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Thread: Fiddle Tunes with History?

  1. #26
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    The Gary Owen is an Irish drinking song that Custer, who liked to drink, liked and used it for marching into battle. Using bagpipes it sounded down right scary for those listening to it come towards them.
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    Registered User Martin Jonas's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    As a folklorist (PhD), I have to say, be skeptical of stories of origin of tunes, sayings, and other oral lore. These stories are often told authoritatively, then passed on by others who also tell them authoritatively, becoming their own form of folklore, i.e., "legends of origins". There is often no proof whatsoever of these tales. As my brother, a professional musician said: many of these stories are "stage patter" to musicians, used to entertain audiences while re-tuning or getting a rest between tunes. Few musicians are researchers who've made a serious search for the truth of these tales. All of us have passed on legends (stories told as true), such as what Soldier's Joy refers to, or the origins of Ring Around The Rosie (sorry folks, that one's just speculation) without really having any idea.
    I agree generally with that sentiment. However, there are a few tunes that do have a verifiable history. "Garryowen" has already been mentioned with its connection to Custer and the Battle of Little Bighorn.

    Another one is "Downfall Of Paris" (or "Mississippi Sawyer" -- same tune in a different genre). Here's what I posted when the tune came in the Song-A-Week Group recently, mainly based on The Fiddler's Companion:

    "This tune has an interesting history. Originally a French cotillion dance tune, it was adopted by the French revolutionaries as "Ça Ira", the great call to arms during the early revolution and terror eras. As early as 1793, the tune was then adopted by the British army under the new name " The Downfall Of Paris" -- some 20 years before the actual fall of Paris in 1814! After the Napoleonic Wars, the tune gradually lost its military character and became a dance tune again. American old-time/bluegrass versions are more commonly called "Mississippi Sawyer"."

    In this case, the role of "Ça Ira" in the French Revolution is very well documented: it was THE main revolutionary song in the early days from the storming of the Bastille until it was superseded by the Marseillaise from about 1793 onwards. It's also clearly the same tune as "Downfall of Paris".

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  5. #28
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Busman View Post

    Garryowen is a great tune that was used as a marching tune by General Custer's army.
    It's also the name of a terrific Irish pub in Gettysburg Pa.A great open Irish session is held there the first Sunday of each month.No financial interest, I just love the pub and the session.
    Also the name of a town in Ireland, where the tune seems to have come from (note the "seems to").
    By the way, Custer's army was cavalry. I've also seen the tune associated with Ranald Mackenzie's cavalry (those of a certain vintage will remember the TV show "Mackenzie's Raiders"). I think "Garryowen" was used during their charges, rather than for marching, which hinders my enjoyment of the tune to some degree, though I like Garryowen and try to separate it from its use in genocide.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
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    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

  6. #29
    Registered User Kevin Stueve's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    I can't speak for Mackenzie's cavalry, but it was march song for custer's 7th cavalry, yes the movement of a cavalry unit is called a march heck the movement of unit of tanks is called a march. FYI any regimental band associated with the 7th cavalry wouldn't have been part of a charge.
    Last edited by Kevin Stueve; Jan-27-2019 at 8:08pm. Reason: typo's typo's everywhere
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Stueve View Post
    I can't speak for Mackenzie's calvary, but it was march song for custer's 7th calvary, yes the movement of a calvary unit is called a march heck the movement of unit of tanks is called a march. FYI any regimental band associated with the 7th calvary wouldn't have been part of a charge.
    It makes me think of the "cavalry" helicopter attack to the tune of "Ride of The Valkyries" in Apocalypse Now. Music can be scary in some contexts.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Registered User Kevin Stueve's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    I doubt the helicopter attack to the ride of the valkyries was any more real than the loud speaker on the sherman tank in Kelly's Heroes. Hollywoods concept of warfare is often a flight of fantasy.
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    apologies i have strayed far afield from the original topic. Btw anyone have a decent arrangement of garrry owen? The one on mandozine doesn't stir me.
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by Charles E. View Post
    Jimmy Driftwood was a history teacher in Timbo Arkansas when he put words to "The Eighth of January" as a lesson for his students.
    I met Jimmy many years ago in Mountain View, Arkansas ! What a character and friendly man ! The Jimmy Driftwood barn is still in operation !
    My two favorite pastimes are drinking wine and playing the mandolin but most of my friends would rather hear me drink wine! Adapted from quote by Mark Twain------supposedly !

