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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 12/24/2010 -- Coming Across Texas

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:

bluemule_77 - Posted - 12/24/2010:  16:23:43

Coming Across Texas -- Key of C

This week's "Tune of the Week" is one that, to my knowledge, hasn't had much circulation even as the fiddle tune that it is. Surely someone somewhere has played it on banjo before me, but I don't know who it might be (except maybe BanjoJohnC).

"Coming Across Texas" is part of the traditional repertoire here in the southern New Mexico community of Crow Flat -- not a town, but a geographic region. Crow Flat is ranched today by many of the same families that homesteaded the area 100 (and more) years ago. Most ranch homes in this sparsely populated region -- 100 miles (and more) from a Wal-Mart or McDonalds -- house multiple fiddles, a guitar or two or three, and an upright piano. Most of these homes also still house someone who plays one or more of those instruments.

Several families of Lewises arrived here a century ago, at least some of whom came from the Bandera, TX area. The Lewis families ever since have maintained a unique repertoire of old fiddle tunes. Some can be found elsewhere in the country -- standards like "Ragtime Annie" and "Arkansas Traveler" and "Turkey in the Straw" (though that's in B-flat, around here) and "Rye Whiskey." Some tunes were adopted from early radio broadcasts and records, but the old hand-carried repertoire continues to exist -- at least in large part. Schottisches are almost as common as waltzes, and breakdowns come in third (at least it seems to me).

It's happened in the past almost everywhere that tune names are forgotten or substituted (intentionally or unintentionally). It could be that "Coming Across Texas" was once a tune by another name, or perhaps it was composed on the wagon road west to Crow Flat... I don't know as anyone knows for sure. (Separately, and only slightly off-topic: it was through spur-of-the-moment name-substitution that the better-known Lewis tune "Bull at the Wagon" first got that name when Dempson Lewis couldn't recall its "real" name after playing it for the judges in an El Paso, TX, fiddle contest.)

Banjos aren't much to be found around here, but this tune certainly fits pretty well on one, and I play it in double C tuning. I hope to have a recording for you soon. More often I play fiddle on this tune, but recently adapted it to banjo as well -- primarily for this TOTW entry!

"Coming Across Texas" is a three part tune, and at least one local patriarch today plays the second part twice, unlike you'll hear on the recording linked below, where it is only played once. This is Denmon and Dempson Lewis playing it at a Crow Flat party in the 1950s -- I'm not sure which is fiddling and which picking the guitar, but I'm sure one of my neighbors could tell me:

Outside of that recording, I have a few from parties in the last 10 years but haven't asked everyone's permission to post 'em. If I get the chance, and get the permission, I'll add them to this thread as well.

Doesn't seem that this tune exists in the Fiddler's Companion nor in any YouTube performances. One Fiddle Hangout member has posted the same recording as I've linked to -- and that Fiddle Hangouter was raised in this house where I live now.

If anyone recognizes anything about the tune that might trace its roots, I'd love to hear of it. I also hope to hear some other recordings as you all become familiar with the tune! I'll post mine soon.


Edited by - bluemule_77 on 12/26/2010 19:01:12

derwood400 - Posted - 12/27/2010:  05:37:20

Neat. I've never heard of the tune before now. I like the tune. Thanks for posting. I'm looking forward to hearing your banjo version.


MountainBanjo - Posted - 12/27/2010:  08:55:05

I have heard something like this tune in the fiddling of someone I know....The first two parts sound (to my ear anyway)quite like a tune he called "Texas Barbed Wire". He plays the second part twice and does not play a third part. Your first part is a little different than his, and the second part is less different, so I don't know if these are the same or different tunes...but certainly related, I would think. Yours has more of a Hispano flavor to it, and Texas Barbed Wire is in G.

Edited by - MountainBanjo on 12/27/2010 08:57:38

J-Walk - Posted - 12/27/2010:  09:44:19

Good one, Brian. Look forward to your banjo recording to see if it sounds anything at all like what I've come up with.

Here are the chords, which may help people figure it out. I like that B part a lot, but don't care much for the C part. Personally, I'd prefer to play the B part twice and skip C altogether.

Coming Across Texas

A Part

C/// F/// G/// C///
C/// F/// G/// C///

B Part

C/// C/// C/// G///
G/// G/// G/// C///

C Part

C/// C/// G/// C///
C/// C/// G/// C///

RG - Posted - 12/27/2010:  18:47:03

Brian-great tune! Figured out the banjo part already, now have to work on fiddling this one...thanks for posting!

AZJohnB - Posted - 12/28/2010:  12:25:00

Notation attached.
comments and corrections appreciated

Coming Across TX


MountainBanjo - Posted - 12/28/2010:  21:19:01

I found the tune I was thinking of, and its not Texas Barbed Wire. Its in C, and has three parts, and one part is essentially the second part of your tune, to my ears. The first and third arent the same though, and he ends it after your second part. I dont know its name but I can find out in April or October. I posted a clip on my music page. I started the clip to make the part that sounds like your second part also the second part, but (as you'll hear) he ends the tune after this part so maybe its his third part? I dont know which part he started with cuz I didnt get my recorder started in time. Anyway, give a listen bluemule and see what you think.

Edited by - MountainBanjo on 12/28/2010 21:20:31

LyleK - Posted - 12/29/2010:  04:08:15

Originally posted by MountainBanjo
I found the tune I was thinking of, and its not Texas Barbed Wire. Its in C, and has three parts, and one part is essentially the second part of your tune...

Much (maybe all?) of this sounds like Texas Gal(e)s. But back to Coming Across Texas, thanks John B. for the notation. I'm "stuck" on vacation without a banjo and was trying to figure this one out. From your transcription I was able to write a tab (*.pdf attached, see my tabs for *.tef). This is a NEAT fiddle tune, but I gotta' say it does not translate very well to clawhammer. Two or three finger picking or plectrum would probably work well for this puppy.

Coming Across Texas Tab


bluemule_77 - Posted - 12/29/2010:  05:15:29

Thanks everyone, for your comments. I'm working some long days and haven't had time to join in the discussion.

I'll return with more to say ASAP!


MountainBanjo - Posted - 12/29/2010:  06:10:03

Originally posted by LyleK
Much (maybe all?) of this sounds like Texas Gal(e)s.

Thanks, I found a file of Texas Gales and I think you are right. Interesting that both tunes I thought were similar to TOTW had Texas in the name. Anywho, I'll stop hijacking now.

bluemule_77 - Posted - 12/29/2010:  18:25:39

The "Texas Gal(e)s" I play doesn't remind me much of Coming Across Texas at all. However, when I do play "Gal(e)s", another local rancher/cowboy/musician ALWAYS states...

"If you can play that I don't know why you don't play Billy in the Lowground..."

Then he picks it on the guitar.

Hunter Robertson - Posted - 01/04/2011:  16:47:05

Nice tune. Interesting about the Lewises coming from Bandera, the great fiddler Elmo Newcomer was from there and was recorded by John Lomax in 1939. Would be interesting to see what connection there might be, in tunes and so on. Newcomer plays "Turkey in the Straw" (haven't checked if it's in Bb) and "Rye Whiskey".

Here Newcomer's recordings are:,+Elmo)
and the notes about the trip:
there are other recordings from Bandera too:


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