Volume IX, No. 3, Spring 1982


More Old-Time Fiddle Tunes

[Web editor's note: This section refers to the vinyl record insert]

Out of the dozens of tunes each of the fiddlers played, we have selected a few of our favorites for Music of the Ozarks IV, "More Old-Time Fiddle Tunes." We did not include Jimmy Gage because he is on Music of the Ozarks III, "Old-Time Fiddlers," Vol. V, No. 2. The information about the tunes is written by Bill McNeil, folklorist at the Ozark Folklore Center at Mountain view, Arkansas. The selections were recorded in the musician's homes by Bittersweet staff using simple recording equipment.


Glenn Rickman, FiddleGordon McCann, Guitar"Tennessee Wagoner" is derived from an older tune called "Belle of Claremont Hornpipe." Fiddlin' John Carson (1868--1949) of Georgia was among the first to play the tune for a commercial recording.

"The Old Still House Is A-Burning Down" is unknown to me although it does sound familiar. Probably it is a local version of some more widely known piece but there is always the possibility that it is of local composition.

"Billy in the Low Ground," also known as "Billy in the Low Land," is of unknown origin. It is thought to derive from a Scottish reel known as "Braes of Auchentyre" and also as "Beaus of Albany." To my knowledge it was first printed in George P. Knauff's Virginia Reels (1839). It was widely recorded on commercial records issued in the 1920s. At least thirteen different versions were issued.

"Raccoon's Tail Is Ringed Ail Around," the tune is unknown to me but the verse spoken at the beginning of the recording is a "floating verse" (verse found in numerous songs and seemingly fitting all equally well) that is most often associated with "Boil Them Cabbage Down." This suggests that, like "Cabbage," the piece has some minstrel show or ante-bellum connections, or both.

"Blue Mule"--A tune that to my knowledge is only played by Missouri musicians where it is quite popular. Its origins are unknown although some authorities feel it is derived from the play-party song, "Skip To My Lou."
Art Galbraith, FiddleGordon McCann, Guitar"Beaumont Rag," of unknown origin, was first recorded on commercial records in 1928 by a Texas string band, Smith's Garage Fiddle Band. It is also known as "White River Stomp," the title used on a 1930 recording by Jack Cawley's Oklahoma Ridge Runners, a group from Stillwater, Oklahoma. Because of the word "rag" in the most common title for this tune, it is thought to date from the 1897--1917 era when ragtime was originally popular. It may, however, actually be an older tune predating the ragtime era by a number of years. Most audiences today associate the tune with Bob Wills who made a very popular recording in the late 1930s.

"Shamus O'Brien" was written in 1867 by William Shakespeare Hays who generally signed himself Will S. Hays. One of the most prolific songwriters of the nineteenth century, Hays published over 300 songs and is said to have sold twenty million copies which, if so, would easily make him the most popular songwriter of his day. Yet not one of Hays' many songs has really survived although some are still known by name. Hays knew nothing about music theory and reportedly boasted of his lack of knowledge. Certainly it didn't harm his ability to produce bestsellers. "Shamus O'Brien" was an "answer song" to "Nora O'Neal" (1866), also written by Hays. He was born in Louisville, Kentucky in July, 1837 and died in the same month in 1907.



Art Galbraith, FiddleGordon McCann, Guitar"Liberty," of uncertain origin, was recorded in 1928 by Gid Tanner's Skillet Lickers, a string band from North Georgia that was extremely popular during the 1920s and 1930s. Their recording undoubtedly had a great deal to do with spreading the popularity of this tune. Another tune by this name was reported by R. P. Christeson in The Old Time Fiddler's Repertory.

"Bill Cheatham"--Although this tune is of nineteenth century origin, much of its current popularity is due to its frequent performance by the late Arthur Smith, a Grand Ole Opry star of the 1930s and early 1940s.
Bob Holt, FiddleAlva Dooms, Guitar"Fort Smith"--This tune is also known as "Rabbit in the Grass" but this, its most popular name, is undoubtedly after Fort Smith, Arkansas, a town established in 1821. The composer is unknown but this piece has had widespread popularity in the Ozarks and has appeared on a number of commercial recordings. Probably the first recording was in 1928 by Luke Hignight's Ozark Strutters, a string band from Hot Springs, Arkansas.

"Hooker's Hornpipe"--The origin of this tune is unknown to me but it was recorded from Bob Walters, a Nebraska fiddler, by R. P. Christeson in 1949. Evidently it was another of the many hornpipes named in honor of someone and is not necessarily named after its composer. "Rickett's Hornpipe" and "Durang's Hornpipe" are other examples of this phenomenon.

"Fiddler's Waltz" was written by Benny Martin, a well known bluegrass fiddler who has performed with many of the big name bands. It is often associated with Howard "Big Howdy" Forrester, a fiddler who has for many years been a member of Roy Acuff's Smoky Mountain Boys.

"Cotton Patch Rag"--Although a tune by this title was written during the ragtime era (1897-1917), this piece was written by Arthur Smith (1898-1971), a popular performer on the Grand Ole Opry during the 1930s and early 1940s.


Copyright © 1981 BITTERSWEET, INC.

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