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15-year-old local fiddler opens for Merle Haggard 

Amaya Rose

Local girl Amaya Rose opens for Merle Haggard.

Amaya Rose plays with country music icon

By Benford Standley

Amaya Rose, Paso Robles’ own 15-year-old, singer/songwriter, fiddle player and real cowgirl, just made a huge career step when she opened Tuesday night for the legendary Merle Haggard and his historic band The Strangers at The Canyon Club just outside of Los Angeles to a sellout audience.

Haggard was recently presented with Country Music Television’s “Artist of a Lifetime” award and honored with a Kennedy Center Award. He has racked up 40 number one songs, been inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, and has received about every other award that is available to a icon in his half century career.

Merle Haggard

Merle Haggard performing in Los Angeles Tuesday night.

Not only did Rose open Haggard’s show, but after her set, she brought out his legendary band The Strangers, who then backed her on the old fiddle tune “Soppin’ the Gravy.” This specific tune was at the request of Haggard, who had first heard Rose play fiddle seven months ago. At that very first meeting where she knocked his boots off seeing this young cowgirl play classic country fiddle music.

Haggard recalls, “When I first met her she played an old classic very well, then I thought I would test her, and asked ‘Do you know anything older?'” Haggard said. “I’ll be darn if she didn’t play “Soppin’ the Gravy” that old old fiddle classic that Bob Wills played …heck my band did not know it, and I told them to play it anyway.”

Back in Bakersfield when Haggard was 16 years old, the music icon Lefty Frizzell let Merle go out and play with his band, now Haggard returns the favor in the same fashion to a young cowgirl from the Central Coast of California.

Rose opened the show accompanied by country songwriter/entertainer Travis Howard, who wrote a bucket load of hit songs for the country super star Miranda Lambert, plays guitar in Kix Brooks’ band (of Brooks and Dunn fame), works with Dierks Bentley, when not doing film work in LA and between his songwriter shows in Vegas and Nashville.

Howard has played the historic Pine Street Saloon in Paso Robles a couple of times with his LA country band, and loves coming to cowboy wine country of Central Coast of California, and might catch him there again in 2015, where I am sure Amaya will join Travis and band for a reunion.

Amaya Rose on the fiddle

Amaya Rose on the fiddle.

Rose played fiddle and guitar joined by Howard playing guitar and mandolin on songs like “I Want to Be a Cowboy Sweetheart” by Patsy Montana, Marty Robbin’s “Big Iron”, a Bob Wills fiddle medley, Patsy Cline’s “Walking After Midnight, a Emmylou Harris version of “Hickory Wind” and her own penned song “Yodeling Cowgirl” a very haunting song with a yodel that brought applause from the audience. Then with grace and precision, Rose brought out one of the most famous bands in country music The Strangers, which included the famous steel player Norm Hamlin and Haggard’s youngest son Ben Haggard.

Rose is headed into the studio over the next two months to record a CD and release a series of singles on iTunes of her songs and covers in her “Americana Roots/Country and Western” style music, including a favorite Merle Haggard and Jimmie Rodgers song.

Since she was 12-years-old Rose has been playing fiddle in a Central Coast California favorite country band Monte Mills and the Lucky Horseshoe Band. In 2015 you will still see her playing fiddle in the Lucky Horseshoe Band, doing her single act around the Central Coast and some opening slots in some big names acts that are now in the planning stages.

At two and a half, Rose became first enthralled with her dad’s cheap Chinese violin that usually lived under the couch. Whenever he would take it out and attempt “Twinkle Little Star” she would become excited and pluck the strings. Noticing her interest in music, her parents took her to several lessons, but seems she was too young to focus. Then at five years old she took piano, but did not feel the same connection as with the violin. At six and a half she decided to try her hand at the violin again and has been at it ever since.

For the past few years she has been winning state and national fiddle contests including at the 2012 Annual Old Time Fiddler’s Contest in Goleta, California she won the Frank Javorsek Outstanding Young Musician Award. In 2013 and 2014 she won 1st in the intermediate fiddle at the big Topanga Banjo and Fiddle Contest, where she also won first in the Open Juke Box Division singing, playing the guitar and the fiddle. In 2014 she won 2nd in the fiddle division, and 1st in the Anything Goes Division, with her singing and guitar. In the 2014 Western Open Fiddle Championship (includes all the Western USA) she took 2nd place in the Junior Division and 2nd Place in the Waltz Contest.

When Rose isn’t doing music she is taking care of her horse Katrina on the Dempsey family ranch, where she lives with her dad Jim Dempsey, who rebuilds old classic cars, and her mother Teri Dempsey, who is a artist and painter, and helps run her around to her lessons. She’s real cowgirl and has won many contest with her prize bantam chickens, raising her homing pigeons, helping around the ranch and taking care of her horse and three Dachshund dogs.

Author Benford Standley manages Amaya Rose.