Back on May 22nd, I told you about my young friend Michael Richardson who is a fifteen-year-old guitar player here in the Dallas area.
I explained that Michael had entered a bluegrass flat picking competition in Houston. That contest, "Fire on the Strings," was intended to select the representative who would go from Texas to the National Flat Pick Championship in Kansas. Michael came in second but, because the winner had already secured one of the forty slots to the national championship, that man offered his new slot to Michael.
This past weekend, Michael traveled with his mother and grandmother to Kansas to participate in the Nationals, which took place on Saturday.
Michael is the son of my friend, Julie, and unusual in many respects. First, he's biracial; Julie is Anglo and his father, Charles, is African American.
Michael was the only African-American contestant in the competition.
Michael's cultural heritage is as mixed as his race. His mother comes from Kentucky where her entire family is engaged in musical pursuits of one sort or another. His father, Charles, in addition to teaching high school, owns his own framing shop. Because they are devotedly Christian, the shop is called Inspiration.
Julie tells the story that, when Michael was about five months old and wandering around in a walker, her older brother was visiting. He was sitting on the couch with a guitar across his knees. He started tuning the guitar, and Michael, who had been engaged in watching his cousins, came flying across the room. He sat in front
of his uncle and stared fixedly as the man tuned the guitar. Julie dates Michael's becoming a musician from that moment.
Michael's uncle gave him a ukulele when he was two and a mandolin when he was five. When Michael was six, he appeared on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry and won a couple of hundred dollars in a competition for children.
Despite the fact that Michael identifies himself as African-American, he shows no interest in the music his peers play. His entire focus since early childhood has been bluegrass.
Michael was the only African-American in the competition. It didn't faze him.
I'm thrilled to report that fifteen-year-old Michael won fourth place in a field of forty of the top bluegrass musicians in the country! He beat out the man who had won the Texas competition in which Michael came in second.
Remember the name Michael Richardson. I promise you'll hear it again. This kid hasn't even begun to scratch the surface of his potential.