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The circle closes for the members of Sister Sadie at the Smithville Fiddlers 2024

The circle closes for the members of Sister Sadie at the Smithville Fiddlers 2024

The Smithville Jamboree Committee presents the 2024 Blue Blaze Award
to Sister Sadie – Photo courtesy of Dwayne Page/WJLE Radio

Two members of the Grammy-nominated bluegrass band Sister Sadie have their roots firmly planted in the Smithville Fiddlers’ Jamboree. Fiddle sensation Deanie Richardson and talented singer/guitarist Jaelee Roberts of the all-female troupe spent their Independence Day weekend at the Jamboree as children.

“I remember coming here probably as a 10-year-old,” Richardson said before taking the stage Saturday night (July 6). “Frazier Moss used to hang out across the courthouse by the tree over there. I have fond memories of jamming with him under the tree and him teaching me songs. My brother is a dancer, so they would always go to the little concrete area over there by the courthouse and I would fiddle for them all day in the heat. I met so many lifelong friends that I still play music with, talk to and enjoy spending time with here in this place.”

The violin star also played at the Jamboree together with mandolin player Danny Roberts from the famous Grascals.

“I was a member of the band that Jaelee’s father was in, New Tradition, and we competed in band competitions,” says Richardson. “We came here and each of us competed in our own category. It was such a great time.”

The founding member of Sister Sadie says winning the Beginner Musician Award is probably her most vivid memory.

“I entered mandolin and fiddle that year. It was the first year that there was a national novice championship. We all wanted that title, so it was a big deal. Winning the title earned me my first gig at the Grand Ole Opry. That was my big break!”

Later, when Richardson became a teacher, she began bringing her students to the Jamboree. Many of her students, like Ivy Phillips, took home the same coveted award Richardson first earned: the Beginner Musician Award. Last weekend, her student, fiddler Ella Derby of Franklin, Tennessee, won the national championship for country music beginners. Richardson, who had played with Derby earlier in the day before playing with Sister Sadie in the evening, invited Derby to join Sister Sadie onstage to perform the final song of the set with the IBMA Entertainers of the Year. After the show, the band was presented with the Jamboree’s 2024 Blue Blaze Award for helping to keep the embers of bluegrass music burning for future generations.

Jaelee Roberts of Sister Sadie is one of the newer members of the group. The multi-talented singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist is part of the future bluegrass generation, but already has plenty of experience performing as a kid in the summer.

“I came here when I was about eight or nine,” Roberts said. “I competed in buckdance competitions. I was on the square dance team. We had the best time. There was one year, I think I was 11 or 12, I took a place in fiddle, guitar, mandolin and vocals, the gospel duo sang. Our square dance team took a place and I took a place in clogging.”

“Jamming here is so much fun. We jam offstage too. Being here is almost like a family reunion, especially now. Coming back and seeing everyone I’ve been with forever is the best!”

Roberts fondly remembers the family atmosphere of the Jamboree.

“It just feels like you’re competing with your friends and family, not against them. You don’t care if you don’t win, because when you see your friends win, you’re just as excited as if you had won. That’s one thing I love about it. I’ve always said that a musical family is like a real family because they’re always there. You have these deep friendships and connections forever.”

Roberts played with her father’s band on the Jamboree stage in 2016 when Danny Roberts received the Blue Blaze Award. Jaelee was 15 at the time.

“I had never played violin in a band before. I had practiced with Dad for a whole hour. He had booked all these great, amazing musicians for that day and for that performance when he received the award. I was so excited because I got to play in a real band with Dad and Mom was playing. It was the best and I remember how nervous I was. But it was so exciting!”

“Dad’s past is so deeply rooted here too. He would go to the competitions and support all the fiddle players, especially Deanie. He always supported Deanie. It’s a really crazy full circle moment because now I’m here playing in a band with Deanie and Deanie was one of my teachers too.”

“I haven’t been able to be in Smithville for the last few years, and when I walked in, I immediately saw a lot of people I hadn’t seen in a long time,” Roberts says. “We’ve kept going like we never stopped. It’s just great. I love Smithville and I love being here.”

Previous Blue Blaze Award winners include Darin Vincent of Dailey & Vincent, Sierra Hull, Ronnie Reno, Michael Cleveland, The Kody Norris Show and the Tennessee Mafia Jug Band.