Goose Culbreath and the Cortez Grand Old Opry


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Cortez is a small commercial fishing village in Manatee County, Florida. The village itself is no larger than 10 blocks, yet their annual commercial fishing festival draws crowds numbering in the thousands. Despite its size, Cortez boasts a wealth of culture, including some fine traditional music.

Fishermen hauling in the nets - Cortez, Florida

Fishermen hauling in the nets – Cortez, Florida

The Culbreath family moved to Cortez in 1921, and quickly became known for their musical talents. Julian “Goose” Culbreath and two of his brothers learned how to play the fiddle from their father James, a prize-winning contest fiddler, who learned from his father before him. The extended family gathered each week for a Sunday morning jam session, and the Culbreath household became known as the Cortez Grand Old Opry among the villagers.

In addition to their in-house performances, they played square dances in Cortez and neighboring towns, and even held their own radio show, “Country Cracker Jubilee,” on WDHL in Bradenton. The Culbreaths also appeared almost every year at the Florida Folk Festival from 1987 until Goose Culbreath’s death in 2003, and were favorites at the Cortez Commercial Fishing Festival.

Goose Culbreath, old-time fiddler, performing at the 1992 Florida Folk Festival - White Springs, Florida

Goose Culbreath, old-time fiddler, performing at the 1992 Florida Folk Festival – White Springs, Florida

While traditional southern fiddle tunes such as the “Orange Blossom Special” or “Arkansas Traveler” were a large part of his repertoire, Goose was well known for his trick fiddling techniques. These included bowing the fiddle with no hair, or wrapping the bow hair around the fiddle, as illustrated on “Back Up and Push.” The Culbreath family also kept the tradition of “beating the straws” or “fiddlesticks” alive, with a family member tapping out rhythm on the fiddle with sticks while Goose played “Granny Will Your Dog Bite” or “Old Joe Clark.”

Fiddler Julian "Goose" Culbreath and family performing at the 1989 Florida Folk Festival - White Springs, Florida

Fiddler Julian “Goose” Culbreath and family performing at the 1989 Florida Folk Festival – White Springs, Florida

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4 thoughts on “Goose Culbreath and the Cortez Grand Old Opry

  1. Thank you for recording Daddy’s music. He played me to sleep each night. He was such a good daddy. Loved to go with him to the festival at White Springs, Florida. He loved it too. Every person he met was a treasure to him,and the Florida Folk Art Festival was full of new friends.

  2. What a wonderful group they were and had the hearts of gold.Sure do miss them . Goose was the best fiddler and he enjoyed entertaining people

  3. Uncle Goose was my Uncle and I am and all my Family was so proud to have him a part of the Family!Ella Winolee Carver Furtney!

  4. I met Goose in the early 90’s through his son Jake. His fiddling was and still is the best I’ve have heard. His grandson has followed in his footsteps into music too. Check out Duane Allison in One Night Rodeo.

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