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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW - Arkansas Traveler 4/26/13


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: http://www.banjohangout.org/archive/261538

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SCclawman - Posted - 04/26/2013:  06:17:51


Up for discussion this week is another tune that everyone knows - Arkansas Traveler.  It seems crazy that it hasn't been done yet. This is one of the first tunes that most people learn, including myself. I think it was the 1st tune I ever really could play all the way through and sound somewhat like a banjo player. It's one that has always still been fun to play.



To get us started, here are some "fun facts" and history behind the tune. There is probably a ton you could add to this list.



Fun Facts

-Fiddler's Companion says, it's "One of, if not the most famous of American fiddle tunes"

-It was the state song of Arkansas from 1949-1963

-It has been the state's historical song since 1987

-It has become a popular children's song "I'm Bringing Home A Baby Bumblebee"

-Sandy Faulkner, the Arkansas Traveler, and Mose Case, an albino African American guitarist and singer, arranged the music for themselves but probably did not compose the tune. (source )

-The first known publication of the sheet music in 1847 was "arranged by” William Cumming.  In Connecticut by around 1860, the Traveler was a barn dance, featuring a number of calls representing the travels of a peddler from Arkansas. (source )

-"The Arkansas Traveler” appeared in early recordings, both cylinder and disk, in the form of a humorous dialog. In 1902 the Len Spencer dialog version became the first song to sell one million records, according to one source. Then the tune itself became the first (or at least one of the first) "country music” songs ever to be recorded, by Eck Robertson and Henry Gilliland in June, 1922. This was among the first fifty recordings selected for the National Recording Registry, founded to preserve significant sound recordings in the United States. The Traveler has been recorded hundreds of times, in traditional, jazz and even symphonic arrangement, proving to be one of the most popular tunes in American history.

-It is true that at least some of the elements of the famous dialogue typically attached to the melody  (i.e. the conversation between the 'hick' and the 'city-slicker') were in circulation in the 1820's‑1830's, during the plantation era, and it has been found that the tune and sketch had been joined and were being performed (in minstrel shows) not long after (source - from Fiddler's Companion)



---------------------------------------------------------------

There are no shortage of versions of this tune floating around on the inter-webs.



arkansas-traveler.org/tune/ - great site with a lot of information about arkansas and the arkansas traveler



youtube.com/watch?v=goEl5ItH10Q - very authentic version from Annie and Mac.



youtube.com/watch?v=urB_EuOb2rY - my favorite youtube video of the song by Tommy Jarrell



here's a sample of the monologue comedy routine - floridamemory.com/audio/folk.php - scroll down to track 7 to play



Frailblazer's mp3 version on the hangout - link - this is a beautiful take on the song.



I have also posted a quick take that I recorded last night. I recorded another version about a year ago, and it's interesting to see how I've made some slight (unintentional) changes here and there.



 ---------------------------------------------



Take some time to record your own version of this classic and share with us. I'm looking forward to hearing some!



More info to come!!



---updated to change date to 4/26 instead of 5/26. oops!



Edited by - SCclawman on 05/17/2013 13:07:50



Arkansas Traveler (TOTW)

   

SCclawman - Posted - 04/26/2013:  06:18:43


Lyrics to the official version for the state of Arkansas



On a lonely road quite long ago,

A trav'ler trod with fiddle and a bow;

While rambling thru the country rich and grand,

He quickly sensed the magic and the beauty of the land.



Chorus

For the wonder state we'll sing a song,

And lift our voices loud and long.

For the wonder state we'll shout hurrah!

And praise the opportunities we find in Arkansas.



Many years have passed, the trav'lers gay,

Repeat the tune along the highway;

And every voice that sings the glad refrain

Re-echoes from the mountains to the fields of growing grain.



Chorus


SCclawman - Posted - 04/26/2013:  06:20:14


Monologue of the Arkansas Traveler by Len Spencer, Edison Records [1902]




  • Traveler – Why how do you do, boss? What might your name be?

  • Squatter (playing the verse of the Arkansas Traveler throughout the performance) – Hey, what made you think I was boss here?

