View Full Version : what's the best fiddle tune ever?

Nov-13-2004, 8:36pm
I'm saying the Big Scioto

Nov-13-2004, 9:27pm
'Jerusalem Ridge' by William Smith Monroe.

John Flynn
Nov-13-2004, 10:38pm
"Snake River Reel" by Peter Lippincot

Scott Rucker
Nov-13-2004, 11:54pm
The one I'm trying to learn.

Nov-14-2004, 8:11am
Faded Love

Stanley Cox
Nov-14-2004, 9:18am
2 or 3 of my favorites,
Sally Goodwin
Lost John
Angeline the Baker
The Gold Rush
OK so thats 4 http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif
Stanley http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif

Michael H Geimer
Nov-14-2004, 10:52am
Big Scioty (as it's titled in my Fakebook) is certainly my favorite, but I don't know enough tunes to claim that one's the best ever. Everyone I know calls it The Big Scioto, why the different spelling in the Fiddler's Fakebook?

Tom C
Nov-14-2004, 11:30am
'Jerusalem Ridge' by Kenny Baker -No?

Nov-14-2004, 3:33pm
The Big Scioto refers to the Scioto River, which as far as I know, is pronounced "Scioty"

Nov-14-2004, 5:56pm
'Jerusalem Ridge' by William Smith Monroe.
Monroe wrote it; Baker played it.

Nov-15-2004, 3:09pm
Hey Evan! - This is kinda' of "thread" - but then again ...it's not : 'bout a month ago I ordered(County Records) "Darkness on the Delta" - Kenny Baker AND Bobby Hicks!! - recorded in the '80's ; Twin fiddle "masters"(particularly Hicks IMHO!!) - Buddy, if ya' don't have this ya' gotta get it. Louisville Breakdown.., Tallahassee.., Panhandle Country, Roanoke.., great aggangement of Farewell Blues...(et al..) - Bought it 'cause County "highly recommended" it ; Man, what a "keeper" - twin fiddle'n at its best by two "masters" - If you don't get "goosebumps" ya' better check yer' pulse - you could be dead. Sorry to ramble.., but I LOVE THAT CD!!! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/coffee.gif

Nov-15-2004, 3:25pm
Man...there's a lot of extreeeeemely good fiddle tunes. I'll second the votes for Gold Rush & Jerusalem Ridge, & throw in a few extra:

Up a Lazy River
Brother & Joycelyn
Mark'z Waltz
Billy in the Lowground

But, to tell more of the truth, almost any fiddle tune can be great when played with great tone and taste. I can listen to a really well-played fiddle tune and my brain will disconnect from reality, & I get lost in the world of melody and variation. Beautiful rhythm playing helps, too.

Nov-20-2004, 1:27pm
I agree with Davestem ... it's too hard to pick the "best" fiddle tune ... too many good ones out there.

I would be willing to say my most recent favorite is Richmond ... I like to play along with Molsky ... he rips it up.

Stanley Cox
Nov-20-2004, 6:40pm
I like Jerusalem's Ridge too. The late Jimmy Campbell
could play it very well.
How about Sugar in the Gourd? Fire on the Mountain?
I guess I cant pick a best of all.

Stanley http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif

Nov-21-2004, 1:44pm
June Apple!

Nov-21-2004, 2:58pm
I think Sally Ann's the best one now

Nov-21-2004, 3:08pm

Nov-21-2004, 3:16pm
Nail That Catfish To A Tree by Steve Rosen. (http://www.rosenbanjo.com/)

Nov-22-2004, 10:09am
Ah! - fiddle tunes,fiddle players and Monroe ; Take a few minutes and try to count the great fiddle players that he had work for him through the years - I also like to believe there were "greats"... that he inspired to be "greater"... - just my ramblings and .02. Moose. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

mando bandage
Nov-22-2004, 12:44pm
To quote that great computer, "Deep Thought"


With apologies to Douglas Adams

Pete Martin
Nov-22-2004, 5:50pm
Why, Sally Goodin of course!! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif

Nov-22-2004, 8:51pm
'Jerusalem Ridge' by William Smith Monroe.

