Mudcat Café message #3957269 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #165086   Message #3957269
Posted By: Lighter
18-Oct-18 - 09:47 AM
Thread Name: Midwestern fiddling in the 1850s
Subject: Folklore: Midwestern fiddling in the 1850s
From "Current Literature" (Jan., 1899), p. 53:

“During the log cabin era of the Middle West, a matter of fifty years ago, nearly every neighborhood had its fiddler. …The ‘hoe-down’ fiddler had no conception of harmony, but was full to the very ends of fingers and toes with melody. If two met with their fiddles, they played by turns. If they played the same piece in the same way, which seldom happened, they tuned to the same pitch and both played the melody….The tunes they knew they learned from hearing another play, and they played them over and over, day after day, and year after year, until they became, as it were, a part of their very nature. The names by which they designated their favorite pieces were as singular as the pieces themselves, and were like of pioneer origin. Among them were Gray Eagle, Arkansas Traveler, Bear Dance, Drunken Indian, Possum Trot, Natchez-under-the-hill, and Hell-up-the-Wabash.

        “To give the ‘hoe-down’ fiddler a musical education would be to make a new creature of him. …

            “The position of his body while playing was unique, to say the least of it. He could not play standing. The almost universal pioneer seat, the split bottomed chair, suited him. When his fiddle was in tune, a matter of great care to him, and he was seated ready to begin, he threw his right leg over his left one; rested his left hand, in which was the neck of the fiddle, on his right knee – the body of the instrument extending upward and to the right, the back resting against the right side of the abdomen – turned his face squarely to the left, and was read for all night, or all day, as required. He was the picture of contentment while he played. If he had any cares, they floated away on the melody of his favorite tunes, and did not return until the playing was finished.”