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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: Tune of the Week December 17 - Seneca Square Dance

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BANJOJUDY - Posted - 12/17/2010:  21:21:07

The person who was supposed to put up a tune this week emailed me that he could not do one.

So here I am with MY pick this week. I have done no research, but am merely presenting it, knowing all interested parties will post way more than I ever could.

Oh - the tune - Waiting for the Federals or Seneca Square Dance, and, on Wayne Shrubsall and Alan Munde's album, Best Friends, it is played as Georgia Boys.

It is fun to play in open G.

Looking forward to everyone's input! Thanks in advance.


PS:Always looking for volunteers - you know routine - email me if you can help introduce a tune (

Edited by - BANJOJUDY on 12/19/2010 18:03:46

plunknplinkntwang - Posted - 12/18/2010:  01:34:40

Heres some kindling for the topic that I've lazily cut & paste from the fiddlers companion - a nice tune that lives under many nom de guerres

SENECA SQUARE DANCE. AKA and see “The Federal Hornpipe,” "Georgia Boys," “(Got a) Little Home to Go To [1],” “Higher Up the Monkey Climbs,” "John Hoban's Polka,” “Running from the Federals,” “Shelby’s Mules,” "Waiting for the Federals." Old#8209;Time, Breakdown. USA; Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri. G Major. Standard tuning. AB (Johnson): ABB (Ford): AABB (Phillips, Songer); AA’BB’ (Beissenger & McCann).


The origin of the title is obscure. Jim Kimball, a musicologist from Genesco, NY, points out that many Seneca indians (part of the Iroquois nation) were relocated to Oklahoma after the War of 1812, and that there is still a large community of Seneca in the northeastern part of that state, not far from southwest Missouri. They were located between the Wyandot reserve and the Cherokee Nation on the Grand River. The tune may also be called after the town of Seneca, Missouri, in the southwestern part of the state (which may itself have taken its name from the Indian tribe). It appears to have had a long history in the United States, judging from some of the alternate title that suggest pre-Civil War times and hiding from authority. A Civil War connection is made with the alternate title “Shelby’s Mules,” a reference to the Confederate cavalry commander General Joseph Shelby.


Johnson (1982/1988) notes that there is an old hymn set to this tune, but does not give specifics. The melody is known to Irish musicians as "John Hoban's Polka" and appears to be related to the tune “(What Shall We Do with a) Drunken Sailor” and perhaps the gospel song “Rock-a My Soul (in the Bosom of Abraham).” A distanced, somewhat odd although regularly phrased version appears in Pioneer Western Folk Tunes (1948) by champion Arizona fiddler Viola “Mom” Ruth, under the title “Get Away from the Federals” with “Fall of Paris” given as an alternate title.


“Seneca Square Dance” appeared on the Challenge label (a subsidiary of Sears and Roebuck) on a 78 RPM recording by one ‘Fiddlin’ Sam Long of the Ozarks’ (1876-1931, born in Kansas, resident of Oklahoma and Missouri at various times, who actually but won a big contest in Missouri when living in Oklahoma) and was reissued by County on an LP entitled “Echoes of the Ozarks” in the 1970's. Long lived in the northeastern part of the state of Oklahoma, near both the reservation and Seneca, Missouri, just across the state line. Long recorded the tune via acoustic, not electronic methods in 1926, and despite the rather poor quality of the sound it sold well in the Mid-west and West. Gus Meade and W.L. McNeil researched Long and discovered he had been born in 1876 and died sometime in March 1931 (in Burns, Kansas). He was the first Ozark fiddler to have been recorded.


“Seneca Squaredance” has been, and continues to be, a popular tune among regional fiddlers. Fiddlin' Bob Larkin recorded a version with words called "The Higher Up the Monkey Climbs." Alton Jones (1918-2002) of Theodosia, Mo., calls it "Seneca War Dance" and Cliff Bryan of West Plains calls it "Got No Little Home to Go to." It is infrequently called “Echoes of the Ozarks,” the name of a different tune (by Clyde Davenport, for one). The late John Hartford (2001) notes similarities with “Turkey Buzzard,” and there are musical similarities to “Shoot that Turkey Buzzard.”


The melody was featured in the score by Ry Cooder for the film The Long Riders. It seems that one of Cooder’s associates, David Lindley, previously performed an idiosyncratic version when he played with folk-rock musician Jackson Browne. There was no name attached to it and it was called “David's Fiddle Tune” at the time.