Nov-22-2004, 11:01pm
jerusalem shmerusalem.

Nov-23-2004, 10:04am
Now..now!~ It ain't nice to make fun of the ... "Holy Places" - "Jerusalem Ridge" by William Smith Monroe - as played by Kenny Baker!! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif

Nov-23-2004, 10:11am
Yeah!! You'd not like to request that number by that name in front of William Smith Monroe hisownself, if he were alive to play it. #The look would make you cower, wet your panties and regret the blasphemy. #And then Monroe would tell you that the fellow who wrote that number was a pahr'ful man and no man had ever put him down!!!
Of course, he might just ignore you.

Nov-23-2004, 3:15pm
I hate to say it, but I've never bought the idea that Monroe wrote Jerusalem Ridge, even when heard from people who know a whole lot more than I do. The phrasings are so non-Monroe-ish, that its just hard for me to believe he could have come up with them. On the other hand, that tune has Kenny Baker written all over it.

My guess is Monroe came up with the A part, Kenny Baker took it from there and completed the tune, and Monroe called it his own. Pure speculation, of course.

Nov-23-2004, 3:17pm
Oh yeah, June Apple is my favorite fiddle tune, though honestly I think it started out as a banjo tune. It's got lyrics, too!

Nov-23-2004, 4:06pm
Since the question of authorship of Jerusalem Ridge comes up, errrr, frequently, I scanned this from the booklet with the 1970 - 1979 Bear Box Set. I consider this to be the final word on authorship. I'll keep this for future reference.
And, for the record, I have the .mp3 clip where Monroe introduces the tune as written by Baker.

Nov-23-2004, 4:31pm
Thank you, Evan! - and RIP Joe Stuart - "The Sideman for all Seasons". http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Nov-23-2004, 5:32pm
I don't get it Evan. That clip has Monroe saying he wrote the tune. Your mp3 clip has Monroe saying that Baker wrote the tune.

I know Bill Monroe was a complicated man....did he even know who wrote the tune?

Nov-23-2004, 5:50pm
Monroe wrote it; I suspect he attributed it to Baker on occassion as a tribute to Baker. I also have a few live recordings where Monaroe says something to the effect that KB will be playing one of his (Monroe's) most popular numbers.

Nov-26-2004, 9:56pm
Another vote for Jerusalem Ridge, with a nod to "Whisky before breakfast".....I also like a recording of Belles of Lexington/Forty Miles to Louisville--anyone know where I can find notes for these?

Nov-27-2004, 6:39pm
Not many people know this, but I actually wrote Jerusalem's Ridge (don't tell anybody)

Cuckoo's nest is another good one.

Shana Aisenberg
Dec-05-2004, 3:34pm
This week my favorite OT tune is Last of Callahan. Close runner ups are Sourwood Mountain, Breaking Up Christmas and Trouble on the Mind. All are in AEAE but I'm playing them tuned down to GDGD.


Dec-05-2004, 7:07pm
I thought Al Gore wrote Jerusalem Ridge. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Dec-06-2004, 12:11pm
Of course! - under the "nom de plume" of William Smith Monroe... http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Jan-03-2005, 1:56pm
Hey, our little trio does "Catfish"- it's got such a groove . Didn't know there were T-shirts.

Second choice has got to be Ashokan Farewell, which I never have been able to memorize fully.

Jan-03-2005, 9:51pm
Jenny Lynn- at least for the next 2 weeks while I work on it and take another fiddle lesson. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/laugh.gif


Jan-05-2005, 10:09am
YEAH...Evan & Moose!

Jan-05-2005, 7:30pm
That Jenny Lynn is a fine tune also. An excellent version is on Jimmy Campbell's CD 'Pieces of Time'; Bill plays mandolin on that album.

