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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 6/25/2010 - Ways of the World

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:

ScottK - Posted - 06/24/2010:  16:41:15

In last week’s TOTW post Mark Johnson mentioned that he learned “Old Yeller Dog Come Trottin Through the Meeting House” from Rayna Gellert’s Ways of the World CD. So did I. It’s a great CD! About three years ago several of the fiddlers I play with around here were all learning tunes from that CD. I ended up learning a bunch as well in order to play with them: Old Yeller Dog, Ways of the World, Willow on the Lake, I’ve Got No Honeybabe Now, Where’s That Preacher with the Rabbi’s Wife, Swannanoa Waltz, Jenny Ran Away in the Mud in the Night, and Winder Slide. So I thought it would be fun to stick with the Ways of the World CD for another week and make Ways of the World this week’s TOTW.

About the tune, Fiddler’s Companion says:

WAYS OF THE WORLD [2]. Old-Time, Breakdown. A Major. AEae tuning. AABBCC. Not related to “Ways of the World” [1]. The source for modern versions of the tune is Magoffin County, Kentucky, fiddler William Stepp, who was recorded by Elizabeth and Alan Lomax for Library of Congress in 1937. When the index cards for the recording were typed up, explains Kerry Blech, the name Wm., for William, was rendered ‘W.M.’ and this error was repeated for many years. The fiddler’s name was actually William Hamilton Stepp. Bruce Greene theorized that the tune was misnamed either by him or his source, and that Stepp’s tune was similar to tunes Greene had heard generally played in the key of ‘A’ and going by the “Who’s Been Here Since I’ve Been Gone” title. Greene may have been talking about local Kentucky tunes, for the tune that usually goes by the name “Who’s Been Here Since I’ve Been Gone” does not sound like Stepp’s “Ways of the World.” Although played mainly in the key of ‘A’, crosstuned as Stepp played it, some fiddlers maintain it sounds better to their ears played in G with the fiddler tuned GDad. Source for notated version: W.H. Stepp (Salyersville, Magoffin County, Ky., 1937) [Titon]. Titon (Old Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes), 2001; No. 165, pg. 191. Library of Congress, 1937, Bill Stepp (Lakeville, Magoffin County, Ky.). Rounder 18964-1518-2, Various Artists (Bill Stepp) – “American Fiddle Tunes” (a reissue of the 1971 Library of Congress LP of field recordings). Rounder CD1518, Various Performers – “American Fiddle Tunes” (1971. Played by W.H. Stepp). Yazoo 2013, William Stepp – “The Music of Kentucky, vol. 1.” Reed Island Rounders – “Goin’ Home” (2002).

You can hear a recording of William Stepp playing Ways of the World at the Digital Library of Appalachia. You can hear a sample of Rayna Gellert playing it at the CDBaby page for her CD.

I posted a recording of my banjo version of Ways of the World on my BHO music page. In case anyone is interested, I also tabbed it out and posted the tab in the BHO tab library. The “A” part is crooked, though, and I'm sure that I have not layed out the measures correctly. But the fingering is there. (Trying to write tab for crooked tunes makes me start to identify with John Burke! ) Dan Levenson also has a tab for Ways of the World in his Old Time Festival Tunes for Clawhammer Banjo.

This tune is a lot of fun to play with a hot fiddler. Last weekend I played it out in Weiser in a session with Kristen Harris from the Eugene old time string band Molasses and she just ripped it up!

All for now, Scott

Mark Johnson - Posted - 06/24/2010:  19:43:35

Holy cow, that's awesome Scott. That's a tune I've always wanted to try to arrange for banjo but haven't yet. Your arrangement is spectacular. I really dig it.

Thanks for the William Stepp link too.

Great TOTW, thanks!


ScottK - Posted - 06/25/2010:  07:03:37

Thanks Mark! I don't know that I would have thought to work on it, except that it started showing up in jams around here. That's pretty much what's been determining which tunes I learn for the last four years or so. We're fortunate to have lots of fiddlers in the area (Sammy Lind's, Lisa Ornstein's, and Sophie Vitell's fiddle classes just keep 'em coming! Plus they keep moving here from elsewhere...) so I always have a long list of tunes I want to work on that they've introduced in various sessions and parties.