Sources for notated versions: John Hartford [Phillips]; Sam Long (early-mid 20th century, Mid-West) [Beisswenger & McCann]. Beisswenger & McCann (Ozark Fiddle Music), 2008; pg. 90. Ford (Traditional Music in America), 1940; pg. 122. Johnson (The Kitchen Musician No. 2: Occasional Collection of Old#8209;Timey Fiddle Tunes for Hammer Dulcimer, Fiddle, etc.), 1982 (revised 1988 & 2003); pg. 12. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 2, 1995; pg. 125. Songer (Portland Collection), 1997; pg. 179. County Records CD-3506, Sam Long – “Echoes of the Ozarks, vol. 1” (1995. Reissue recordings, various artists). Gennett Records (78 RPM), Sam Long (1928). PearlMae Muisc 004-2, Jim Taylor – “The Civil War Collection” (1996). Revonah RS#8209;932, The West Orrtanna String Band #8209; "An Orrtanna Home Companion" (1978). Kerry Elkin et al - “Tradition Today.”

Here's Mr Zepp

And john 'sparkyfiddle' playing the same tune. Yes he doesn't play clawhammer but definitely old time


maxmax - Posted - 12/18/2010:  03:14:22

This is a lovely tune! I made a video a while back of me playing it. You can see it here


jojo25 - Posted - 12/18/2010:  07:25:56

this is my fav version of this tune

love dem lyrics!

ndlxs - Posted - 12/18/2010:  08:07:55

I have always loved this tune; I particularly like the chords in the Long Riders soundtrack, esp. the relative minors. I have never worked out a version to my satisfaction on banjer, though. Project of the day, I guess.

One project I am working on with my band Off to California has a theme of women in history; my fiddler friend Dorothy likes to tie this tune to the 1848 Seneca Falls convention that was the start of the women's movement:

I don't think anyone has suggested there is a real link between the tune on the historical event, but one never knows, do one?

Randy Adams - Posted - 12/18/2010:  08:45:30

Good tune choice Judy and thx for filling in there on short notice.
Thought I'd burn a quick vid of it to help things along this Old G or F tuning or whatever you call it....'cept down a step or 2 or 3....

That's funny jojo25!

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 12/18/2010:  09:09:27

Love the you tube video! Made my morning.

What are those lyrics, though. All I got was,

The higher up the monkey climbs,
The higher up the monkey climbs,
The higher up the monkey climbs,
The greater he shows his???


gailg64 - Posted - 12/18/2010:  10:05:19

That's my fave version too & it kind of sounds like they're singing: "...the greater he shows his ---ya dat da da da da da... (his behind?)
Bob Townsend fiddles a nice version they call Waiting for the Federals in southeastern Tennessee & Al. it's on the Fiery Gizzard SB recording of a few years ago.

Originally posted by BANJOJUDY

Love the you tube video! Made my morning.

What are those lyrics, though. All I got was,

The higher up the monkey climbs,
The higher up the monkey climbs,
The higher up the monkey climbs,
The greater he shows his???


Randy Adams - Posted - 12/18/2010:  10:28:47

Maybe it's an Arkansas thing?


Women Wear No Clothes At All
Fiddlin Bob Larkin- 1929

Women Wear No Clothes At All

Old-Time Breakdown; Missouri area

ARTIST: Fiddlin Bob Larkin

CATEGORY: Fiddle and Instrumental Tunes


RECORDING INFO: "Fiddling Bob Larkin & His Music Makers" Okeh 45399 Recorded: Unknown Issued: December 1929

SOURCES: Honking Duck

NOTES: The lyrics are a parody of the minstrel era song "She Get's There Just the Same." Larkin used riske lyrics in some of his fiddle tunes including "The Higher Up the Monkey Climbed." Here's a brief bio:

Fiddlin' Bob Larkan and Family, who recorded fifteen tunes in Memphis in 1928 lived around the Hazen area in Prarie County, Arkansas (just below White County). Accompanying Larkan's fine fiddling were his sons Ed Larkan on basss and Forrest "Bob" Larkan on piano, with Holen Sherbs and Alice Sherbs (Larkan's daughter) playing guitars. Curiously Larkan was born in New York City (in 1867), but reared in Centralia, Missouri. Larkan received considerable exposure in the late 1920's and early 1930's by being associated with the notorious Doctor J.R. Brinkley of Kansas whose goat-gland cure-all medicine was advertised all over the powerful Mexican "outlaw" radio station XER and heard over most of the USA. Larkan and his family actually started performing over the air in 1929 on KFKB, Brinkley's Millford, Kansas small town radiostation that quickly became one of the more widely heard regional stations in the U.S. When Brinkley ran into trouble with the Federal Radio Commission for false advertising and conflict of interests, he defied the U.S. authorities by constructing a huge 75,000 watt station just over the Mexican border from Del Rio, Texas. Fiddlin' Bob Larkan was one of many rural musicians (including hte Carter Family) who played for a time over this powerful vehicle. The senior Larkan died in 1942.

