Tuesday, June 10, 2014

La Bamba

Ritchie Valens
Para bailar la bamba
Para bailar la bamba
Se necesita
Una poca de gracia
Una poca de gracia
Y otra cosita

“Dance the Bamba, needing a little grace” (or “humor”)became one of rock and roll’s signature anthems. La Bamba is also one of the oldest Mexican Sones Jarochos, a traditional song form originating in a region that includes southern Veracruz, eastern Oaxaca and north­ern Tabasco. The instrumentation of this traditional Mexican music included violin, bass, harp, tambourine, quijada (the jaw of a donkey) and a tarima (a foot-high platform made of wood for dancers to add percussion to the music with their feet). The roots of the music com­bine from Spain, Africa and the native Aztecs. It is believed that the enslaved Africans in Mexico created the tarimas after being deprived of drums by their captors.

African syncopated rhythms have played an important role in all music of the Western hemisphere. The accenting, anticipating or skipping of certain beats - sometimes emphasizing beats or parts of beats not typically stressed in European music - created a rhythmic syncopation that became the heartbeat and soundtrack of the new world. This new rhythmic approach underpinned the development of South American musical styles such as habanera, bolero, tango, rumba, salsa, mambo, merengue and cumbia in the same way that African rhythmic syncopation was integral in the creation of North American styles such as hoedown, ragtime, blues, country, jazz, gospel, rhythm and blues, rock and roll and hip-hop.

La Bamba itself harkens to a single event that took place in the port of Veracruz in today’s Mexico. In 1683, the 7,000 inhabitants of Vera­cruz were largely unprotected from pirate attacks even though the nearby San Juan de Ulua fort was substantially fortified. The Dutch pirate Lorenz de Graaf and his multi-national crew raided Veracruz killing many of its Spanish citizens and pillaging the town. After the nightmarish attack was over, many of the remaining Spanish wanted to leave Veracruz compelling the King of Spain to erect a defensive wall around the entire town. The King made it compulsory for young men of the city to serve in the military in order to defend the port, citizens were involved in defensive drills and alarm bells were installed. The term “bambarria” was used by the local native and slave populations to mock the Spanish inhabitants and pompous local officials in their attempts to prevent the next pirate attack. They believed that the attack had been a fluke and would not happen again. One theory links the origin of La Bamba with the bambarria - a song taking voice from the social situation. However, because many towns near Veracruz have African names, La Bamba could have come more directly from African slaves originating from the Mbambo or Bambala tribes in the Congo and Angola regions of Africa.

By the 17th century, the once peaceful relationship between the Portuguese and Africans was disrupted as the European slave trade escalated. In 1647, Salvador Correia of Brazil sent an expedition of fifteen ships to conquer Angola to facilitate the slave trade to South America. He and other Spaniards brought slaves to Mexico from Angola and Congo including those from the Bamba region and the Bambala tribe. In either case it is certain that the origins of La Bamba date back hundreds of years.

Just as English, Irish, German and French immigrants brought the violin to colonial America, the Spanish brought the violin to Central and South America. Much like their North American counterparts, African slaves in Latin America were drawn to play the instrument. Many slaves escaped into the rain forest and mountainous regions to live with indigenous people and became integrated into the folk culture. The violin became inextricably linked to all the traditional music styles created by the cross-pollination of the native and immigrant populations making up North and South American 400-year old culture.

Flamenco rhythms from Spain’s oppressed gypsy populations, became trademarks of what is South American music culture. For hundreds of years, one would hear La Bamba informed by these styles on the violin, jaranas, guitar, and harp with lyrics improvised by the perform­ers. It was in 1958 that an adaptation by Los Angeles Hispanic singer and guitarist Ritchie Valens, made La Bamba one of early rock and roll’s greatest songs.