Jan-06-2005, 11:05am
I guess Jenny Lynn was the "greatest of all" according to Monroe, at least when he wrote Uncle Pen

Jan-06-2005, 11:08am
Frank George's wife used to say he'd rather fiddle all day than work; when Frank was asked about it he said he'd rather play Angeline the Baker all day than work.

Jan-06-2005, 11:09am
RIP Jimmy Campbell - If the Master thought enough to record with you...., ya' musta' done somethin' right. http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/mandosmiley.gif http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/biggrin.gif

Darryl Wolfe
Jan-06-2005, 2:06pm
It's my understanding that Kenny Baker wrote Jerusalum Ridge...will report back in a moment when I confirm "the rest of the story"

Jan-06-2005, 2:12pm
See the above text, copied from an interview of WSM, contained in the Bear Box set.
Bill is pretty clear about it being his tune.

Darryl Wolfe
Jan-06-2005, 4:20pm
Evan is right. Monroe wrote Ebeneezer Scrooge and Jerusalem Ridge supposedly in a 45 minute span. He called Baker to come over and hear them. At first Baker didn't want to come over, and Monroe insisted it would be worth his while.

The Monroe episodes of crdeiting Baker were apparently connected with the release of Kenny's album.

Jerusalem Ridge is of one several tunes in which Monroes original composition wandered a bit astray to suit Kenny left hand style and essentially became a "fiddle tune". Ebeneezer Scrooge is an example of one not wandering to fit Kenny, and consequently it remained essentially a mandolin tune.

Jan-06-2005, 4:45pm
And there you have it! - Kinda' reminds me of something that was said to me several years ago concerning a Louvin Brothers song - "When I Stop Dreaming" - In a conversation with Charlie Louvin several years ago, I asked Charlie what key they did that song in ; he replied "...Ira liked to sing it in "C". Sometime later, in a conversation with a Bluegrass "authority'(!?#), I happened to pass this information on. My Bluegrass "authority" curtly replied "...naaaa, they didn't do that in "C".." - I suggested that the next time I talked with Charlie I'd tell him he(Charlie) told me wrong an' why did he lie to me... - (nuf' said!http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif). http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/rock.gif http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/wow.gif

Jan-06-2005, 7:31pm
I don't like playing Jerusalem Ridge at a jam because it's one of those tunes where everyone seems to play the melody straight every time through with no embellishments. That bores me to tears, I can't see the point in it. People look at you funny if you play with the melody a little bit, even the phrasing, and even if you played it straight the first time through.

I like Grey Eagle.

Jan-06-2005, 7:45pm
That's too bad. JR is a very specific melody in all 4 parts, but there is room for personalizing it. Of recorded versions, I can think of Jimmy Gaudreau and Raymond Legere, each plays it straight and funky at the same time, with their own styles very much apparent. Emory Lester actually plays the A and B parts an octave up from their original lines, also a nice variation. One variation I do is on the 4th part, I'll play over the C chord both low and high, adds a little spice to it.

Jan-06-2005, 9:31pm
The Gravel Walk

Jan-06-2005, 9:36pm
I like Jenny Lynn and Clinch Mountain Backstep......and Cluck old Hen

Jan-15-2005, 4:11pm
right now

Golden Eagle Hornpipe

"Coo coo's nest" has always been a favorite, we generally play it coupled with "Staten Island"

also right now the "Corrente" from the Sonata #4 in Dm by that real old time fiddler ( I do mean real old time), from over yonder Southern Germany, the late great
Johnny Batch
rumor is he played the Johanna and perty dern good too
All of my presented statements are subject to change without notice

Jan-15-2005, 4:31pm
another vote for J. Ridge. That song just gets me going with its power! Fiddle tunes are great but tons of em started out with words and were played way slower originally and I dig those versions a lot as well...here's a few examples. Old Joe Clark, Red Haired Boy, Whiskey Before Breakfast and the list goes on and on. The way I see it pickers got together and no one wanted or could sing, so wala, a fiddle tune was born. Any more educated thoughts out there?

