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Feb 19, 2024 - 4:59:14 PM
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849 posts since 1/16/2021

Since a couple of months I have an online friend in Kentucky, we like to have video or audio chats and he is like the male version of myself, it is very entertaining to find out how much we have in common , our life philosophy, a deep love for dogs, similar musical preferences, similar movie preferences, foreign languages, same kind of humor and everything,
Guess what, he suddenly told me today what a Kentucky colonel is and explained that it had nothing to do with military ranking but was more like a title of honor as a goodwill ambassador of the state of Kentucky.
I was googling it and so i stumbled onto a similar title in Arkansas, Arkansas Traveler.
I knew the tune so I was highly surprised.
I asked my friend : "do you really mean the fiddle tune Arkansas Traveler has to do with this title??"  "Oh yes" he replied.
And that is how I  started searching on and found out about the remarkable fiddle tale behind this tune's title.

I always thought it was just a title of a tune about some traveler that visited Arkansas, I had no idea there was a fiddle tale behind this tune, I am so glad I found this out today, by coincidence. I am sure paying more attention to the origins of new tunes I am to learn from now on! 

This image I found on Wikipedia:

(internet source:

Edited by - Quincy on 02/19/2024 17:02:20

Feb 19, 2024 - 6:43:07 PM
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2437 posts since 12/11/2008

I have a real soft spot for the tune. On the one hand is the rough-and-tumble, high-energy version by Tommy Jarrrell that was taught to me by David Bragger. On the other hand is the slow, exaggerated. lunk-dee-lunk version that sometimes shows up on old Warner Bros. cartoons. I regularly do them both.

Feb 19, 2024 - 7:13:14 PM

3320 posts since 10/22/2007

The comp chords change nearly every beat. It's nice to find someone what can accompany.

Feb 19, 2024 - 7:20:40 PM
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872 posts since 6/11/2019

Good job investigating, Quincy...

I was commissioned by the Governor as an Arkansas Traveler back in 2003. As you say, it's an honorary title as an "Ambassador of Good Will" to spread to other states and nations from the State of Arkansas. I traveled in US military service and spread good will, but ultimately journeyed back to Arkansas. The proclamation is framed and hangs on my wall in the practice room. It's a cherished item to pass down.

See my avatar.

Edited by - Flat_the_3rd_n7th on 02/19/2024 19:32:47

Feb 19, 2024 - 7:52:14 PM
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872 posts since 6/11/2019

I would like to add that AT was the official state song until the 80s or so, when the politicians got embarrassed by Hollywood and shunned tradition to change it to some progressive thing no one knows now.

Feb 19, 2024 - 11:00:05 PM
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11796 posts since 12/2/2007
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Quincy - There is a long section about the tune and the skit in "A Treasury of American Folklore" by B. A. Botkin, a book well worth reading. Meanwhile, here's a page about it from the Arkansas Secretary of State:
Years ago I dated a girl from far SW Virginia, near Cumberland Gap. She could play the fiddle and guitar, sing and dance in the old style. We didn't perform together too much, but once we did a show in a log cabin in Hungry Mother state park in Virginia, and included the Traveler skit and tune. The small cabin was full, and people outside watched through the open windows. She played the part of the Squatter and I the Traveler, so I asked the questions and she fiddled the A part and gave the funny answers. Then I took the fiddle for the "turn of the tune" while she danced. Her soft country accent made her appear even younger and a bit more innocent than she really was, which made it even funnier, and the audience loved it. It was a lot of fun.
I also dated a girl from Louisville for a time who was (and still is) a Kentucky Colonel. She didn't require me to salute her, but she definitely outranked me.

Feb 20, 2024 - 7:53:33 AM
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11796 posts since 12/2/2007
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PS - "The Arkansas Traveler" was recorded many times, often by the comedian Len Spencer. Some online sources mention a cylinder recording from the 1890's. You can hear it and others at the very interesting UC Santa Barbara website here:

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