Born Richard Steven Valenzuela, this teenaged Mexican-American rock and roll pioneer gave birth to Latin or Chicano rock. Richie grew up experiencing his parents’ love of Mariachi and Flamenco music and combined this style with his own affection for R&B and Jump Blues. After penning the million-selling doo-wop styled song “Donna” (written for his high school sweetheart), Ritchie Valens switched gears recalling a Mexican song he grew up listening to in his family home. He added a rock and roll beat and became the first person to use Spanish lyrics in a rock recording. In 1958, the infectious new treatment of the La Bamba shot up into the top 20 of the pop charts.

On February 3rd, 1959 during a rock and roll package tour in the Midwest, a small plane carrying the young stars Buddy Holly, JP (The Big Bopper) Richardson and the teenaged Ritchie Valens crashed leaving no survivors. The loss of these young men sent shock waves around the world and the tragic incident became acknowledged as “the day the music died.” These young rock musicians were just get­ting started in their already meteoric careers - Valens’ own career was a mere eight months old. La Bamba became an anthem for the rebellious rock and roll generation. The anti-establishment sentiment of 1960s America was similar to that of the 1600s in Mexico and defined a national spirit and coming of age. It is not surprising that this music would have been a part of both. The lyrics “yo no soy mainero, soy capitan” or “I am no mere sailor, I am captain!” speak to the American (both North and South) spirit of the common man wanting to take control of his own destiny.

Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos
Valens’ short career inspired the Latin rock movement. In 1987, the Hollywood motion picture La Bamba featured Valens’ life story portrayed by actor Lou Diamond Phillips. The music for the film was provided by the band Los Lobos, one of Valens’ acclaimed Latin rock successors. For the film, the group recorded a version of La Bamba that was intended to imitate Valens’ original classic but somehow miraculously seemed to improve on the original. This new version of La Bamba became another world wide sensation, this time reaching the #1 position on the pop charts in both the U.S. and the U.K. The guitar solo by Los Lobos’ Ceasar Rojas took on the musical ideas and character of the 1958 original solo by session player Carol Kaye, but escalated them to new musical heights. This famous instrumen­tal solo is a wonderful blend of Chicano rock stratocaster guitar and the traditional violin lyricism of Mexico that Los Lobos knew well. In this book’s version, Rojas’ guitar solo is transcribed and adapted to violin without any note changes. The overall violin arrangement was inspired by both Valens and Los Lobos and the inclusion of the violin brings the music full circle to the old Mexican folk tradition that will forever be a part of our collective story.

Bach Partita No. 2

 The solo violin compositions by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) are among the greatest contributions to musical literature ever written. Regarded as the father of western harmony and counterpoint, Bach and his music together with the stories of his own performances, improvisation and great violin playing create an important artistic bridge from western European musical culture to the Americas. Bach is remembered today as an organist mostly but, in fact, he was a professional violinist with playing duties in Weimar, Germany during the early 1700s.

In 1720, Bach, at age 35, completed the composition of all his solo violin works while he was director of music at the court of Leopold, Prince of Anhalt near Berlin, Germany. The 5 1/2 year court appointment did not include organ performance or church music duties, so he turned to his violin playing and instrumental compo­sition for the length of his tenure. If his unaccompanied violin works were ever performed in his lifetime, he was likely to have performed them himself for Prince Leopold.

For more than a century there has been conjecture concerning Bach’s intentions for his solo violin music. Many serious students of classical music take pride in using Bach’s bowings and articulation verbatim even though experts agree that the Baroque era was filled with improvising musicians and player-composers. One could question whether Bach envisioned an entire population of future musicians discovering his music from the single handwritten manuscripts he left of each piece. And further, one has to imagine if he could have foreseen the mass copying, engraving and publishing of his music not experienced in his lifetime.