Listen to Women Don't Wear No Clothes:

"Women Wear No Clothes At All, The" by "Fiddling Bob Larkin & His Music Makers"
Okeh 45399 Recorded: Unknown Issued: December 1929

The women wear no clothes at all,
The women wear no clothes at all,
The women wear no clothes at all,
But they get there just the same.


I was wondering b/c my Gramps and Dad were Arkansas boys and they would ever so occasionally break into the tune National Emblem with these lyrics.

O the Monkey wrapped his tail around the flagpole
To show the people
His hairy .............

to show his .......
to the people

to show the people
he wasn't bashful

Edited by - Randy Adams on 12/18/2010 10:30:11

Don Borchelt - Posted - 12/19/2010:  05:49:17

Fine choice, Judy. One of my favorites also. Mr. Zepp proves that banjo pickers can multi-task despite popular sentiment to the contrary, by picking and selling banjos at the same time! He picks it very well, and that Chuck Lee sure does sing. John (sparkyfiddle) Hedgecock's version is great; I like the way he gets a clawhammer feel with his brush strokes while still up picking. I really enjoyed Max's good and greasy fretless performance, too. I gotta go back and work on my semi-fretless tubaphone, it needs some tune-up, and I haven't been playing it. Randy's deep throated, growly tackhead rendition is totally cool.

Ed Britt and I pick this one, but we never taped it. I wish now we had. I made a quick video this morning of my three finger version, attached below. If anyone is interested in the tab, I have it posted on my website:

Tab for Seneca Square Dance, three finger style

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 12/20/2010 09:59:41

VIDEO: Seneca Square Dance
(click to view)


NickC - Posted - 12/19/2010:  08:38:06

This is on of my favourite banjo tunes. So beautiful.
Might get good enough to play it one day!

stevesg - Posted - 12/19/2010:  21:25:29

peter and the late janet taney used to sing on the B part:

And we'll all go together
We'll all go together
To see Jesus walkin' on the water
With a rainbow 'round his shoulders

anyone else hear something related?


cbcarlisle - Posted - 12/19/2010:  23:36:38

I have a soft spot for this tune and had played it on hammered dulcimer for ten years or so before I recorded it with Ry Cooder for the Long Riders. The (long) story goes like this.
In 1979, I heard an announcement that there would be a repeat of a Saturday Night Live episode featuring "Flaco" Jimenez and Ry Cooder. I was not a late night anynight TV watcher and had only seen a few SNL shows in my life. But I liked Flaco and had heard of Ry Cooder as a powerhouse guitarist since the 1960s. I had always assumed he was much older than I and figured I'd better catch him while I still could, so I stayed up to watch the show. I think I imagined him like BB King, Chet Atkins, and Les Paul, whom I had seen since the 1950s. Imagine my surprise when I saw the show: "He's MY age!" I thoroughly enjoyed the show and had a good night's sleep.
The next day, Sunday, around noon, the phone rang. A voice said,"Hello, Curt? This is Ry Cooder." [My immediate thought was, "Did I tell anyone about this whole experience? Someone is putting me on."] "Yes...," I answered, warily, waiting for the gotcha! He continued, "David Lindley gave me your name and said you played hammered dulcimer." "Yes...," I replied, still hesitant. "Well, I'm putting together the soundtrack for a sort of Western movie about the James Gang...etc.," He gave more details and mentioned Tom Sauber's name and, eventually, said, "I'd like to get together with you to see whether you'ld be interested in working with us." We set a time in a couple of days and hung up.
[I had met David Lindley and Tom Sauber at some of the Topanga Canyon Banjo and Fiddle Contests some ten years previous.]
The whole time we were talking I was still unsure whether it was real or not. Besides, I had done a few movie soundtracks before and there were usually forces working at cross purposes. My dulcimer playing was self-taught and very idiosyncratic, and I played tunes in all the "wrong" keys, since they only fit on my diatonic instrument in a couple of places. Most other instrumentalists couldn't or didn't want to accomodate my peculiarities. But I figured I would see in a few days whether he was real or not and whether it would work or not.
He came to where I worked, at the Green Tiger Press, in downtown San Diego, in a large warehouse and we went to a distant corner, followed by several interested friends. I set up my dulcimer, he set up a cassette. "This is just to give you an idea of what Tom and David and I are thinking about to start with," and he pushed "play." The first sound out of the speakers was "Seneca Square Dance."
[I had been playing "Seneca" for ten years and had worked up what I thought was a good set of variations, but most players I knew didn't know the tune, and those who did, played it in a different key. I had learned it from a travelling string band that had played several times at the Heritage Coffee House, owned by my best friend, Bob Webb. Bob was from LA and also knew Dave and Tom.]
I touched a string or two on my dulcimer to check the tuning and started playing on the second phrase of "Seneca." They were in My key and we were exactly in tune. [Since I didn't have a tuner, and seldom played with anyone else, I only tuned my dulcimer to itself. The fact that we were in tune is still, to me, a miracle of Biblical proportions.]
Ry looked at me and grinned, "I think we're going to get along just fine." And that, as they say in the movies, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Curt Bouterse

