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dmiller

Famous Fiddle Tunes

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A bit of history about the use of the fiddle tune 8th of January,

which you all probably have heard, and know better as :

THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS

Below are the original words penned by James Morris (aka Jimmy Driftwood)

Music and lyrics by Jimmy Driftwood:

Jimmy Driftwood was a high school principal and history teacher who loved to sing, play instruments and write songs. Mr. Driftwood wrote many songs, all for the sole purpose of helping his students learn about this battle and other historical events.

But this song turned out to be so popular that it won the 1959 Grammy Award for Song Of The Year (awarded in 1960 for musical accomplishments in 1959). Johnny Horton also won the 1959 Grammy Award for Best Country And Western Performance for his recording of this song. "The Battle of New Orleans," is about a battle in the War of 1812, and it became one of the biggest selling hits of 1959.

The words were written to correspond with an old fiddle tune called "The 8th of January," which is the date of the famous "Battle of New Orleans".

Narrative by Jimmy Driftwood:

“After the Battle of New Orleans, which Andrew Jackson won on January the 8th eighteen and fifteen, the boys played the fiddle again that night, only they changed the name of it from the battle of a place in Ireland to the “Eighth of January”. Years passed and in about nineteen and forty-five an Arkansas school teacher slowed the tune down and put words to it and that song is The Battle Of New Orleans".

Well, in eighteen and fourteen we took a little trip

along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississip.

We took a little bacon and we took a little beans,

And we caught the bloody British near the town of New Orleans.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin.

There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.

We fired once more and they began to runnin'

down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

Well, I see'd Mars Jackson walkin down the street

talkin’ to a pirate by the name of Jean Lafayette

He gave Jean a drink that he brung from Tennessee

and the pirate said he’d help us drive the British in the sea.

The French said Andrew, you’d better run,

for Packingham’s a comin’ with a bullet in his gun.

Old Hickory said he didn’t give a damn,

he’s gonna whip the britches off of Colonel Packingham.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin.

There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.

We fired once more and they began to runnin'

down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

Well, we looked down the river and we see'd the British come,

and there must have been a hundred of 'em beatin' on the drum.

They stepped so high and they made their bugles ring

while we stood by our cotton bales and didn't say a thing.

Old Hickory said we could take 'em by surprise

if we didn't fire a musket til we looked 'em in the eyes.

We held our fire til we see'd their faces well,

then we opened up with squirrel guns and really gave em hell.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin.

There wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.

We fired once more and they began to runnin'

down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

Well, we fired our cannon til the barrel melted down,

so we grabbed an alligator and we fought another round.

We filled his head with cannon balls and powdered his behind,

and when they tetched the powder off, the gator lost his mind.

We’ll march back home but we’ll never be content

till we make Old Hickory the people’s President.

And every time we think about the bacon and the beans,

we’ll think about the fun we had way down in New Orleans.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin,

But there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.

We fired once more and they began to runnin'

down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

Well, they ran through the briars and they ran through the brambles

And they ran through the bushes where a rabbit couldn't go.

They ran so fast the hounds couldn't catch 'em

down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

We fired our guns and the British kept a'comin.

But there wasn't nigh as many as there was a while ago.

We fired once more and they began to runnin'

down the Mississippi to the Gulf of Mexico.

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Thanks I love the history of tunes that have been around for centuries and how they develop and change in the folk process--- Its an interesting study.

After the Battle of New Orleans, which Andrew Jackson won on January the 8th eighteen and fifteen, the boys played the fiddle again that night, only they changed the name of it from the battle of a place in Ireland to the “Eighth of January”.

I be interested in knowing what the name of the tune was before 1815 and what Irish battle it originally commemorated--and it probably derives from something before that....

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The OBS ---- (dang!! sounds like a teaching center somewhere in Ohio!!)

:biglaugh::biglaugh:

ORANGE BLOSSOM SPECIAL

Bluegrass, Breakdown. USA. A Major. Standard. AAB + vamp.

"One of the most popular fiddle tunes in modern history"

(C. Wolfe, Devil's Box, Dec. 1982).

Composed by Ervin T. Rouse (c. 1938), inspired by the railway train

called the Orange Blossom Special's christening and inaugural run

(from Miami to New York). Co-authorship is often credited to Florida

fiddler Robert Russell "Chubby" Wise (1916-1996), although the

copyright is in Rouse's name, supposedly due to Wise's assertion that

'there was no money in fiddle tunes and that Rouse could copyright it

himself, for all the good it would do' (Wise drove a cab at the time).