It is at least possible, and maybe even likely, that Bach did not intend for anyone beyond himself to perform his solo violin works. Scholars have speculated that a handful of Bach’s violin-playing colleagues may have performed his unaccompanied violin works but there is no record of it. Also, Bach’s manuscripts suggest few fingerings in general. His violin phrases could be naturally played on more than one area of the fingerboard. If the music were intended primarily for himself, he would have remembered most of his favorite fingerings giving himself a little reminder here and there as he did occasionally. Since fingerings determine which string is played on and where the bow needs to cross the strings, most bowings would likely follow any given fingerings. Therefore Bach’s bowings can be considered both specific in some cases and general phrase markings in other cases. Bowings in Bach’s day were freely interpreted on solo repertoire and the phrase markings could serve merely as general guides to a natural improviser. Bach and composers from his era were composing in real time. They prepared music for the week and most likely moved on to more music the next week. The idea is substantiated by the stories of Bach’s wife using original manuscript of her husband’s to wrap fish in! There was simply not much of a need to keep old music laying around. Once it had already been performed for the Prince, it would be prudent to work up something new.

Students who have learned Bach’s solo violin music faithfully via modern mimeographs and academic editions may be in for a surprise. Most of the well-known editions have altered what Bach actually wrote regarding bowings and articulations as well as the appearance and nature of the musical notation itself. Consequently I have transcribed the Allemande as Bach wrote it for this book. This transcription includes and honors Bach’s concept of note beaming and also renders the . and . measures at the beginnings and endings of some staff systems. This replication also preserves Bach’s original bowings and articulation. Of special note is a 16-note down-bow slur in the ninth measure. This directive by Bach’s hand has been omitted in most subsequent editions. It is clear that Bach wanted 16 notes slurred in one down-bow in that ninth mea­sure because the bowing that follows works out correctly. There is no need for bowing this passage in groups of eight notes and using hook bowings to make the bow distribution come out evenly as found in many endorsed and recommended editions of this piece.

In Bach’s time, vibrato was used as ornamentation if at all. Continuous vibrato as a component of general tone production was a feature of the Romantic period and was not used by Bach. However, Francesco Gemanani and Leopold Mozart – contemporary composers and teachers of Bach – stated in the early 1700s that they preferred some use of the vibrato in performance. Also, the instruments were much different in Bach’s time. If one wanted to interpret this music as Bach himself might have sounded, he would need to use a short-necked fiddle strung with sheep gut resting the instrument on his collarbone without a chinrest and would also need to use a bow that arched away from the bow hair.

More confusion about authentic Bach centers around the belief that since many of Bach’s solo violin pieces have dance name titles, they must be music written for various dance genres. There is no evidence, however, that Bach’s solo violin music was ever intended to accompany danc­ing. There is no doubt that this music was inspired by various popular dance genres of the day. It is a testa­ment to Bach’s progressivism that he brought this dance influenced music into very formal settings. Because Bach’s virtuosic solo violin music was not intended for dancing it is not necessary to play it at steady dance tempos or at a single dynamic or devoid of soloistic liberties and dramatic rubatos.

On the other hand, many modern violinists have performed the Allemande at half the tempo intended for that dance thereby masking the original mood and the spirit of the music as well as losing the integrity of Bach’s syncopated phrasing. Bach composed many cantatas and much serious church music. It is most probable that the dance-influenced solo violin music was intended as a contrast from this composer showing even more great variety and scope. It is counterintuitive to perform these pieces without addressing at least the sprit of the dance contained in the musical phrasing. An interesting point with regard to the particular dance here is that an allemande was a social dance involving couples. One of the distinguishing characteristics is for the gentleman to turn his lady partner. The term “allemande” was used for centuries in dance vocabulary all the way to the Americas in square dancing: “allemand left, swing your partner, do-si-do.”

Bach’s solo violin works were largely forgotten in the century after Bach’s death and rediscovered and popularized as recently as the 19th Century by the great violinist Joseph Joachim although Felix Mendelssohn and Pablo Casals are the most noted for rediscovering Bach’s instru­mental music. There is a distinct possibility that Joachim’s 1904 recording of some of the Bach pieces could have been considerably slower in tempo than he would have otherwise performed them as a younger musician. There are many instances of performers taking much slower tempos in their later performing years. Joachim was 75 years old in 1904 – quite old for that time. However, Joachim’s slower tempos from the end of his lifetime may have unwittingly set an incorrect precedent for subsequent performances of these dance-inspired movements.