J-Walk - Posted - 06/25/2010:  08:05:45

I've always wanted to learn this tune. Maybe its being TOTW will be the motivation I need.

Have you heard the Red Hots' recording? It's on some old album that's impossible to find. That one moves right along, with some tasty popcorn banjo. And even a few words thrown in. Give it a listen and the other recordings seem like they're in slow motion.

BTW, I didn't even recognize you in that new photo, Scott.

BobTheGambler - Posted - 06/25/2010:  09:00:55

This is very cool to have, as I've just lately been teaching myself to fiddle "Ways of the World." Thanks for posting.

ScottK - Posted - 06/25/2010:  12:07:01

Thanks for the tip about the Red Hots recording, J-Walk. I'll have to keep an eye out for that. I picked up their Ready to Roll CD a few months back when we were discussing festival style banjo and I like it a lot. (Whiteface off of that CD would make another good TOTW someday...)

Regarding the new photo, it probably makes me look my age more than the old one did. Apart from actually being my age , I was up until 3:30am Monday morning drinking and picking tunes out at Weiser. Then I crashed for a few hours, busted camp, and drove the six hours back to Portland. I was sitting at the kitchen table right after I got back catching up on email and realized I was still wearing the WZR T-shirt I bought from Brooks Masten's son (they were camped near me in Stickerville). Thought it would make a fun avatar photo, so I snapped it with the laptop webcam. So that's my "worn out from Weiser" photo.


tfaux - Posted - 06/25/2010:  15:54:42

I have a terrific fast fiddle recording of WOTW in my computer by Henry Reed. I downloaded it a couple of years ago from (I think) the Digital Library of Appalachia, but it doesn't seem to be there anymore.

I'd post, but don't want to violate anybody's copyrights.

Wonder if Alan Jabbour knows anything about that one.
Alan, you there?


tfaux - Posted - 06/25/2010:  15:55:19

Great tune btw, thanks for posting it Scott.

cbcarlisle - Posted - 06/27/2010:  11:31:54

Don't want to start a fight about whether this is the Real "Way of the World," (mine is from Luther Strong) so maybe we should be neutral and differentiate them by their sources: Stepp's "Ways..." and Strong's "Ways...". But they Are entirely different tunes and we should not perpetuate any confusion. Maybe Next week's tune could be Luther's.

Curt Bouterse

ScottK - Posted - 06/27/2010:  13:03:00

Good point. Fiddler's Companion has entries for both versions of Ways of the World. Here's the entry for the version from Luther Strong:

WAYS OF THE WORLD [1]. Old#8209;Time, Bluegrass; Breakdown. USA; Tennessee, Kentucky, southwestern Va. D Major. Standard tuning. AABB. The tune was first recorded in 1937 by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax from the playing of Dalesbury, Ky., fiddler Luther Strong. Tom Carter and Blanton Owen (1976) identify it as a popular Patrick County, Va., fiddle tune belonging to an early repertoire established before the "band" style, or fiddle/clawhammer banjo combination, became popular. Tom Paley thinks Strong may have used a DDae tuning. Jeff Titon (2001) notes that three fiddlers played “Ways of the World” (probably this version) at the 1919 Berea, Kentucky, fiddle contest. Source for notated version: Highwoods String Band (Ithaca, N.Y.) [Brody]. Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; pg. 286. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 1, 1994; pg. 253. Bobville, “The Red Hots.” Front Hall FHR#8209;021, John McCutcheon #8209; "Barefoot Boy with Boots On" (1981. Learned from a recording by W.H. Stepp, Ky.). Meadowlands MS1, "Allan Block and Ralph Lee Smith." Philo 1023, Jay Ungar and Lyn Hardy#8209; "Songs, Ballads and Fiddle Tunes" (1975. Appears as second tune of "Twin Fiddle Medley"). Revonah RS#8209;924, "The West Orrtanna (Pa.) String Band" (1977). Rounder 0023, Highwoods String Band#8209; "Fire on the Mountain."

