Fiddlin’ Bob Douglas‘ of Rhea County, TN was a celebrated musician in the lower end of the Cumberland Trail corridor for over eight decades. He began his musical career as the guitar accompanist for his father, fiddler Tom Douglas, and the two played for local square dances throughout the Sequatchie Valley region and along the Cumberland Plateau. After watching his father, Douglas taught himself to play fiddle and landed a job on the first radio station in Chattanooga.
Douglas won several important fiddle contests, beating out professional players such as Clayton McMichen and Bert Layne, of the well-known old time band, Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers, at the All-Southern Convention in Chattanooga. When Douglas became a band leader, he hired the two young brothers from Sand Mountain, TN, Ira and Charlie Loudermilk, who became better known as the Louvin Brothers.
Unlike other early country musicians on local radio, Bob Douglas chose to remain a semi-professional in the Chattanooga area rather than tour and turn professional. He kept his factory job, but played continuously for regional dances, radio programs, and social performances. In 1975 he was invited to participate in a National Fiddle Contest sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Douglas won the contest along with his long time partner, guitarist Ray “Georgia Boy” Brown, of Dunlap, Tennessee.
In 2000, Douglas became the first 100-year-old fiddler to play on the Grand Ole Opry. He died at age 101 in 2001.