Perhaps the most telling indicator in the controversy of how to properly interpret Bach is the simple yet perhaps forbidding “repeat sign.” It stands to reason that the very existence of repeat signs – rather than an expanded form including developed treatment of the music already presented by the composer himself – suggests that the performer was expected to vary the music the second time around. This practice has been handed down in the American tradition of performing music from this same time period – American fiddle tunes. It stands to reason that Baroque era performers in America and Europe alike were expected to exhibit their creativity and theoretical knowledge during the repeats of the composed music. Isn’t it interesting and indeed wonderful that it is the American fiddlers who may have more faithfully perpetuated this aspect of what Bach himself intended!

Ashokan Farewell

Ken Burns editing film for “The Civil War”
Ashokan Farewell is a piece com­posed by Jay Ungar in 1982 as a lament upon saying goodbye to fiddling guests at his Fiddle & Dance Workshop held in Ashokan, New York. After Ungar recorded the piece with his band Fiddle Fever in 1984, filmmaker Ken Burns heard Ashokan Farewell and was very moved by it. Burns soon featured Ashokan Farewell throughout his 11-hour PBS series, The Civil War. Ungar’s tune was the only contemporary music in the soundtrack, the remain­der being 19th century music depicting America in 1861-1865, the years of the American civil war. Ashokan Farewell underlies nearly an hour of film including the emotional reading of Sullivan Ballou’s letter to his wife in the first episode. Since the series aired on television in 1990 as the
Jay Ungar, composer of "Ashokan Farewell"
most-watched program in PBS history (watched by 40 million viewers during its initial broadcast), there have been many performances and recordings of the beautiful tune. The arrangement for this book is largely inspired by the one from the album Heroes in 1992 that I recorded with classical violin great Pinchas Zukerman.
Pinchas Zukerman and O’Connor at “Heroes”
recording session

It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing)

Duke Ellington and Ray Nance
When Duke Ellington wrote It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) in 1931, he created an anthem for the swing era. Swing music, as did other American styles, developed organically and rather magically from the musical culture of the time. 

Ellington was one of the most successful African American musicians of the 1930s and ‘40s. The title of his famous “swing” tune came from a credo that his trumpeter Bubber Miley touted often. Lyricist Irving Mills immortalized the saying by mak­ing it the song title. Ellington said that in his time “swing” was simply “Harlem for rhythm.” The use of “that swing” in the title of Ellington’s new tune was a first and unwittingly named the new music that would define the great swing era. At first the winds and brass were featured with the vocals in this tune and hence in the style. Singer Ivie Anderson sang the hit for Ellington in 1932 with trombonist Joe Nanton and saxophonist Johnny Hodges taking the solos. Soon after, Ellington created another arrangement for band member and saxophone legend Ben Webster. Things changed however in 1940 when the Duke hired Ray Nance. 

Ray Nance
Born Willis Raymond Nance (Chicago 1913), Ray was such an all-round great musi­cian – playing solo trumpet, composing, arranging, singing and dancing - that his band mates nicknamed him “floorshow”! He was also one of the greatest jazz violinists in history. After taking a well-known signature trumpet solo in Duke Ellington’s famous Take the A Train in 1941 and some excellent violin solos in the hit C Jam Blues the fol­lowing year, Ellington asked Ray Nance to create a new arrangement of his It Don’t Mean a Thing. Nance “ran the floor” again leaving many to claim that his adapta­tion was the definitive version of the song. This arrangement released by Ellington in 1943 not only featured Nance’s attractive band writing style, but also his vocals on the lead and his masterful swing violin soloing as well. Nance is also credited with changing the original “doo-ahs” that Anderson sang in 1932, to the “doo-wahs” that more closely emulated a horn section sound. My arrangement quotes some of Nance’s original violin work as well as some of his band writing that naturally suits the violin.