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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    I must say that I learn a great deal from Mandolin Cafe. I love how everyone shares their knowledge, whether about instruments, music theory, tunes, songs, titles, the military, or whatever. Thanks everyone. Give yourself a pat on the back (if you're not too old and arthritic).
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    To tell the truth, Charlie, I'm not sure that he even crossed the Alps. He did cross the Rhine though.
    And he definitely crossed his legs.
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    As Ranald noted, the history is often in the names as the tunes as opposed to the actual music. Many of the Scots-Irish tunes were learned by the Appalachian fiddlers and renamed by them to commemorate events. In other cases, they may have just learned the tunes from other musicians and never found out the names so they may just call it Ranald's Reel or something like that.

    A good source of fiddle tune history, sources and names is the Fiddler's Companion, with listings compiled by my friend Andy Kuntz.
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by Martin Jonas View Post
    I agree generally with that sentiment. However, there are a few tunes that do have a verifiable history. "Garryowen" has already been mentioned with its connection to Custer and the Battle of Little Bighorn.

    Another one is "Downfall Of Paris" (or "Mississippi Sawyer" -- same tune in a different genre). Here's what I posted when the tune came in the Song-A-Week Group recently, mainly based on The Fiddler's Companion:

    "This tune has an interesting history. Originally a French cotillion dance tune, it was adopted by the French revolutionaries as "Ça Ira", the great call to arms during the early revolution and terror eras. As early as 1793, the tune was then adopted by the British army under the new name " The Downfall Of Paris" -- some 20 years before the actual fall of Paris in 1814! After the Napoleonic Wars, the tune gradually lost its military character and became a dance tune again. American old-time/bluegrass versions are more commonly called "Mississippi Sawyer"."

    In this case, the role of "Ça Ira" in the French Revolution is very well documented: it was THE main revolutionary song in the early days from the storming of the Bastille until it was superseded by the Marseillaise from about 1793 onwards. It's also clearly the same tune as "Downfall of Paris".

    Martin
    A Mississippi Sawyer was a hazard during steamboat days. They were named, sawyer, preacher, etc. A sawyer was a log stuck in the mud on the bottom of the river, before locks and dams not very deep, that moved up and down with the current. Should a wood hulled steamboat happen to strike it, it would saw thru the hull with the current induced movement. It was at an angle. A preacher was similar log, but went straight up and down as opposed to a sawyer bouncing at an angle up and down. Since the river was learned by memory and changed often, these hazards were given names to let the other captains know where and what to expect.
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  19. #38
    Registered User maudlin mandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    If we are talking tunes rather than songs "The Eight Men of Moidart" commemorates the landing of Bonnie Prince Charlie in Scotland.

  20. #39
    Mangler of Tunes OneChordTrick's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    Also the name of a town in Ireland, where the tune seems to have come from (note the "seems to").
    By the way, Custer's army was cavalry. I've also seen the tune associated with Ranald Mackenzie's cavalry (those of a certain vintage will remember the TV show "Mackenzie's Raiders"). I think "Garryowen" was used during their charges, rather than for marching, which hinders my enjoyment of the tune to some degree, though I like Garryowen and try to separate it from its use in genocide.
    Interesting. I've always associated it with a tactical kick in rugby where the ball is kicked high in the air with the aim of allowing the attacking side to regain possession, as opposed to returning possession to the opposition with the benefit of gaining ground. SO similar to an onside kick in American Football.

    But I digress further off topic.

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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by Northwest Steve View Post
    It is my understanding that Soldiers Joy was in reference to morphine from the Civil War..
    According to my old radio boss, (who was also a former history teacher and musician that was once offered the job as Bill Monroe's manager) in certain parts of the country 'Soldiers Joy' was referred to as 'General Washington's Tune' because he used to love to dance to it. He had a certain interest to the Civil War because he was born in 1912, and there were old Civil War veterans who lived in his neighborhood.

