Let’s begin with a bit of old time country fiddling, by the great Kentucky fiddler, William H. Stepp:
One story I have heard about this tune is that Alan Lomax, who was collecting music for the Library of Congress, came across a country fiddler playing a very intricate and very pretty tune. When Lomax asked Mr. Stepp the name of the tune, Stepp replied “Bonaparte crossing the Rockies.”
“But Bonaparte never crossed the Rockies,” was the amazed Lomax’ reply.
“Opinions vary,” said Stepp, as he went struck up Sourwood Mountain.
Perhaps the story is apocryphal, I have heard it in several forms. But it is a pretty and intricate tune. For a change of style, here are the Quebe Sisters with “Speed the Plow.” The three fiddles, the bull fiddle and git box was pretty much typical of small town hoedowns of the 1930’s and early 40’s. Of course, the instruments were quite fragile; which limited them to the town folk. Beyond the lights of town, most houses had a piano or melodion, while the boys in the tack room would make music with harmonicas, concertinas, accordions, and sometimes with a comb and a jug.
Of course, the simpler bands of the early years made way for the more “musical” fiddle based bands such as Bob Wills and Spade Cooley. Many of those bands would stand up to the best of today’s fiddling bands. Here’s Spade with the Wichita Polka:
While Bob Wills fires back with Wake Up Susan, and the Liberty Breakdown:
And, for a bit of an encore, a personal favorite of mine, from the days when the mud was often up to the wheel hubs, road signs advised motorists to “choose your rut carefully, you will be in it for the next 35 miles,” and “The world ain’t treatin’ me a’tall, I pays for what I gets!” Eeehaw!