dbrooks - Posted - 12/20/2010:  04:35:52

Wonderful story, Curt. Ry Cooder is one of my heroes, and I'm grateful he introduced me to Flaco Jimenez as well.

And I should take this moment to thank you for your contributions to old-time music as well. Waiting for Nancy and Nixon's Farewell may be better known than Seneca Square Dance.


ndlxs - Posted - 12/20/2010:  06:21:02

Curt, your playing is a big part of why I like that version so much. I have a tape of you playing "Mississippi Sawyer" on KPFK somewhere that I treasure (along with several other tunes, inc. "Promised Land", that I learned and still do).

Thanks for the contribution.

cbcarlisle - Posted - 12/20/2010:  12:26:21

Thanks for the kind words, gentlemen. Andy, Promised Land is the final cut on my newest CD, "Banjer on my Knee," which is being distributed as we speak.

Curt Bouterse

whyteman - Posted - 12/20/2010:  15:07:17

Some Missouri fiddlers call it "Shoot That Turkey Buzzard", which is illegal. Turkey vultures do not kill livestock, they eat carrion, and they are protected.


gottasmilealot - Posted - 12/20/2010:  17:23:21

I think this tune is the winner for having the most names.

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 12/20/2010:  21:14:27

Originally posted by whyteman

Some Missouri fiddlers call it "Shoot That Turkey Buzzard", which is illegal. Turkey vultures do not kill livestock, they eat carrion, and they are protected.


I listened to two versions of Shoot That Turkey Buzzard (one by Roger Howell and the other by Ill-Mo Boys) and I cannot agree that it is the same as Seneca Square Dance, Georgia Boys or Waiting for the Federals.

Am I the only one who cannot find a similarity in the tunes?

vrteach - Posted - 12/20/2010:  21:52:55

Originally posted by gottasmilealot

I think this tune is the winner for having the most names.

I think that award is more likely to go to

CROOKED STOVEPIPE [2]. AKA and see "Buffalo Nickel [1]," “Cat Ate the Handsaw,” "Chinky Pin," "Darling Child," “Eber Atkins Tune,” "Farmer Had a Dog," "Fourth of July," "Hair in the Butter," "I'm My Momma's Darling (Child)," “Lead Out,” “Liesel,” “Love Somebody [2],” "Midnight Serenade [1]," "My Love is/She's But a Lassie Yet [1],” “Old Mose,” “Raymondville,” "Richmond Blues," "Sweet Sixteen," "Ten Nights in a Bar Room," “Too Young to Marry [1],” "Yellow Eyed Cat."

We often call this one "The Tune of a Thousand Names." It's a good tune, too.

I was surprised to see that I hadn't recorded a version of Seneca Square Dance, I'll see if I can do something about that. Good tune.

Don Borchelt - Posted - 12/21/2010:  04:34:36

Judy wrote: "Am I the only one who cannot find a similarity in the tunes?"

While I think there are some similarities, enough that the two tunes may well be "related," I don't think that Seneca Square Dance and Shoot the Turkey Buzzard are the same tune. But in fairness, what Don wrote was that "some Missouri fiddlers call it Shoot the Turkey Buzzard," and if so, it wouldn't be the first example of interchangable tune titles. Look at "Fire on the Mountain," my TOTW of a few months ago. Here is an excellent BHO example of The Buzzard played by Julie Duggan (banjofrailer):

Shoot the Turkey Buzzard played by Julie Duggan

- Don Borchelt

P.S. I'm looking forward to hearing Eric pick Seneca S.D.