  • T – Well, I just guessed it.

  • S – Well, guess what my name is. Haw, haw.

  • T – Well, how far is it to the next crossroads?

  • S – Well, you just follow your nose and you’ll come to it. Haw, haw.

  • T – Where does this road go to?

  • S – Why it don’t go anywhere. It says right where it is. Haw, haw.

  • T – Down the road I saw a horse with a broken leg. Now why don’t you kill it. People generally kill a horse with a broken leg.

  • S – Round here we generally kill a horse with a shotgun. Haw, haw.

  • T – you’re a pretty smart fellow, ain’t ya?

  • S – I ain’t half as smart as my brother Bill.

  • T – Who is your brother Bill?

  • S – Why my mother’s son, of course. Haw, haw.

  • T – Say, I noticed a hole I the roof of your house. Why don’t you get it fixed?

  • S – Because it’s been raining lately.

  • T – Why don’t you get it fixed when it’s not raining?

  • S – When it don’t rain, it don’t leak. Haw, haw.

  • T – For pity’s sake, play the rest of that tune, will you?

  • S – Now look here. I just reckon there’s no man living smart enough to do that.

  • T – Yes there is. I think I can if you let me…Ah, thank you. (Plays the chorus of the Arkansas Traveler.)

  • S – Well, by chowder stranger, you’re the smartest man alive, you be. Come right in. Come right in. You can have anything in my place. Come on in. Haw, haw.


Jason Wilkerson - Posted - 04/26/2013:  06:34:48


I've heard that tune done hundreds of times--never more tastefully than your version, Travis!


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 04/26/2013:  06:38:22


I always liked the way Pete Seeger did this.



There's a sample sound byte on Amazon.Com at:



amazon.com/Arkansas-Traveler/dp/B0028DQSVM



 


jbalch - Posted - 04/26/2013:  07:22:02


I like simple old tunes like this.  This is the kind of thing I often play just for my own enjoyment.  These are old recordings that I posted in the past to demo a couple of banjos.  One is a Jeff Menzies fretless tackhead.  The other is a vintage Cubley.





Arkansas Traveller -Menzies Grain measure



Arkansas Traveler - Cubley banjo sample

SCclawman - Posted - 04/26/2013:  07:51:39


John,



I love it! Great versions and those banjos sound really awesome, especially the menzies tackhead. Really cool.



I love your playing!


Frailblazer - Posted - 04/26/2013:  09:00:04


John - These are terrific!  I love the low tuning!



- Ric



Edited by - Frailblazer on 04/26/2013 09:07:09

SCclawman - Posted - 04/26/2013:  09:03:53


Hey Ric,



Yes, I love your version! I included it when I wrote the write up this morning!


Frailblazer - Posted - 04/26/2013:  09:07:47


Thank you for including it!  smiley



- Ric



Edited by - Frailblazer on 04/26/2013 09:17:01

ScottK - Posted - 04/26/2013:  09:31:50


Wow, what a treat to check in with BHO this morning and find these great recordings by Travis, John, and Ric, three of my favorite pickers on the Hangout!  Thanks guys!



A while back I recorded Arkansas Traveler to demo the sound of a Mexican vihuela that found at a used instrument store in Portland and restrung with Nylgut banjo strings.  It's a lot of fun to play when I'm in the mood for a different tone.



Click for Large VersionClick for Large Version



 



Cheers, Scott


Paul R - Posted - 04/26/2013:  09:41:54


This is such a great thread. Thanks for posting, and for all the contributions. There's lots to learn from here.


stevel - Posted - 04/26/2013:  09:44:11


Great choice Travis. Hobart Smith has an awesome performance of this on the Blue Ridge Legacy album.

jbalch - Posted - 04/26/2013:  09:54:45


quote:

Originally posted by ScottK

 

Wow, what a treat to check in with BHO this morning and find these great recordings by Travis, John, and Ric, three of my favorite pickers on the Hangout!  Thanks guys!




A while back I recorded Arkansas Traveler to demo the sound of a Mexican vihuela that found at a used instrument store in Portland and restrung with Nylgut banjo strings.  It's a lot of fun to play when I'm in the mood for a different tone.