John Millring
Jan-17-2005, 1:21pm
Good tunes, all. Phil, I didn't know you did "Nail The Catfish..." We'll have to do that when we get together again. (Jesse taught it to me and Jim).

I like the tunes that change keys between parts -- like Flop-Earred Mule or Forked Deer or.....hey, Nail The Catfish does it as well. I'd pick Flop-Earred Mule though.

'Nother favorite -- Kitchen Girl. I wish I could play it with me because I have an even better Guitar part than my mandolin part.

Dec-09-2010, 11:09pm
My vote goes for "Ways of the World" ... a great OT fiddle tune usually tuned AEAE on the fiddle. It's awesome !

Dec-09-2010, 11:39pm
There are so many good fiddle tunes. The way it works for me is that I get obsessed with a tune and it becomes the best ever while I learn it.

Then there is the distinction between the best fiddle tune ever to listen to, and the best ever to play. Not the same. I can never get enough of playing Chorus Jig, but I don't particularly want to hear it again. And Angline the Baker and Mairi's Wedding are two songs I can't hear enough, but my fingers get bored playing them.

Paul Lucas
Dec-09-2010, 11:59pm
Indiana Breakdown as played by Clyde Curley. Something about that tune and Clyde's playing gets my toes tapping every time. I never tired of playing that tune.

I also like John Hartford's version of Shove That Hog’s Foot Further In The Bed which he learned from Ed Haley. I learned John's version off the 2000 documentary and concert film Down From the Mountain.

Dec-10-2010, 6:19pm
Indiana Breakdown as played by Clyde Curley. Something about that tune and Clyde's playing gets my toes tapping every time. I never tired of playing that tune.

I also like John Hartford's version of Shove That Hog’s Foot Further In The Bed which he learned from Ed Haley. I learned John's version off the 2000 documentary and concert film Down From the Mountain.

I'm gonna get my Down From the Mountain vid out and watch thaten' again. Great video

Dec-10-2010, 6:34pm
Best fiddle tune ever? It hasn't been written yet. I'll write it tomorrow.

Jim Nollman
Dec-12-2010, 5:16pm
Beethoven violin concerto

Dec-12-2010, 5:52pm
I heard a music professor once comment, "Yea, Barotok, he could write a mean tune."

Dec-12-2010, 6:00pm
That's like deciding which of your children you like the best !

Dec-12-2010, 8:52pm
I'm going with "John Ryan's Polka." That's the best fiddle tune ever, it just took me a few years to finally decide, otherwise I'da written something earlier. . .


ralph johansson
Dec-13-2010, 8:49am
'Jerusalem Ridge' by Kenny Baker -No?

Baker more than helped write it. If you google jerusalem ridge+hotel site:mandolincafe.com you can find the full account in my first post. Interesting to note the hostile reactions even after I cited my highly reliable source.

Interesting tune, three parts waiting for the fourth. I used to believe there wasn't much you could do with it until I heard
Mark O'Connor's version with Thile, Sutton, and House. We ordinary clods had better leave it alone, however.

A really good fiddle tune lends itself to varitation and improvisation. I would say Gold Rush is superior in that respect.
Or Don't Let the Deal Go down; listen to O'Connor's version (same cast as above), about 54 variations on the same
eight bar circle-of-fifths sequence and never once boring.

Jan-22-2012, 8:15pm
Now I've changed my mind. Ed Haley's Half Past Four is pretty hard to beat. If I start to thinkin' tho' I'll change my mind again because there are just so many darn good fiddle tunes. There is probably none really better than all the rest. Lots of ties tho'.
So many tunes and so little time to learn them is what I'm thinkin'

Jan-23-2012, 8:42am
Without a doubt, it is Orange Blossom Special !

Jan-23-2012, 3:34pm
It's a hard choice even though there's only two- the slow one and the fast one.
I like the fast one, but can only play the slow one.

Jan-23-2012, 3:55pm
It's a hard choice even though there's only two- the slow one and the fast one.
I like the fast one, but can only play the slow one. OBS is not a mandolin piece but if you ask most audience's what fiddle tune they want to hear on a fiddle, they always ask for the OBS ! A standard among fiddle tunes !