Edited by - Don Borchelt on 12/21/2010 04:43:07

LyleK - Posted - 12/21/2010:  05:50:27

"Stuck" on vacation in FL with no banjo (grrr...): just a fiddle, a match and an axe. I'm not letting anyone else near the match lest they mistake the fiddle for kindling.

But I do have my laptop and wi-fi, so I did a tab of "Seneca" in gEADE tuning. See Mike Iverson's site for a gDGBD tab, but I gotta' say I'm liking gEADE tuning better for just about everything. Stay tuned (intentional double entendre) for the Feb 4 tunING of the week.

Edited by - LyleK on 12/21/2010 05:53:14

Seneca Square Dance


hendrid - Posted - 12/21/2010:  06:58:30

For you by ear melody players there is a nice simpler fiddle lesson and breakdown of Seneca on youtube.

I really like Aly Bain's fiddle version of Federals. Other instruments used also. Don

Feo - Posted - 12/21/2010:  07:19:27

Now that I think about it , "Shoot that Turkey Buzzard " does sound alot like "Seneca Squaredance " thanks Don .

My "Waiting for the Federals " sounds nothing like Seneca Squaredance at all ...not even close....funny how these tune names get passed around .

whyteman - Posted - 12/21/2010:  07:30:50

Whadda you think of Aly's version, Jimmy? That's about how Greg plays it. I do like it, but I'm an Aly Bain fan, I must confess. I like his duets with B Molsky too because of the contrast in their styles, among other things.


handsup8 - Posted - 12/21/2010:  07:37:05

LyleK, thanks for that tab. I too am digging that "G out of A-modal" tuning for other G tunes, not only Cumberland Gap: Barlow Knife sits there well and Chris Coole's fine "Hail Against the Barn Door" is in that tuning dropped down a whole step so that it's actually in "F."

May I borrow your tab for an intermediate claw class I'm teaching this winter which will feature tunes out of this tuning (as well as "Old G")? I will mos' def' give you credit and point students towards your other offerings.

This class is through the Summit School of Traditional Music and Culture up here in Montpelier, Vermont:


whyteman - Posted - 12/21/2010:  07:38:41

Hi Judy.

I see what you mean, based on Julie Duggan's version which is very nicely played, is it not? I was going by Missouri itinerant fiddler Roy Wooliver's version that John Hartford recorded on his "Hamilton Ironworks" CD.


LyleK - Posted - 12/21/2010:  08:19:27

Originally posted by handsup8
May I borrow your tab for an intermediate claw class I'm teaching this winter which will feature tunes out of this tuning (as well as "Old G")? I will mos' def' give you credit and point students towards your other offerings.

Sure Ted. The tabs are most definitely there to be used.

handsup8 - Posted - 12/21/2010:  08:51:14

Thanks, Lyle!

vrteach - Posted - 12/22/2010:  16:21:09

I had to wait around work this evening, so I did a quick and dirty recording. I'm in regular G on the old aluminum banjo.

Seneca Square Dance


Randy Adams - Posted - 12/22/2010:  17:01:19

Like it Eric....

Don Borchelt - Posted - 12/23/2010:  06:25:01

Fine picking, Eric. Sometimes the fresh spontaneity of "quick and dirty" is just what the tune wants. Very nice.

jo_Al - Posted - 02/07/2011:  09:39:06

There is a fine arrangement of this tune done on the album "Old Friends." The album is a banjo duet, with Alan Munde playing 3-finger and Wayne Shrubsall playing clawhammer. The tune is labeled Georgia Boys on that album.

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 02/07/2011:  10:59:54

Originally posted by jo_Al

There is a fine arrangement of this tune done on the album "Old Friends." The album is a banjo duet, with Alan Munde playing 3-finger and Wayne Shrubsall playing clawhammer. The tune is labeled Georgia Boys on that album.

Yep! You got that right. AND Wayne SHrubsall is opening on April 22 for Adam Hurt in ABQ - how cool is that?

FOlks - try to come and see my 2 favorite banjo players. Email me ( for details. APril in New MExico is lovely.

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 02/10/2011:  15:00:23

Wayne Shrubsall gave me permission to post his "easy" tab of Seneca Square Dance.

This tab, and about 100 others, are available in his orange book of easy banjo tabs.

He will be adding some tunes to it next month, and if you are interested in ordering information, you can contact him through email at



BANJOJUDY - Posted - 02/10/2011:  16:05:55

I uploaded Georgia Boys (mp3) of Alan Munde and Wayne SHrubsall from the album, OLD FRIENDS.

You can listen to it on my music files on my home page.

Dr. Shrubsall gave me permission to post the file.

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