Wise himself maintained that he and Rouse were at the Jacksonville

Seaboard Railroad Station when the train came through on its maiden

run from Miami. Rouse suggested that they write a tune and Chubby

agreed. The two went back to Wise's house and wrote the piece in

forty-five minutes, while his wife cooked them breakfast. The tune

was recorded by Ervin and his brother Gordon in New York in June,

1939, but the tune did not become a hit until Bill Monroe's recording

of it in 1942 (with Art Wooten on fiddle).

The first recording, however, appears to be that of Tommy Magness',

who recorded "Orange Blossom Special" with Roy Hall's group in

1938. It was unissued at the time, says Jim Nelson, perhaps to avoid

legal problems with Rouse and his record company, RCA Victor.

He thinks Magness probably learned the tune directly from Rouse,

but that he definitely taught it to Wooten. Magness is credited with

popularizing the melody and introducing the famous double-shuffle

into the tune. There are persistent rumours that Wise or Magness lost

their rights to "Orange Blossom Special" in a poker game.

obsposter409x251.jpg

Edited by dmiller

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Jimmy Driftwood was my neighbor in Timbo, Arkansas until his passing in 1998 at age 91.

I ran into him frequently buying gas at the Timbo Grocery or at cattle auctions or at music festivals in Mountain View, Arkansas...he always wore a red shirt...kind of a signature thing. He was always good for a smile or a laugh.

driftwood_ap.jpgOzark Folk Center, which is now a state park.

Just for the record, that one lyric should NOT be Jean Lafayette, but rather Jean Lafitte.

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Just for the record, that one lyric should NOT be Jean Lafayette, but rather Jean Lafitte.

That is true. Thanks for the correction.

So you actually knew Jimmy. Wow. He is a legend.

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d -

i had a dear friend who played banjo, and he'd sing this song (knew all the words!) way back when i was in high school...you brought him back to mind, and i thank you for that.

:)

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OBS. Always loved that song. When I was living in WV, I saw a boy around 12 play it at the Jamboree. Then when I moved from WA to FL, we travelled by train and actually got to ride it.

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Jimmy Driftwood, and so, you knew him huh Ron G? When you saw him at the gas station, was it like; "Hi there Mr. Driftwood, how're you today"? Too cool. And ya knbow, if I am not mistaken, he also wrote "The Tennesee Stud" Performed best (at least best I ever heard) by Doc Watson. Never actually heard Jimmy Driftwood perform it.

And, as far as fiddle tunes go? Well now, I would have to say that OBS fiddle played by Vassar Clements is tops, with maybe the exception of "Lonesome Fiddle Blues", also performed by Vassar Clements. Lonesome fiddle blues just makes my heart sing big time. Both of these tunes are cuts from "Will The Circle Be Unbroken" (WTCBU), and are my very favorite versions by far. The recording sessions were just superb and unequaled, in my opinion of course.

And when it comes to fiddlers, although I have heard Doug Kershaw and Byron Berline, my very favorite fiddler of all time has to be Vassar Clements, a man who (I believe) never learned to read music, just played it.

I have met Vassar on three occasions, as well as Doc Watson, Earl Scruggs, and Mother Maybelle Carter. When they toured the year that the WTCBU album came out around 72, most of the musicians on the album were at the concerts to perform. And they were very gracious to hang out with the concert goers and introduce themselves during intermissions. And the older traditional bluegrass musicians were very intrigued that a bunch of us city kids that were bluegrass wannabes were there to see them. I told Earl that I had bought a banjo because he had inspired me, and that I could by that time play "Cripple Creek". He smiled and "towseled" my hair and said; "keep pickin son".

Doc Watson told me that I was a fine and handsome young man, but that I should cut my hair......

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Jonny -- here is a post I put up on another site:

Jasmine -- thanks for thinking the avatar I use is *cool*.

I think it is too, as it is the peghead of a fiddle owned and used by

one of the more famous fiddler's in the world -- Vassar Clements.

Sadly -- he passed away in 2005, but left a RICH legacy behind him.

I've actually had a chance to hold it, and *plunk* on it,

at a bar/club in southern Indiana where Vassar was playing,

but that's another story I'll add after this post.

fiddlehead_sml.jpg

vassillie_sml.jpg

fiddlefront_sml.jpg

fiddleback_sml.jpg

fiddle-closeup-back_sml.jpg

Those are the pics of it from Vassar Clement's Website and here is the story of that fiddle, from the same website.

I hope this isn't too boring, or too long.

GASPAR DUIFFOPRUGCAR

Many fans have inquired as to the history of Vassar's fiddle. After months of research there still remains a mystery as to some facts pertaining to the builder of the violin and it's age. Several reliable sources speculate the instrument was built by the famous violinmaker, Gaspar Duiffoprugcar in mid to late 1500s. At this point, we feel reasonably certain that it was built by Duiffoprugcar or is an excellent copy of the original.