Tico-Tico no Fubá (Sparrow in the Cornmeal)

Lira Santarritense orchestra
Zequinha de Abreu was one of the most prominent Brazilian composers in the early 20th century. Although he composed many marchinhas, valsas and tangos, today he is mostly remembered for his world-wide choro classic Tico-tico no Fubá. Born in 1880 in Brasil, Abreu received a harmonica at age five and began piano lessons at seven. His mother wanted young Zequinha to become a priest and sent him to the Episcopal Seminary. While there however, he found that he was more interested in his music lessons and ran away to become a profes­sional musician. 

Abreu went on to form the Lira Santarritense, an orchestra that played at silent movies. He became a prolific composer authoring and publishing such pieces as Maxixe Bafo de Onça, xote D’alva and valse Soluços. By 1917, he had composed over 100 works including many choros. The word “choro” can be literally trans­lated as “crying,” “weeping,” “tears,” or “moaning.” Ironically though, the music itself is not at all in the “lament” vein but is actually characterized by fast and upbeat rhythms, virtuosity, improvisation, chromatics, modulations, syncopations, counterpoint and general positive enthusiasm. It is difficult not to see a parallel irony concerning “the blues.” One of Abrue’s choros would later become world famous, although Abreu would never know the full extent of its success during his lifetime.
In 1917, Abreu and his orchestra tried out his new choro at a ball. It was said that the new piece of music caused dance couples to “go crazy on the ballroom floor.” After the set was over, Abreu commented to his band members that the dancers looked liked tico-ticos (a kind of little bird) eating corn meal. Wondering what to name the new tune, his bassist Artur de Carvalho replied that his description of the dancers should be the name - Tico-tico no Fubá

Zequinha de Abreu
Abreu had some success with the publisher Casa Vitale, releasing Branca, Sururú na Cidade and Tardes em Lindóia. He was also employed at Casa Beethoven as a sheet music demonstrator, often going door to door demonstrating his music for potential customers who might want a new valse or choro for their own living room entertainment. Although Tico-tico was popular and widely performed, it was not published until 1930. Abreu decided to have lyrics added by Eurico Barreiros in 1931. With his growing success, Abreu’s band grew to 25 members in 1933 often playing engagements in the major music centers of Rio de Janeiro. However the new orchestra was very short lived. After achieving mostly regional success, Zequinha de Abreu died of a heart attack in 1935 at age 54. 
Seven years later in 1942, Tico-tico no Fubá was recorded for the first time with new lyrics by “the queen of the choro” Ademilde Fonseca. It was also recorded by Brazilian film stars and satirists Alvarenga e Ranchinho who supplied their own lyrics. In 1944, the piece made its way to the United States in a very big way when the “first lady” of the Hammond organ – Pittsburgh’s Ethel Smith - scored a million-seller hit with it. When the “Brazilian bombshell” Carmen Miranda appeared with Groucho Marx in the 1947 musical comedy Copacabana performing Tico-Tico, the on-screen performance secured the song as an American sensation. Instrumentalists of all backgounds, from flamenco guitar great Paca de Lucia to pop classical violinist David Garrett to amateur and professional flutists and accordionists everywhere, have loved playing it ever since. 

1952 saw a movie directed by Adolfo Celi and Fernando de Barros based on Abrue’s life. The movie was entitled Tico-Tico no Fubá – a testament to this tune being Abrue’s greatest accomplishment.

Dawn Waltz

Major Franklin and
Mark O’Connor
Major Franklin was a pioneer of Texas style fiddling. Born in Arkansas in 1904, he received a little tin fiddle when he was four years old. When Major was eight, his family moved to Texas where he eventually became one of the most legendary contest fiddlers Texas has ever known. Franklin and his fellow competitors – Eck Robertson, Red Steeley, Irvin Solomon, Oscar Harper, Bryant Houston and Benny Thomasson – are the stuff of Texas folk music legend. Thomasson and Franklin would often tie for 1st place in the contests of breakdowns and waltzes, being called back repeatedly until one of them would finally come out on top.

