The Oak Ridge Boys Bring Three Generations Together -- Golden Prodigy Adds New Dimension to Oaks' Family

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Thirteen-year-old fiddler Elizabeth Golden is a welcome guest and audience pleaser anytime she steps onstage with The Oak Ridge Boys. Elizabeth is a third generation member of The Oaks' Family. She is granddaughter of Oaks' vocalist William Lee Golden and daughter of Chris Golden, the group's drummer. Performing with an antique fiddle made in France in 1918 and handed down from her great-grandfather, Elizabeth is a natural onstage. Debuting in Chattanooga, TN, at the "Ozark Mountain Jubilee," she has since gone on to play at least four more shows with the group.

When the Oak Ridge Boys look out into the audience, they often see three generations of families all enjoying their music at the same time. Now when those same audiences watch the stage, they sometimes see three generations in The Oak Ridge family.

Thirteen-year-old fiddler Elizabeth Golden has started making occasional guest appearances with the group, becoming a sentimental highlight when she joins them. Elizabeth is the granddaughter of vocalist William Lee Golden and daughter of drummer Chris Golden. Her debut walk-on with the Oaks was in Chattanooga the day after Thanksgiving as three generations of Goldens all performed on “Ozark Mountain Jubilee.”

“It was so exciting,” Elizabeth says, recalling that first performance. “You get a little bit of butterflies whenever you get on stage, but after you start playing it comes naturally.”

“Naturally” is the right word because music is in her genes. In addition to her father and grandfather’s roles in the Oaks, her great-great-grandfather, Lee Rush Golden, played fiddle on a gospel radio show he hosted in Brewton, Alabama.

“That show is where my dad got his start,” Chris says, “going on Granddaddy Golden’s radio show playing ‘I Saw The Light’ and some of that stuff when he was just a kid.”

A fiddler also resides on the other side of the family tree. Elizabeth’s great-grandfather Elliot Normand was a Louisiana-bred Cajun who played dances and hootenannies. He used a fiddle made in France in 1918, near the end of World War I. The instrument was passed down to one of his daughters, who kept it under her bed. She in turn gave it to Chris, who also left it under his bed for years, until Elizabeth expressed an interest in playing.

“She never went through that screeching sound that a lot of fiddlers make when they’re first learning how to play the instrument,” Chris smiles. “She found her voice really early on.”

Elizabeth began playing at age 10 but quickly outgrew her beginner’s model. Chris took two fiddles to fiddler Fred Carpenter’s Violin Shop, where the client list includes Alison Krauss, Ricky Skaggs and Sam Bush. One of those fiddles would cost more to repair than it was worth. But the French family heirloom, they were told, “would be worth restoring for more than sentimental reasons,” Chris recalls.

Elizabeth affectionately named the instrument “Crawdad,” in honor of her great-grandfather’s Louisiana roots, and she used that restored hand-me-down in her fiddling debut with the Oaks. She’s since gone on to play at least four more shows with the group. She intends to continue that role as long as the tour schedule doesn’t interfere with school, where she’s proven her talent extends to multiple genres. She was one of 80 students from 350 schools selected for the Mid-State Orchestra’s violin section. Despite her clear abilities, she isn’t commiting to music just yet as her life’s vocation.

“I’m having fun with it right now,” Elizabeth says. “We’ll see what the future holds.”

For now, she’s a welcome guest and an audience pleaser anytime she steps onstage with The Oak Ridge Boys.

“I am so amazed at how she has excelled on the instrument,” William Lee says. “Thank God for kids—and grandkids, too!”

Photo Downloads: (all photos -
1) (William Lee Golden, Elizabeth Golden, Chris Golden)
2) (William Lee Golden, Elizabeth Golden, Chris Golden)
3) (Elizabeth Golden, Chris Golden and The Oak Ridge Boys)
[To download photos from Flickr links - select the photo and click the '"All Sizes" button above it. On the next page, choose the size you want to download.]


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Sanford Brokaw
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