Vassar's fiddle is believed to be three hundred or more years old however, this cannot be proved beyond a shadow of doubt. We feel assured the fiddle was built prior to the 17th century. The carvings and other markings on Vassar's fiddle closely resemble a fiddle once owned by Prince Youssoupov, a distinguished Russian amatuer violinist.

The description of the Prince's fiddle, taken from the Universal Dictionary of Fiddles, details a carving of the sculptured head of a 50 year old Duiffoprugcar with a thick mustache and beard, deep set eyes, slightly aquiline nose, wrinkled forehead, and frill or collar worn during the period, in lieu of the standard scroll.

The triangular corners decorated by double-purfling inlays resemble a leaf. Each of the fiddles built by Duiffoprugcar displayed magnificent art work on the back, and Vassar's fiddle is no exception. The back has a beautiful painting of Sappho holding a lute. Both sides of the fiddle contains lettering which remains a mystery, but research is still underway. As we learn more about the history of Vassar's fiddle the details will be added.

To make a long story short, the fiddle has been handed down through the hands of numerous musical legends. In the early 70s Vassar was working with John Hartford who acquired the fiddle and let Vassar use it. At a later time John called Vassar and gave him the fiddle as a Christmas gift.

Vassar cherishes the fiddle and when his fingers and bow touch the strings, the sound heard is like none other. The fusion of Vassar and this fine instrument have entertained fans around the globe.

So there is the history behind the avatar.

On other sites -- I've described myself as a FiddlePicker -- because I am.

Having picked banjo, mandolin, guitar, and fiddle in Bluegrass groups,

over the years I've gravitated to fiddle as my favorite instrument

to be playing on stage.

Vassar's fiddle is one of the most recognizable in the world.

The avatar is my tribute to him, since I doubt that that fiddle,

will ever be played again. :(

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And Jonny --since you like Vassar so much --

Here is my story of my one and only encounter with him.

I think you'll like this one.

Also posted on another website --- ;)

Ok --- so here's the story:

(somewhere) circa mid/ early 1970's -- Vassar and his band came to town to play.

It was a dingy dive, but the venue paid good, and TOP acts were

reguarly hired from across the nation, to entertain.

This was in Bloomington, Indiana -- home of Indiana University, and in the 1970's --- bluegrass (and all music related) was a *hot ticket* item.

Like I said -- Vassar and his band came to town. Me -- a *newbie* fiddlepicker went to hear him play, and when they took their first break from their evening's first set --I went up to Vassar as he was walking off stage, and asked him about his fiddle.

He was pleasant enough, in answering questions, since I was most interested about the inlays/ paintings/ etc., on it.

Finally -- he handed me BOTH HIS FIDDLE AND BOW, and said

"Here -- check it out -- I'm going for a drink!!"

He didn't know me from Adam.

I was just some guy in the same bar he was in.

But he handed me that fiddle, as well as his bow.

Needless to say --- I plunked on it, but felt totally unworthy.

These days --I think of the trust issue involved here.

I doubt if something like this, would happen these days.

I'm pleased to have been entrusted with the care of it --

while Vassar went to get a drink, at the bar, 35 years ago,

between sets he was playing at some dingy dive,

that I happened to be at, to listen to him pick. :)

Them were the days! :beer:

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dmiller--------I haven't had time to read this whole thread but I wanted to jump in and call your attention to an instructional DVD that Homespun Tapes offers. It's a 90 minute lesson called "The Fiddle According to Vassar". And yes, Orange Blossom Special is covered. This lesson is a level 4 so it's definately NOT for the novice.( though they do offer beginner lessons for those who might be interested.) Last time I checked it was about $30. An hour and a half lesson taught by the man himself for $30! They really should put me on their payroll for all the plugs I put in for them. :)

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Umm, I was joking about Doc Watson telling me to get a haircut, for as we know, he is blind. Sorry bout that. But Earl did pat me on the head and tell me, a fifteen year old to "keep pickin son..."

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Doc Watson told me that I was a fine and handsome young man, but that I should cut my hair......
Umm, I was joking about Doc Watson telling me to get a haircut, for as we know, he is blind. Sorry bout that. But Earl did pat me on the head and tell me, a fifteen year old to "keep pickin son..."

I caught the *irony* of that first statement Jonny. :)

But to be *patted on the head* by Earl, and to be encouraged to "keep on picking"???

Priceless!!! :biglaugh:

Edited by dmiller

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