I don't know this version, though. I don't think I even have a recording of this version, but would enjoy hearing one.


cbcarlisle - Posted - 06/28/2010:  12:19:38

There are a lot of good tunes by Strong on Juneberry including "WOTW" and my favorite, "Glory in the Meetin' House."

I also play "Ways" on fretless on my first CD, "Down the Road I'll Go."

Anyone else notice WOTW is an analog (not quite anagram) of TOTW?

ScottK - Posted - 06/28/2010:  13:35:00

Hey, thanks for the links Curt! I didn't know about the Luther Strong recordings on Junberry78s. Guess I need to spend some time exploring that site.

I'd been meaning to pick up your CDs for some time now, this just pushed me over the edge. CDBaby loves me again!

Now I'm going to have to learn the Luther Strong version of WOTW...

Cheers, Scott

LyleK - Posted - 06/28/2010:  20:07:18

Hi Scott,

Great tune! Somehow I had gotten the title confused with "Wheels of the World" and so had never learned "The Ways of the World" (guess I live a sheltered life). Prior to Curt's posting I went ahead and did an *.mp3 of the Luther Strong version. That's at:

ScottK - Posted - 06/29/2010:  08:14:53

Hi Lyle,

I was wondering when you were going to show up on this thread. I actually checked your web site to see if you had a WOTW to include as I was putting together my orignal post for this thread. Thanks for adding your Luther Strong version. Great picking, as usual!

Guess this week is turning into another TOTW two-fer!


ndlxs - Posted - 06/29/2010:  08:53:57

Just put 'em together and call it Ways of the Worlds, or Many Ways and Many Worlds.

cbcarlisle - Posted - 06/29/2010:  09:13:57

...Just put 'em together and call it Ways of the Worlds,...

There is, of course, a (humorous) theory in ethnomusicology that in any given musical culture there are only three (or four - the details vary) different tunes; everything else is a variant.

ndlxs - Posted - 06/29/2010:  09:21:36

This is turning into the Wars of the Ways of the Worlds.

cbcarlisle - Posted - 06/29/2010:  09:31:06


ndlxs - Posted - 06/29/2010:  09:36:00

I like that name best: WOTWOTW.

ScottK - Posted - 06/29/2010:  12:12:22

Yeah, but if you only had one tune named WOTWOTW, then you wouldn't have a TOTWTWO-fer anymore.

Sorry, couldn't resist. Where's my banjo...


LyleK - Posted - 06/29/2010:  18:02:53

Originally posted by ScottK
I actually checked your web site to see if you had a WOTW to include as I was putting together my original post for this thread.

Thanks Scott for the positive comments. I've now put tabs for both versions at . The one in D (aDADE) is the Luther Strong version while the one in A modal is the Stepp version (which I'll try to record soon).

Don Borchelt - Posted - 07/02/2010:  07:13:18

Great picking from Scott, and Curt and Lyle. Here is my version of the Stepp tune (about a week late). I just retired yesterday, so now I finally have time to do stuff! I learned this a few weeks ago from Stephen Bland, a fine fiddle and banjo player from Rochester, New York, at the Black Creek Fiddler's Reunion. I recorded it this morning on my Tascam DR-1, playing my '64 Ode, three finger style without fingerpicks. The banjo is tuned gDGAD, capoed on the second fret. I do have the tab up on my website.

Ways of the World

- Don Borchelt

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 07/02/2010 07:19:12

ScottK - Posted - 07/02/2010:  08:24:27

Don, that is just flat beautiful picking! I haven't been so immediately apprehended by a piece of music in quite some time. Made my morning, thanks for posting it! And congratulations on your retirement!


cbcarlisle - Posted - 07/02/2010:  10:37:52

It just dawned on me - it had been floating around in the back of my head for several days - [interesting metaphors, huh?] that Stepp's "Ways" sounds a little like "Give the Fiddler a Dram." (Then again, there are only three different Old-Time tunes... :)

Don Borchelt - Posted - 07/03/2010:  03:43:58

Curt wrote: "Then again, there are only three different Old-Time tunes..."

Uhm, I thought there were four...

Don Borchelt - Posted - 07/03/2010:  07:45:24

No, I guess you're right. Just three.

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