Newest Video: Mississippi Sawyer - Fiddle Tune a Day - Day 234

Posted In Live Playing (Public Venues, etc) by vithefiddler 5/23/2017 9:42:51 AM last updated by vithefiddler

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There is a lot of good stuff about today's fiddle tune:

My good friend Cody Stadelmaier is playing with me - albeit on guitar instead of fiddle. 
I'm helping out Cynthia Vaughn, at the Music for MS fundraiser, which benefits Cynthia's sister's MS team.
Some of my fiddle camp students came out to join me and Cody to play at the benefit.
We all had a good time, and it was especially cool for one of the students whose name is Sawyer. Obviously Mississippi Sawyer has a special place in his heart. 

I think that the kids really did a great job on this tune, and I think you'll agree.


Mississippi Sawyer according to Fiddler's Companion
MISSISSIPPI SAWYER [1]. AKA and see "Downfall of Adam," "Downfall of Paris," "Mississippi Jubilee," "Love from the Heart." Old‑Time, Breakdown. Widely known. USA; Virginia, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Pa. D Major (most versions): D Mixolydian (S. Johnson). Standard tuning. AABB. An extremely well-known old-time fiddle tune. One of the earliest printings of a tune by this title is in George P. Knauff's Virginia Reels, volume IV (Baltimore, 1839), where it appears under the title "Love from the Heart" (Knauff also printed a "Mississippi Sawyer" in volume I of his Reels, but this tune is no relation to "Mississippi Sawyer [1]"). Alan Jabbour believes that versions printed in older tune collections suggest the coarse part of the tune was played first, though the fine part is almost universally heard played first among Southern fiddlers in the 20th century. The tune has been known to American fiddlers since the early 19th century, and older fiddlers frequently give the tune's title as "The Downfall of Paris."  The melody was known particularly in Texas around 1935 as "Downfall of Paris" and was recorded in 1939 (for the Library of Congress) in Tishomingo County, Mississippi, under that title from the playing of John Hatcher.  W.H.A. Williams suggests the 'A' section of the Irish tune "Rakes of Mallow" was "appropriated" as the 'A' part of "Mississippi Sawyer."


Charles Wolfe elucidates the the title and states that a 'sawyer' was a boatsman's term for an uprooted tree whose roots had become partially anchored to the bottom of the stream bed. Though anchored, the river's currents would cause the trunk to bob up and down, often causing the tree to break surface rather suddenly in front of an unsuspecting river craft. On the Mississippi the problem was of such proportions that special government 'snag boats' patrolled the river in order to protect against such menaces. He opines: "Since the Mississippi River trade played a large role in the economic life of most Americans of the 19th century, it could be expected that most fiddlers of the period would have known what a 'Mississippi Sawyer' was, whereas the term's significance has been lost to the majority of contemporary fiddlers" (notes to Rounder Records "Gid Tanner and the Skillet Lickers ‑ The Kickapoo Medecine Show"). Mark Twain, a licensed riverboat pilot in addition to being a renowned writer, knew well the potential menace of sawyers in the river and used the term in fashioning the name of his literary hero, Tom Sawyer.

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