In most musical genres, the responsibility for young prodigies learning their craft falls upon the great players from the generation before. The beautiful melody and history of Dawn Waltz may have disappeared into obscurity when Franklin died if he had not passed it on to a 14-year-old fiddler named James “Shorty” Chancellor. Often referred to by his stage name “Texas Shorty,” he was about the only fiddle music prodigy that appeared on the scene in those days, becoming the first teenaged fiddle champion in Texas. Born in Dallas in 1943, Shorty played only the mandolin until he was 13. At that point he met Benny Thomasson and
James “Texas Shorty” Chancellor
began private lessons with the fiddle legend. Shorty entered fiddle contests with Thomasson, accom­panying him on mandolin and entering the junior divisions himself on fiddle. Thomasson finished his string of wins at the Crocket World Fiddle Championships in 1957. After his unprecedented three wins in a row, contest officials barred him from entering again. Irvin Solomon’s adult son Norman won in 1958 and 16-year-old Shorty followed by matching his old teacher’s record with three consecutive wins in ’59, ’60 and ’61.

The accomplishments of the young Texas Shorty were preserved in a series of 45rpm recordings made between 1961 and 1965. Chancellor adapted the tune that Franklin had called Virginia Moonlight and recorded it as Dawn Waltz in the only known recording of this music. The composer of this beautiful melody, however, remains unknown.

Beaumont Rag

Smith's Garage Fiddle Band
The origins of the wildly popular Beaumont Rag as we know it today are as interest­ing as they are mysterious. First of all, the tune shares two identical parts with the more obscure White River Stomp. However since neither tune has an acknowledged composer, it is hard to say which came first. An early recording of White River Stomp was made by Jack Cawley’s Oklahoma Ridge Runners in 1930. Cawley was a Texas fiddler who had moved from the border town of Bonham into Oklahoma around 1914. Thousands of miles away, Canadian fiddling television star Don Messer’s cut of the White River Stomp in the 1940s brought the tune solidly into the Canadian fiddle repertoire and subsequently it was included in a Prince Edward Island fiddle tune collection.

Following a different thread, we find that Samuel Peacock – a barbershop owner – recorded Beaumont Rag with his group the Smith’s Garage Fiddle Band as early as 1928. The string band’s repertoire consisted mostly of Texas style fiddle tunes such as Done Gone, Tom and Jerry, Gray Eagle, and Limerock. The East Texas Serenaders, led by their fiddler Huggin D. Williams accompanied by guitar, tenor banjo and Henry Bogan on a 3-string cello, recorded Beaumont Rag several years later in 1937. Texas Western Swing fiddling superstar Bob Wills recorded Beaumont Rag just a few years after that in 1939.

Scott Joplin
It is interesting that two such similar tunes had parallel histories on such different parts of the continent. However, White River Stomp has disappeared into obscurity whereas Beaumont Rag has become a classic that most folk musicians have wanted to learn and play.

It is likely, however, that White River Stomp predated Beaumont Rag explaining why Samuel Peacock never overtly claimed credit for the tune although he was the first to record it. In the Texas fiddle contest tradition, fiddlers would often alter an existing tune creating something new and different enough to warrant a new name but probably not a separate copyright. In the Beaumont adaptation, the 1st part of the Stomp was entirely omitted, the 2nd part is the same and, intriguingly, the Stomp’s 3rd part became the signature 1st part of Beaumont Rag. Peacock himself may have added two great parts to Beaumont Rag – a classic ragtime motif and a “double shuffle.” Both of the new parts represent such engaging music that most players would have had a difficult time leaving any of it out. All of this musical evidence argues for the Stomp having evolved into the Rag and not the reverse.