Wilbur James
Jan-23-2012, 6:29pm
The quail is a pretty Bird

Jan-24-2012, 9:49am
Well, being Greek, I'd have to say the Dodecanesian Sousta in one of its manifestations is easiest the "best fiddle tune" around. This one (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gotAVHQQoJY&feature=mfu_in_order&list=UL) is from the island of Rhodes.

Charles E.
Jan-25-2012, 7:04pm
Without a doubt, it is Orange Blossom Special !

Just so there is no doubt who wrote this. My wife and I saw this on Hwy 55 , on our way to the beach.

Jan-25-2012, 7:28pm
I don't know ... Orange Blossom Special is sort of like Foggy Mountain Breakdown to me. Can't stand either one... I guess because they have been run in the ground so much. Burnt out on em I guess.

Jan-25-2012, 7:35pm
There is this one tune about a boy named Johnny down in Georgia who beats the Devil at a fiddlin' duel.

Now that's some good fiddlin'.

Jan-25-2012, 7:37pm
I was under the impression that there were really only two fiddle tunes. One was Soldier's Joy and the rest weren't.

Bernie Daniel
Feb-05-2012, 12:54pm
I agree that "Jerusalem Ridge" is a great fiddle tune (and I don't really care whether Monroe or Baker wrote it), also "Orange Blossom" special is another great one already mentioned. Clearly this is a Bluegrass dominated crowd so I'm not surprised at JR getting being so favored here. "Faded Love" and the "Golden Eagle Hornpipe" (also both mentioned) are outstanding too. And "Grey Eagle" has to be in the running. But none of these are the greatest fiddle tune. That happens to be Ward Allen's "Maple Sugar" written in 1956. I been told (and I think I remember that too) that "Maple Sugar" is the only pure fiddle tune to have cracked the top 40 popular tunes in the USA. Here the best fiddle tune ever -- enjoy! :)


I have never been able to document that Top-40 claim -- if anyone else can find a link that confirms this I'd love to have it -- "Maple Sugar" may be my favorite tune to play on mandolin now too.

Feb-06-2012, 9:09pm
Great song, Bernie. I'm partial to both "Faded Love" and "Soldiers Joy" myself. Enjoyed picking with you at the Rainbow.

doc holiday
Feb-06-2012, 9:58pm
Fiddle tunes...love 'em all. But the one I always play is "Big Sciota" love picking it on guitar and mandolin

Bernie Daniel
Feb-06-2012, 10:00pm
Great song, Bernie. I'm partial to both "Faded Love" and "Soldiers Joy" myself. Enjoyed picking with you at the Rainbow.

Likewise! As luck would have it we did all three of those tunes at the campground! :)

Feb-07-2012, 9:55am
The great thing about a tune like John Ryan's Polk is portent. The thing sounds inevitable. It sounds like it could not have been otherwise. Same with Angeline the Baker and Mairi's Wedding. Once you hear it you say of course. There is no other way it could have gone.

That is a wonderful quality in a tune. The trick is to play it in a way that still delights.

Bernie Daniel
Feb-07-2012, 10:06am
The great thing about a tune like John Ryan's Polk is portent. The thing sounds inevitable. It sounds like it could not have been otherwise. Same with Angeline the Baker and Mairi's Wedding. Once you hear it you say of course. There is no other way it could have gone.

That is a wonderful quality in a tune. The trick is to play it in a way that still delights.

Good observation. I think that is true of a lot of the traditional Celtic tunes especially hornpipes -- this is a virtual treasure trove of great melodies just waiting to be utilized in other types of music. For example, wouldn't the Glasgow Reel (Tam Lin) make a great bluegrass fiddle tune?

Charles E.
Feb-07-2012, 7:37pm
Tam Lin is a great tune, and sounds good as a "surf guitar" tune, ala the Ventures.