Click for Large VersionClick for Large Version




 




Cheers, Scott







SOUNDS GREAT!


SCclawman - Posted - 04/26/2013:  10:00:35


Scott,



That's a crazy cool instrument. I love the sound and tone coming from those nylgut strings. Such a cool recording. Thanks for sharing it!


trapdoor2 - Posted - 04/26/2013:  10:23:06


First banjo occurance: 1865 in Frank Converse's "Little Yellow Book" tutor. "Arkansas Traveler" is there with the dialog, etc.   



Follow the url and go to image 96 to find the beginning of Arkansas Traveller...



elib.hamilton.edu/cdm4/documen...OPTR=1274


blockader - Posted - 04/26/2013:  10:42:57


Good pick and great versions so far. Wish i had one to contribute. I enjoy this tune and find that its good one for throwing in some fun variations, but Its like shoeing a donkey to get any fiddlers around here to play it...



-justin



Edited by - blockader on 04/26/2013 10:43:28

RG - Posted - 04/26/2013:  10:45:14


A classic-great choice!

SCclawman - Posted - 04/26/2013:  11:40:04


quote:


Originally posted by blockader

 

Good pick and great versions so far. Wish i had one to contribute. I enjoy this tune and find that its good one for throwing in some fun variations, but Its like shoeing a donkey to get any fiddlers around here to play it...



-justin






 I can see how that would be an issue. I imagine a lot of people and especially fiddlers can get tired of the tune. Especially when people call it the Bumblebee tune which is something I've encountered some.



You've got plenty of time to contribute something! Always enjoy your playing for sure!


jduke - Posted - 04/26/2013:  11:48:13


Our group plays the Arkansas Traveler occasionally and always when we preform for school groups (which we do several times a year).  It's a great song and one of the few tunes we do in the traditional old time style.



I've heard the Arkansas Traveler with lyrics that kind of follow the skit story-line, which is similar to, but different than the one mentioned above.  It's old time music, one should never be surprised by different variations, That's the way it is.  I am surprised, however, when people tell me they know it as an entirely different song. I've heard the tune referred to as the Bumble Bee song, and my sister-in-law recently told me she knew it as Fiddling Dan.   Me, I've only known it as the Arkansas Traveler w/ it's normal old time variations.



It's a tune I like and like to play.  I enjoyed all the different versions posted here.  Thanks all.



Jeff



 



 


JimHenry - Posted - 04/26/2013:  12:45:56


The tune kind of fell out of the fretboard a month or so ago - rare with me.  Then I found a nice tab in John Burke's book of fiddle tunes for the banjo - it might be worth finding if you can.  But it all got me thinking about the lyrics which I did not remember as usually quoted.  The version I half remember from 3rd grade or so had to do with Fiddlin' Dan and a Bear.  I googled and searched a bunch of sites and finally found it (the core verses are below).  Anyone have any idea where this version came from??



One night as Dan was walking out to play

He met a grizzly standing in the way

He couldn't climb a tree, he had no gun

He couldn't fly away he was scared to run



Said the bear with a roar and a shakin' of his paw

You're Fiddlin' Dan from Arkansas

I will let you alone if you'll play a little tune

And organize a dance in the light of the moon



So Dan he took his fiddle under his chin

He drew the bow the music to begin

From all the world around the critters ran

To join the music made by ol Fiddlin' Dan



'Neath the moon prance the coon

and the little porcupine

The bear and bobcat stepped their fine

So they danced all night every reel and every set

And somewhere in the hills they are dancing yet

 


Chadbanjo - Posted - 04/26/2013:  12:54:53


Great tune, one of the few old time American tunes I recognized, not being American....



Bumble Bee song man...i'm squishing up my baby bumble bee, won't my mamma be so proud of me..and so on. Who doesn't remember hearing that as a kid? smiley



I posted a Wade Ward version not to long ago, he does a pretty cool version.



 


scthompson - Posted - 04/26/2013:  17:17:15


I'm just hammering this out myself, using the Wade Ward-based recording and tab from Bob Carlin and Dan Levenson. It had gotten a bit embarassing not to know it yet.:) Still can't figure out how to get as good as all youse guys...





