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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Little Billie Wilson

Please note this is an archived topic, so it is locked and unable to be replied to. You may, however, start a new topic and refer to this topic with a link:

J-Walk - Posted - 05/15/2008:  18:35:40

I tried learning "Little Billie Wilson" about a year ago, and it was beyond my skills. I tried it again a few days ago, and now it seems pretty easy to me. I like it a lot.

Does anyone know the history of this 3-part tune? Who was Billie Wilson? Was he a really little man, or just a boy?

I'm pretty sure that it's an old fiddle tune, but all of the recordings I have are solo banjo. Any suggestions for the "definitive" recording?

Edited by - gottasmilealot on 08/06/2008 14:35:32

Banjo John C - Posted - 05/15/2008:  19:58:04

I don't have any answers for you except to say I play it a lot. It's one of my favorites. Our fiddle playing guru wil be back in town next week. I'll ask him.

Old Tyme, all the time

unclekurty - Posted - 05/15/2008:  20:10:44

He was a young boy when he became a soldier, lost a leg but got a wooden one or something like that.

J-Walk I enjoy your blog.

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 05/15/2008:  21:43:08

There aren't a lot of commercial recordings of Little Billy Wilson by bands although I have a lot of field recordings by fiddlers and some concert tapes etc. There is a pretty good version by Uncle Jimmy Thompson on one of the County "Nashville early String band albums - I'm not sure which one since I've digitized my copies from the lps.
The Hungry Hash House Ramblers and The Critten Hollow String Band have both done the tune recently and there is a pretty hot version with mandolin lead on the the Privy Tippers cd - "Under the Crescent Moon". They are on CDBaby

Rocket Science Banjo, Chapters 1 - 4.6 REVISED and 25 EZ tunes are ready now
You can watch the videos for some Rocket Science Banjo subjects starting here:
Banjo Brad is hosting How To Mold A Mighty Pinky adn other material at

bagunhe - Posted - 05/15/2008:  22:53:00

Uncle Jimmy Thompson's one is on "Nashville early string bands vol.2" (CD). It has quite different timing and phrasing than the one we hear these days, though.
Eck Robertson plays 2 parts of the tune in his Brilliancy Medley.

konnichiwa, arigato, sayonara

JackAK - Posted - 05/18/2008:  14:14:59

from the Fiddlers Companion

BILLY WILSON [1]. AKA and see "Ace of Spades," "Little Billy Wilson," "Old Billy Wilson." Old-Time, Breakdown. A Major. Standard or AEAE. AABBCC. "Billy Wilson" features pizzicato, or plucked notes. A three-part version was synthesized by fiddler and musicologist Joel Shimberg and entered 'revival' tradition, although based on Uncle Jimmy Thompson's "Billy Wilson." Most modern versions are based on Shimberg's tune, originally called "Old Billy Wilson." Sources for notated versions: Pete Sutherland (Vt.), and Tara Nevins via Liz Slade (Yorktown, N.Y.) [Kuntz]; Jane Rothfield [Phillips]. Kuntz, Private Collection. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), Vol. 2, 1995; pg. 78. Marimac 9054, The Ill-Mo Boys - "Fine as Frog Hair" (1993). Yodel-ay-hee #108327, The Critton Hollow Stringband - "Poor Boy" (1979).[

SteveK - Posted - 05/19/2008:  04:35:23

Let's not forget Cathy Fink's fine recordings of LBW. One was on an LP of hers and another on the Banjo Gathering compilation.

ScottK - Posted - 05/22/2008:  17:18:24

This is also on Cathy Fink's "Slow Jam for Old TIme Music" CD from Homespun Tapes with Bruce Molsky on fiddle. That's where I first heard it and learned it.


J-Walk - Posted - 05/22/2008:  18:06:00

Thanks for all the replies.

We should start a "tune of the day" thing here. Every day, a new tune to discuss. People could post their thoughts, favorite recordings, history, etc. Could be fun -- and helpful.

Janerothfield - Posted - 07/23/2008:  01:11:48

What an interesting discussion of one of my favorite tunes-in fact I just recorded it with none other than Cathy Fink, who I learned if from in 1980 or sometime long ago-we played it full speed ahead on my latest iFiddle, theyBanjo (on my own iFiddle Recordings Label). A challenging tune but one of the best!

atracksler - Posted - 07/23/2008:  04:22:03

i love the idea of tune of the day.... we should probably have tune of the week. start with a stune and tab, discuss it nd work on it throughout the week..


P.S. Have a Nice Day!

ScottK - Posted - 07/26/2008:  18:53:01

Tune of the week makes more sense to me, too. Most of us are so busy that we couldn't keep up with a new tune every day.

Hey J-Walk, what are you working on this week? If you start a tune of the week thread and call a tune, I'll try to learn it (if I don't know it already). Could be fun...


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