Feb-21-2012, 8:19am
Tam Lin is a great tune, and sounds good as a "surf guitar" tune, ala the Ventures.

The Ventures :) Brings back old memories ... The first tune I ever learned to play all the way through was "Pipe Line" :)

May-30-2012, 7:49pm
Red Haired Boy

May-30-2012, 8:08pm
Jerusalem Ridge. If I could add a second it would be Vassar's Lonesome Fiddle Blues.

May-31-2012, 12:33pm
best fiddle ?.......song. Guess that means the type of music written for a fiddle. I go along with Orange Blossom Special. A close second may be Maiden's Prayer. Then there is Amazing Grace. These songs are fiddled to death but will still get an audience's full attention. I still can not play OBS, and I have tried 100 times to learn it.

Jim Yates
Jun-09-2012, 8:40am
Calliope House is a great tune as is Blind Mary. My favourite slip jig is The Butterfly.

Bernie Daniel mentioned Maple Sugar, Ward Allen's great tune. We used to play this tune in the North Shore Ramblers. Zeke Mazurek, the fiddler, would introduce it by saying something like:
Ward Allen was born in Kirkton, Ontario into a musical family. His four older brothers were musicians and step dancers and Ward made his first public appearance at a barn dance at the age of 12. As a teenager, he won local and regional contests and in 1949, he won first prize at the Canadian National Exhibition competition in Toronto. He was able to repeat this accomplishment for a number of years and in 1953 he went on to win the Canadian Open Championships in Shelburne, Ontario. He became a featured member of Wilf Carter's tours in the mid-50's. In 1958, he covered over 35 thousand miles and visited 108 towns and cities. He also joined the CFRA "Happy Wanders", a group he played with for almost ten years. Allen was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame, Nashville, Tennessee, in 1965. He died in Hull Quebec that same year. We've done that.

Jun-26-2012, 10:13am
My favorites to play are Washington's March, Billy in the Lowground, Red Haired Boy...

The one I play more than any other is Jolie Blond...and of course too many Irish tunes to mention

Jun-26-2012, 3:16pm
The one I play more than any other is Jolie Blond...I wish I could play that one good. I have been working on it off and on for two years now. One of the days I will get serious about Julie Blon, take her, and ride off on the Orange Blossom Spec. Those two are the hardest fiddle tunes I have tried.

Jun-27-2012, 11:41am
Well I don't know that I play it WELL, but I'm sure I've played that more in the last 5-10 years than most any other, except maybe Allons a Lafayette...fiddle though, which I think you can't beat for the music

Michael H Geimer
Jun-28-2012, 10:32am
I'm saying the Big Scioto

Eight years later, and I still agree with the OP (and also recognize the question is unanswerable). Three years ago I named a rescued Blue Heeler puppy 'Little Scioty', as she looked to be the runt, and in fact she never did get all that big (JRT sized)

Anyways, Little 'Otie is recuperating from some stitches she required this morning, so I thought I'd add another time-capsule comment to this Methuselahic thread.

Jack Roberts
Jul-08-2012, 6:12pm
The Celebrated Opera Reel, followed by Fisher's Hornpipe. Not that Jerusalem Ridge isn't up there as well, but I just don't think of it as a Mandolin Fiddle Tune, n'est-ce pas?


Jim Garber
Oct-04-2018, 2:59pm
Ah yes, another "best" thread. I play hundreds of tunes and have some favorites for sure but what is "best" for one person is overplayed for another. How about what is your favorite or what is truly fun to play?

Lately I have been playing Tomahawk; some Missouri tunes: Bailey's, Brenda's and Salty River Reel; plus a couple of Mississippi old time tunes, Lazy Kate and Leake County Two-Step. Ask me tomorrow and I will give you a completely different answer.

Also, check out this 10 year old thread (https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/showthread.php?43595-What-s-your-new-fiddle-tune) for some other suggestions.

Scott Rucker
Oct-04-2018, 3:47pm
"The next one" or "the one I'm working on" is almost always the best one ever.