Sarah


Don Borchelt - Posted - 04/26/2013:  18:33:53


I love this tune, still play it all the time.  Some terrific versions by Travis, John and Scott, three of the BHO's most accomplished clawhammerin' members.  I have attached teo recordings of my 3 finger version from my BHO homepage.  The first is a video of my clawhammer pal Ed Britt and  I busking in Harvard Square, in September, 2011.  The second is an MP3 from a very early morning jam I had with mouth harp player Marty Lebenson of Jamaica, New York, at the 2010 Harry Smith Frolic, an old time gathering in Greenfield, out in the hill country of western Massachusetts. I am playing without picks on this one.



- Don Borchelt



 





Currier & Ives, c. 1870



Edited by - Don Borchelt on 04/26/2013 18:34:30



VIDEO: Arkansas Traveler
(click to view)


Arkansas Traveler with Marty Lebenson

jbalch - Posted - 04/26/2013:  18:53:40


Don Those recordings are fantastic!


jimh269b - Posted - 04/26/2013:  19:02:28


fine playing to you all, just great

mbuk06 - Posted - 04/27/2013:  01:14:16


Another great fun tune. A friend at our local jam has recently begun alternately singing verses when we play 'Arkansas Traveler'. 


SCclawman - Posted - 04/27/2013:  06:48:39


Don, that's 2 fantastic versions.



I love hearing you and Ed play together. 



Never heard harmonica on old time tunes, and i really liked it. he was a great player and guys sounded great together.


SCclawman - Posted - 04/27/2013:  06:50:05


quote:

Originally posted by scthompson

 

I'm just hammering this out myself, using the Wade Ward-based recording and tab from Bob Carlin and Dan Levenson. It had gotten a bit embarassing not to know it yet.:) Still can't figure out how to get as good as all youse guys...






Sarah







No need to be embarrassed! Keep practicing and enjoy the journey as you learn. The joy is in the journey, right?!


aeroweenie - Posted - 04/27/2013:  10:49:46


I too am astonished that Arkansas Traveler has not been the TOTW before.  I am not astonished by the many excellent renditions offered so far!



This tune is what turned me on to banjo.  My Dad took bluegrass lessons at our home.  One time his teacher played Arkansas Traveler melodic style and it floored me, I didn't know that banjos could play pure melody.  So I came to play bluegrass banjo for 30 some years (Scruggs & melodic) though I always messed around with clawhammer too.  I found my self gravitating more and more to clawhammer and finally learned the technique properly thanks to RSB.



Here is a version of the tune played on a psuedo-Minstrel style banjo I built.  It is in a lowered open G tuning which I think puts it in the key of D.  While I usually play this tune out of double-D tuning, it is easy to play in G tuning and sounds different.




Arkansas Traveler

   

SCclawman - Posted - 04/27/2013:  11:57:28


Paul, 



What a great story. Thanks for sharing with us. I love hearing that song on the banjo you built. I liked hearing how you played it! 


bd - Posted - 04/27/2013:  12:19:32


Here's a version that I like Hobart Smith





 




bd - Posted - 04/27/2013:  12:25:13


Here's a minstrel version with a minor key variation:



 


Paul R - Posted - 04/27/2013:  19:47:56


quote:

Originally posted by scthompson

 

I'm just hammering this out myself, using the Wade Ward-based recording and tab from Bob Carlin and Dan Levenson. It had gotten a bit embarassing not to know it yet.:) Still can't figure out how to get as good as all youse guys...






Sarah







Sarah, you'll get it in no time! Then it might become a go-to tune. It's often the tune I automatically start playing when I pick up the banjo - a warm-up tune. I learned it from John Burke's book, too, back before I hung up the banjo for many years. It's a great go-to tune!


