A tune traced to the 19th c. at least, and popular throughout the South, finding its way further north only later--apparently. See Andrew Kuntz's data at ibiblio.org/fiddlers/BILL_BINS.htm . Note the different spellings--same tune.
It's mostly played by bluegrass bands these days--quite popular in that genre, perhaps because it was one of the fiddle and banjo tunes Earl Scruggs and Paul Warren did. Most of the many versions on YouTube are bluegrass ones, and the tab listed in the Hangout tab section seems to be all bluegrass versions too.
One of my favorite old-time recordings is from the Texas-based Red Headed Fiddlers, with Red Graham playing clawhammer right along with the fiddle. It's on one of the old County compilations, but doesn't seem to be available on the web though. Here's my version with Dick Arnold on fiddle: banjohangout.org/myhangout/mus...p?id=7205
nice one Bill, its great to know the history of the tune's you play the first time i heard good old Bll Cheathem was by Doc Watson most of the jam's and fes i go to in England it's played in clawhammer but i like to play it in 3 finger, a friend of mine play's it in clawhammer and i play free finger and the two style's go well together great. is it right that Lorena was band in the civil war because it made the guy's think of home and wont to stop fighing, if any body would know this i think you would Bill, im not saying you where in the civil war Bill one of my favourite tunes to play is the 8th of january, what i like to do is start with the vocal's and than play it as instumental, would this tune go back to the colonial war i alway's dedicate it to you guy's in the US for giving us brit's a good kick in the back side.
*** Nice choice Mr Rogers. Great information and nicely played recording. I first heard of this tune on one of Doc Watson's albums with Merle. They began with Salt Creek and ended with Bill Cheatham. Very sweet and quickly picked medley they recorded there. Thats where I got my idea to record it a few years ago on my Reiter WL with nylguts in G. I also believe I picked up the basic tab from "The Banjo Players Songbook" by Tim Jumper.
One of my favorites. I think I learned it from the great Minneapolis-based flat-pick guitar player "Dakota" Dave Hull. In the mid-1970s he was teamed up with Peter Ostroushko and they did a great version paired with Salt Creek. It may have been on a broadcast of the Prairie Home Companion that I had taped on cassette, and I think I played it first on dulcimer.
I've got a version of Bill Cheatham on my personal site at: