texas. In 2012, David Gibson completed a documentary piece entitled “Fingerless” on Roy for submission in the Unofficial Google+ Film Festival, part one of which is available here to view:

Roy played on the Grand Ole Opry two to three times per year from 1979 to 1991, as a guest of Roy Acuff. Continuing to play, notices for Roy’s performances have been posted on social media and on event main pages online up through December of 2016. Links for his music library can also be found through a search, and his talent and skill, not to mention his personable demeanor, has brought such enjoyment to his audiences that, nine times out of ten, they overlooked the fact that his fingers were lacking. Gibson’s video work and film festival submission is a true eye opener to what real Texas determination looks like, and Thackerson most definitely knows how it sounds.