Adam Kiesling - Posted - 04/28/2013:  08:33:29


Here's a version featuring Joe Newberry, Bill Evans and Noam Pikelny (from the Prairie Home Companion):



youtu.be/2fyYs-dN5TM


banjo bill-e - Posted - 04/28/2013:  12:51:37


My favorite version is played by Dwight Diller on Just Banjo 99, here is a short sample. Arkansas Traveler begins at 30 seconds. youtube.com/watch?v=Jk8Q3ZXPatk


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 04/28/2013:  13:06:03


Good evening BHO friends.



 



Here’s my attempt to capture the TOTW.  I sorta feel as though this is my weekly “homework assignment.”  Not a bad course of study to have to follow.



 



On my Bart Reiter standard, with steel strings, gCGCD:



 



youtube.com/watch?v=gvDq_CvcO-A



 



On my Cloverlick strung with Nylagut, tuned up to A.



 



youtube.com/watch?v=RR27IWn_Sxw



 



Play hard,



Lew



Edited by - Brooklynbanjoboy on 04/28/2013 13:06:20

camcumberland - Posted - 04/28/2013:  13:55:35


I dug up my old David Holt DVD to learn this one.



VIDEO: Arkansas Traveler
(click to view)

   

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 04/28/2013:  13:58:46


very nice Cam.  I forgot about David Holt's great version.


JanetB - Posted - 04/28/2013:  14:04:21


Here's one more for the road.




Arkansas Traveler

   

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 04/28/2013:  16:31:57


Very nicely done.  Very clear noting.  Thanks for sharing,



Lew


Tamarack - Posted - 04/28/2013:  17:49:26


Essential tune for any old-time musician, the finest versions are found here at the hangout.

I remain perplexed by one hammer-on/drop thumb sequence on this tune, probably because I think about it too much. I could get the same notes different ways but I like it this way and refuse to switch.

banjo_brad - Posted - 04/29/2013:  11:09:57


Haven't played this much in a few years, here's one of my first attempts at recording myself on banjo, done several years back.



Arkansas Traveler



I haven't looked at all the links posted, but here's some information about the song, with a set of lyrics that -might- be the original set.



Edited by - banjo_brad on 04/29/2013 11:20:49



Arkansas Traveley

   

SCclawman - Posted - 04/30/2013:  04:38:22


Cam, 



great version. Gave me a lot to think about as I play it in the future. I loved the work up the neck. fantastic!



Janet, 



really enjoyed your recording as well!


mbuk06 - Posted - 04/30/2013:  15:38:16


Here's my attempt...


SCclawman - Posted - 05/01/2013:  08:23:00


Nice Job Mike. Nice relaxed, clean and smooth playing


scthompson - Posted - 05/17/2013:  07:27:58


I know this is an old thread, but I have a question about this tune. Is Wade Ward's version of Arkansas Traveler just slightly different from most other standard renditions? I was trying to learn his version, and I got to the jam, and my A part (which was extra confusing because it seems that this song always starts on what I think of as the B part) felt so totally different that I sat it out. Now, this also relates to my not knowing the tune well enough to play it in time, so I get that, but it felt deeper than that.

Chadbanjo - Posted - 05/17/2013:  09:45:14


I wouldn't say it's to different, except what you pointed out he starts with the B part where probably most(i don't know for sure, haven't been to an old time jam) start with A.



What I like is that he starts the B part without a galax lick(playing G on the 1st string)...then the A part, but plays the galax in the B part for the rest of the tune. You don't need to use the galax lick though. Or change it up...variations


scthompson - Posted - 05/17/2013:  10:22:14


Maybe that's most of the problem - that I have the flow of the song in my head from that order and I don't know the song well enough to switch it up. I have been getting the hang of that Galax lick - it's the first time I have felt even remotely competent with it; for some reason it seems to work so well in that song.

jojo25 - Posted - 05/17/2013:  10:29:00


my buds and I still do this tune and love it....years ago...in 2000...we were doing a regular (for 4-5 weekends, Sat. & Sun.)gig at a pumpkin fest (still one of my fav gigs for sure)...and I adapted the intro to the tune by telling folks how Al Gore was moving his campaign headquarters to Nashville...so he met an old Arkansas hillybilly (i.e. Bill Clinton)...and started asking for directions on how to get to Nashville...



we tend to play this tune very up tempo


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