Mudcat Café message #3957925 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #165086   Message #3957925
Posted By: Lighter
22-Oct-18 - 07:33 PM
Thread Name: Midwestern fiddling in the 1850s
Subject: RE: Midwestern fiddling in the 1850s
Here's a somewhat broader perspective, from some years earlier. The list of titles is especially interesting, as is the fact that classical musicians sometimes popularized hoedown tunes in their performances:

The Indiana State Sentinel (Indianapolis) (May 26, 1886), p, 4:

"Professor Tosso, of Newport, Ky., who is said to be dying, is one of the pioneer fiddlers of the West. ...In his palmy days, Tosso gave concerts all through the West and South, and was rated as an extraordinary violinist. He is eighty-five years of age. ...

"Tosso, forty or more years ago, kept a music store in Cincinnati, and frequently made excursions to the larger towns around giving concerts, sometimes alone and sometimes with a vocalist or a harpist or pianist to help. He has been in this city several times, appearing here first fully forty-five years ago, and was the first 'fiddler' we ever had here who could play something better than 'Zip Coon,' 'Broad Riffle' or 'Leather Breeches.' Our own pioneer performers were ball artists exclusively. They played jigs and hoe-downs for 'puncheon splitting' dances, and there were no better artists of their grade than Bill Bagwell, Joe Rouse, or old 'Dos-a-dos' - 'do-sa-do' as he was always called from one of his dance phrases....Tosso could play good music and play it well, but he couldn't make it popular, and it never became so till increasing German settlement ... naturalized it, and that began about the time Tosso was finishing his concert excursions, at least in this direction.

"Among his selections of classical music, he usually introduced one or more of the popular airs of the time, and of these the 'Arkansaw Traveler' was the most popular. It was certainly one of the liveliest and prettiest. He always told the story of the 'Traveler' stopping before an Arkansaw cabin to make inquiries abut the road, and listening to the owner attempting to play it on his fiddle. ... [Tosso] never pretended to be the composer of the air, nor did anybody calim it for him in those days. The 'Arkansaw Traveler,' like 'Grey Eagle' and 'Wagoner' - named for the famous Kentucky horse race a half-century or so ago - and 'Zip Coon,' 'H-ll on the Wabash,' 'Rackback Davy,' 'Natches [sic] Under the Hill,' 'Sugar in a Gourd,' and fifty other dancing tunes known to old-time fiddlers and dancers - had no composer, in the sense that the better class of music has. It 'growed' like Topsy, from two or three pleasing musical phrases that some fellow had accidentally struck in his practice, and repeated till others learned them and added to them, and finally made a complete air of them.

"The origin of many popular songs was much the same. Nobody knows who was the author of the 'Hunters of Kentucky,' or 'Perry's Victory,' or 'St. Clair's Defeat,' or 'Poor Old Maid,' or 'All on Hobbles.' or the 'Great Sea Snake,' or 'Polly Hopkins.' or any of the old songs that the grandfathers and mothers of the present generation entertained themselves in their young days. Now the songs are as completely lost as are their origin. ...[N]egro minstrelsy in its crudest form appeared in such songs as 'Jenny Git your Hoe-Cake Done, 'Walk Jaw Bone,' 'Wheel About and Turn About,' 'Old Zup Coon,' and 'Clar De Kitchen.' 'Nigger songs' really formed a sort of transition stage from the ballad of love or war of an earlier social condition to the better musical taste that has developed now. ..."