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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 6/21/13 Steamboat Around the Bend

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:

Adam Kiesling - Posted - 06/21/2013:  13:34:47

I've been listening to a lot of Missouri Valley fiddling lately (along with other tunes from the Midwest), but I haven't really worked out many of the tunes on the banjo. A lot of these tunes are great square dance tunes, and we play quite a few of them up here in the Twin Cities.

One of the fiddlers who is still around today is Dwight Lamb, a left-handed fiddler and button accordionist from Onawa, Iowa (home of the widest Main Street in North America). Dwight learned a lot of his music from both his father (a fiddler) and grandfather (a Danish immigrant who played the button accordion). Dwight also spent a lot of time with Uncle Bob Walters, a champion fiddler from Tekama, Nebraska.

Anyways, I thought about adding "Steamboat Around the Bend" as a TOTW mostly because we recently played it at a square dance. "Steamboat Around the Bend" has been recorded a couple of times by Dwight over the years--he first recorded it on an LP in 1972 ("Old Time Fiddlin' 2 - Left-Handed Style," which was later re-issued on a CD entitled "Old-Time Fiddle Classics in the Missouri Valley Style") and on a CD from 2005 ("Hell Agin the Barn Door: More Fiddle and Accordion Tunes from the Great Plains"). Here's what the liner notes from "Hell Agin the Barn Door" have to say:

"Bob [Walters] played both this and the somewhat similar “Ladies on a Steamboat.” Dwight comments, “My dad also played ‘Steamboat Around the Bend,’ so I’m pretty sure that it came from Missouri” on the grounds that a lot of his father’s repertory had been acquired from early radio shows from that state. A good version of “Ladies on a Steamboat” by Lonnie Robertson can be heard on his Rounder CD and I have previously wondered whether this tune might have been derived from Dick Rutherford’s popular Columbia recording (Dick may have learned the tune in turn from Ed Haley from whom he is known to have acquired “Blackberry Blossom”). But Dwight says Bob learned it from his father and so the reports are probably unrelated."


The folks who re-issued Dwight's "Old-Time Fiddle Classics" also put together a two disc set of some of Bob Walter's tunes called "The Champion." This are all recordings that Dwight made of Bob between 1953 and 1960. Here's what the liner notes from "The Champion" have to say about "Steamboat Around the Bend:"

“Bob learned this from his dad and said that his dad, his grandpa, and the all the old Walters clan had played the piece. Bob had several other tunes that also imitated a boat whistle: ‘Ladies on the Steamboat’ was one and ‘Tugboat’ was another.”

Here's Bob Walter's version of "Steamboat," courtesy of the fine folks at Slippery Hill. This version has some great pump organ back-up, which I believe was probably played by R.P. Christeson. R.P. compiled both volumes of the "Old-Time Fiddler's Repertory," which were recently re-printed. R.P. also released a recording of some of the tunes in his books, and I think that is where the Slippery Hill version comes from.

As an aside, the Lonnie Robertson CD mentioned in the liner notes for "Hell Agin the Barn Door" has the tune listed as "Lady on a Steamboat" and not "Ladies on the Steamboat", and it is pretty similar to "Steamboat Around the Bend." The "Ladies on the Steamboat" from Burnett and Rutherford (Clyde Davenport also has a great version) is pretty different (IMHO) from the Robertson tune.

Lastly, here's a solo banjo version of "Steamboat Around the Bend" that I recorded this afternoon. I'm still playing around with how to arrange a notey fiddle tune for solo banjo--I think this is one tune where it'd work better with a fiddler.  I've also attached a version of "Lady on the Steamboat" from a group I used to play with a few years back: Matt Neil on the fiddle, Adam Brainard on the banjo, and I'm plunking the guitar.

Edited by - Adam Kiesling on 06/21/2013 13:35:13

Lady on the Steamboat

Steamboat Around the Bend

vrteach - Posted - 06/21/2013:  14:26:48

Fine tune. When I first met up with my fiddler friend Steve, he gave me a home-made CD of himself with the title "Tunes to Work on, Number 1." That was back in 2007, and there are some tunes that I've never managed, and others that I learned enough to play--but then haven't played since then. Steamboat 'Round the Bend was one of those that I'd forgotten, so I'm glad to see it again. Maybe I can get him to play it again!

Back in June of 2007 I put a banjo version based on his fiddling on my personal site:


RG - Posted - 06/21/2013:  19:58:14

Nice pick and nice playing...Dwight Lamb's "Shag Poke" is one of my favorite fiddle tunes, glad to see an old Missouri tune on TOTW...

Edited by - RG on 06/21/2013 20:01:22

LyleK - Posted - 06/22/2013:  14:21:28

Excellent Adam (and Erich)! 

There's an *.mp3 for Dwight Lamb playing this here.  

Incidentally, before deciding to go with an Illinois fiddler's tune for the TOTW last week, I had thought of doing a couple of Bob Walters' tunes so I put them in "Sound Off!" a week or so ago.


Edited by - LyleK on 06/22/2013 14:24:27

JanetB - Posted - 06/23/2013:  08:08:47

Another Midwest treasure, Adam, and your solo banjo version is delightful, especially when you go from an E to an A note in the first part.  The band version is awesome!

Hope you don't mind that I've taken a side excursion with your tune to listen to Alabama fiddler James Bryan's Steamboat Around the Bend, since he quoted his source as the "Old Time Fiddlers Repertory."  He adds more Em to the tune, which I don't hear in Bob Walter's fiddling nor in Dwight Lamb's, but do hear in your band's B part.

Anyway, hope you can still recognize the tune!

Steamboat Around the Bend


camcumberland - Posted - 06/23/2013:  14:47:36

Here's my attempt, used Bob Walter's version to learn this one.

VIDEO: Steamboat Around The Bend
(click to view)


Adam Kiesling - Posted - 06/23/2013:  17:32:11

Thanks for the comments and the other versions of the tune (which are great, by the way).

Any thoughts on how to go about creating banjo versions of these kinds of tunes? It's kind of a struggle between getting the majority of the notes in, although there are some banjo players who are able to do this. I think it's definitely easier in a stringband situation versus a solo banjo piece. Bluegrass-styled rolling works pretty well for some tunes (here's a tune from Lyman Enloe--his "Fiddle Tunes I Recall" is a great CD):

Dock Jekel - Posted - 06/24/2013:  09:08:46

Great tune you uploaded Adam. Your banjo version works well. Interesting question about melodic playing on the banjo- Seems to me that the banjo has a hard time competing with the fiddle when it comes to lots of notes. The opposite is true that the fiddle has trouble competing with the banjo in terms of interesting rhythms and percussive sounds. Some banjo players come to mind for me that can play the banjo very melodically, and they make very cool music, but always there is a trade off, it seems for me, and the banjo ends up loosing some of it's interesting character.

handsup8 - Posted - 06/24/2013:  09:28:31

Cool tune and great presentation, Adam! I really enjoyed both the band version and your solo take! Another great entry from the midwest tradition, which I didn't know much about until I'd left Wisconsin. Thanks for the info on the source fiddlers and more reasons to explore their work. Ted

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 06/24/2013:  13:51:58

Great phrasing and subtlety from Adam, Janet, Cam.


Here’s my crack at it:


Play hard.



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