Johnny Gimble
The similarity of these two tunes also begs the question as to what distinguishes a “stomp” from a “rag.” Ragtime had been a commercial phenomenon since the late 1800s. Although the piano became more associated with ragtime’s commercial success, many believe that ragtime syncopated tunes were bowed on the fiddle long before they were hammered out on the keys. Ragtime pioneer and superstar Scott Joplin said, “There has been ragtime music in America ever since the ‘Negro’ race has been here.” Joplin’s father had been a slave fiddler. According to New Orleans’ iconic Jelly Roll Morton, an African American musician who came to prominence in the piano ragtime era, the first tune with the name “stomp” in it was his tune King Porter Stomp in 1905. “I don’t know what the name stomp means, myself” Jelly Roll said, “…only that people would stamp their feet.” Jelly Roll’s “stomps” certainly had many of the same characteristics as the ragtime music that he composed and performed. Jelly Roll is also credited with the first “jazz” composition penned in 1915 and entitled Jelly Roll Blues. There is no doubt that in this era of American music culture brimming with new styles, fiddlers did not stay on the sidelines but were right in the middle of the explosion that was taking the country and the world by storm.

O'Connor and Benny Thomasson
Being a white old-time fiddler, Samuel Peacock created a ragtime piece specifically for the fiddle in a genre that had been dominated by piano composers for decades. He added a section featuring the 3-note-melody-against-a-4-beat-rhythm-pattern for Beaumont, a classic ragtime motif similar to one in the famous Black and White Rag (New York composer George Botsford, 1908) that contest fiddlers love to play. The version of Beaumont Rag in this book takes advantage of the fact that fiddlers often shifted into 5th position for a repeat of that figure up an octave. The other additional part of Beaumont Rag not included in White River Stomp is the “double shuffling” variation that Texas fiddlers were just beginning to use in the 1920s. They didn’t have much experience with this bowing because most of them considered it “hokum.” To the present day, “hokum” bowing is not allowed at the National Old-Time Fiddler’s Contest in Idaho. If the “double shuffle” bowing is employed by a fiddler, it could mean automatic disqualification! How could any bowing be literally “outlawed” from fiddling - especially when it is so thrilling to perform?

Jelly Roll Morton
Actually, “double shuffling” is akin to other syncopated musical rhythms such as the three-note patterns common in rag tunes. Ragtime was eventually accepted into fiddle contest repertoire but not the “double shuffle” itself. However, an overview of the fiddle contest repertoire reveals that the fiddle contest scene mostly preferred ragtime compositions by white composers. The term “hokum” may have carried racial overtones referring to the minstrel shows of the 1830s, the black minstrel shows and other post Civil War music including the blues, ragtime and jazz.

There was something about double shuffling though – this exaggerated syncopated bowing utilizing double-stopped chords – that white fiddlers ultimately wanted to emulate. Peacock was perhaps the first to step out of the narrow-minded conventions by using double shuffling in his adaptation of Beaumont Rag. And subsequently, double shuffling was brought back into fiddling by the jazz violin players whom the Texas fiddlers revered. New York jazz violinist pioneer Joe Venuti used double shuffling in some of his recordings on the Okey label in1927 and Goin’ Places, Four String Joe, and Kicking the Cat were widely copied throughout the Texas fiddle scene. A classically trained Texas swing fiddler named Cecil Brower used double shuffling in the new Western swing music of the early 1930s paving the way for many Texas fiddlers to incorporate this technique.

Don Messer's Islanders
One of Brower’s protégés was the legendary Western swing and Nashville session king Johnny Gimble. The double shuffle passages contained in this book’s version of Beaumont Rag are transcribed from his performance. An additional variation is added to the rendition of Beaumont Rag here by way of the dean of the Texas fiddlers, Benny Thomasson, the Texas state fiddle champion for 15 years in a row during the 1940s and 50s. His contribution is the 3rd part, a variation to the 1st part that I learned from him as a student. It employs virtuosic bowing and mul­tiple string jumps that were sure to gain him contest victories even though he had to omit the double shuffling in order to qualify!