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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by yankees1 View Post
    I met Jimmy many years ago in Mountain View, Arkansas ! What a character and friendly man ! The Jimmy Driftwood barn is still in operation !
    I am very jealous that you got to meet Jimmie! He was a great artist that unfortunately seems to be almost forgotten these days. My old radio boss met him at the Newport Folk Festival back in the 1960's and said that among all of the the performers, he was the most popular guy to chat with while backstage . . . and naturally, EVERYBODY wanted to see his old homemade guitar!

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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Soldier's Joy is originally a British Isles tune, supposedly about payday. Another name for the tune is King's Head -- gold coins had the king's profile on them.
    "Be kind to the band; they never get to dance"

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    Here's a Library of Congress article on Soldier's Joy. Apparently it's been found in 18th century British tune books, and Robert Burns appropriated the melody for one of his songs. These facts tend to discredit the idea that "soldier's joy" refers to morphine given wounded Civil War soldiers.

    However, don't forget some of the lyrics set to the tune by the Skillet Lickers:

    Fifteen cents for the morphine
    Twenty-five cents for the beer;
    Fifteen cents for the morphine,
    Gonna take me away from here.


    So you can see why someone could make the drug connection.
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    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Here's a couple more that I got from a list of "Canadian Fiddle tunes for Two Mandolins," in a book, posted today on Mandolin Cafe:

    "Air a Bonaparte" (that guy gets more than his share of tune titles)

    "Reel des Jumelles Dionne" (Dionne quintuplets, first recorded quints to survive infancy, born in Callander, Ontario in 1934 -- as children, they were world-famous, a tragic story though)
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    Here's a Library of Congress article on Soldier's Joy. Apparently it's been found in 18th century British tune books, and Robert Burns appropriated the melody for one of his songs. These facts tend to discredit the idea that "soldier's joy" refers to morphine given wounded Civil War soldiers.
    That sheet music was either for piano or classical violinist or piccolo player. The first part in this sheet music is way up the neck like in 7th position.

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  27. #46
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    That sheet music was either for piano or classical violinist or piccolo player. The first part in this sheet music is way up the neck like in 7th position.
    Just said it was found in tune books, not whether it was notated for normal fiddling.

    I have an Erie Canal March sheet music copy taken from a flute tune book, in the key of F which is a passable, but not favorite, fiddlers' key. Works fine on concertina, which is now I play it. There's printed "standard notation" all over the map, designed for different instruments, or for different arrangements for specific ensembles.

    Which brings up another unrelated hijack topic, that many fiddle tunes have words associated with them, and are very hard to sing in the standard keys in which they're fiddled. I've heard quite a few singers straining a bit to sing Star Of the County Down in A-minor, which is where fiddlers in our area generally play it, e.g. D-minor works better...
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    Spencer Sorenson Spencer's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ranald View Post
    One other comment: it's often best to think of a great many traditional songs and tunes as being "made" not written or composed, as a great many musicians were musically illiterate, and perhaps illiterate as well.
    In 1972 I was at the fiddle contest in Weiser, Idaho, and Benny Thomasson was in the contest. My fiddle teacher knew Benny so I spoke to him to pass along regards, then mentioned how much I liked Midnight on the Water. I never forgot his response: "My Daddy made that tune". The first time I ever heard that kind of reference to the origin of a tune.

    Spencer

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  30. #48
    Registered User Ranald's Avatar
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    Default Re: Fiddle Tunes with History?

    Quote Originally Posted by Spencer View Post
    In 1972 I was at the fiddle contest in Weiser, Idaho, and Benny Thomasson was in the contest. My fiddle teacher knew Benny so I spoke to him to pass along regards, then mentioned how much I liked Midnight on the Water. I never forgot his response: "My Daddy made that tune". The first time I ever heard that kind of reference to the origin of a tune.

    Spencer
    When I was living "up the Valley" (the Ottawa Valley) many years ago, I once asked an old timer (about the age I am now -- but that was old back then), who played fiddle, whether he could read music. He said, "No, I can't read a word of it." I figured that was an honest answer.
    Robert Johnson's mother, describing blues musicians:
    "I never did have no trouble with him until he got big enough to be round with bigger boys and off from home. Then he used to follow all these harp blowers, mandoleen (sic) and guitar players."
    Lomax, Alan, The Land where The Blues Began, NY: Pantheon, 1993, p.14.

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