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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 10/25/13 Rebels Raid

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JanetB - Posted - 10/24/2013:  19:39:06

This is one of the tunes of Kentucky fiddler William Hamilton Stepp recorded by Alan and Elizabeth Lomax in 1937.  I’d been familiar with Stepp’s famous “Bonaparte’s Retreat,” but didn’t know much about him until I read Stephen Wade’s new book The Beautiful Music All Around Us, Field Recordings and the American Experience.   Once I read that I've become quite interested in becoming more familiar with his music.

William Hamilton Stepp

I first heard Rebels Raid on Banjo Hangout and listened to Tom Berghan’s versions over and over again.  Much later I heard it on the CD “Starry Crown” recorded by  Rhys Jones and Christina Wheeler, twin fiddles.  It became one of those “tunes I had to learn” and thanks to TOTW now have this opportunity to learn more about its history.

William Stepp’s life is interestingly described by Stephen Wade, aided by his extensive interviews in preparing for his seminal book.  Stepp was born in 1875 near Beattyville in Lee County, Kentucky in a real “shelvin rock” cave of sandstone. He stayed with his half-Indian mother until he was removed and placed in a foster home at 5 years old.  Bill  learned to play fiddle, was a flamboyant showman, and played for dances, sometimes dancing as he played.  He’d travel extensively to play, often by horseback, and eventually was married seven times.  With his second wife he had 12 children who gave him 63 grandchildren and he died in 1957 in Indiana.

It’s said by a neighbor who fiddled and knew him that, “Bill Stepp hit it at a dog race.  I mean he moved along.  He fiddled like he meant it.”  Listen to the original:  William Stepp recording for the Lomax's in 1937  Rebels Raid is a tune that sounds sweet when played slow, but when played at Bill’s tempo it’s a musical description of the Civil War campaign that it’s supposed to be named for—Morgan’s Raid.


General Brigadier John Hunt Morgan led Confederate soldiers on July 6, 1863 from Kentucky into Indiana and Ohio, reaching farther north than any other army from the South.  He was finally captured in July and imprisoned until his escape through a tunnel in November, whence he casually took a train back home.  He died a year later in battle. You’ll see some artistic renderings and Ohio historical markers in the video below.


Here’s some further info:

Wickipedia article on Morgan's Raid of 1863

Morgan's Raiders history on Ohio website

These are the recordings with Tom Berghan’s creative embellishments that first inspired me:  Tom's first version and Tom Berghan's second version. Here’s a favorite rendition of the tune: Adam Hurt's clawhammer Rebels Raid   and  Adam Hurt playing Rebel Raid on a Kevin Enoch Dobson banjo  Brendan Doyle plays a nice version on BHO:  Brendan D's Rebels Raid   And another nice post:  BHO MP3 by Fretless in Texas

Tabs are available on-line and on BHO:  a basic tab by Maya Whitmont and a good tab by Lyle K.

Tom Berghan responded to my query about his version and his comments about how he imagined the tune should sound.  “The title Rebels Raid sets my imagination to immediately conjure an image of soldiers, ‘Rebels’ in this case, bearing down on their enemy over a ridge or hill with their gun barrels blazing.”  Tom kindly offered to set my music to a slide show movie of Morgan’s Raid and I’m grateful for this unique production featuring my faster clawhammer version of Rebels Raid.  It’s been a one-of-a-kind experience working with him.  He asked if I could play the tune faster and more aggressively and the third time around he finally approved.  (I’m reminded of what my dad used to say about rising to the highest level of one’s incompetence, but I think you’ll enjoy the movie.)

I hope to hear some other recordings of Rebels Raid by BHO members.   (Remember, it’s not the same tune as Ed Haley’s Rebel Raid.)  And if you’re like Tom, think:  “CHARGE!!”

Edited by - JanetB on 10/24/2013 19:43:58

VIDEO: Rebels Raid for TOTW 10/25/13
(click to view)

Rebels Raid

Rebels Raid tab

EggerRidgeBoy - Posted - 10/24/2013:  19:49:23

Great TOTW choice - and a timely one for me.  I went to see Stephen Wade last night, doing a show in which he talked about, and played music by, the musicians he discussed in his book (which I have had for a few months but have not yet read).  Bill Stepp was a fascinating person.  Thanks for the write-up on another of his tunes.

PickaFive - Posted - 10/24/2013:  20:19:45

Hi Janet,

What a wonderful package of music and history you have shared with us. Stunning effort! Thanks for your work. I really like your own banjo playing contribution to this thread, as well as all of the other music you have contributed to this forum.

Uncle Brad - Posted - 10/24/2013:  20:49:37

Wonderful...wonderful...wonderful. This superior research and presentation highlights you as a true old time music and banjo musicologist. What a great article and professionally played demonstration. Thank you!

BDCA - Posted - 10/25/2013:  04:24:27

Great tune. I was working this up with guitar and fiddle for a dance next Saturday. Nice to know the history!




BANJOJUDY - Posted - 10/25/2013:  06:22:14


I awoke early this morning and checked out TOTW.  WOW!  What a great job you did with the history, the video, your own rendition/playing.  You are raising the ceiling for future TOTW volunteers, for sure.

Thanks so much for doing this.  You've done quite an impressive job.

AND thanks to all for BHO members for keeping the TOTW alive and in excellent health for over 6 years.  


Jay K - Posted - 10/25/2013:  06:35:55

Wow, now that's a tune of the week!  Great playing Janet, love the video and all the documentation.  Lots of great versions too!  I'm going to try this out ASAP.


Paul Roberts - Posted - 10/25/2013:  07:42:48

Fabulous presentation!

Fascinating compendium of versions and styles.

Erudite offering of a high magnitude.

Rich musical and historical perspective with plenty of research material.

Forum posting at a high art. 

jamesd - Posted - 10/25/2013:  08:44:45

Great job for the totw.  The slide show and tune are just fine.  Again, thanks for the tabs.

tomberghan - Posted - 10/25/2013:  14:09:30

I had a LOT of fun working on this with you Janet.  You turned in a GREAT performance.  I hope we can do more together very soon!  Best Wishes, Tom


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 10/25/2013:  14:31:17

Exceptionally fine first class banjo playing.  Great presentation.  Thanks for sharing,


Noah Cline - Posted - 10/25/2013:  16:58:42

This is my take of Rebel Raid based off of Adam Hurt's playing from "Insite."

gEADE tuning

VIDEO: Rebel Raid
(click to view)


tomberghan - Posted - 10/25/2013:  17:30:23


Originally posted by Noah Cline


This is my take of Rebel Raid based off of Adam Hurt's playing from "Insite."

gEADE tuning

Nice Job Noah!  I like the high energy faster tempo! Well played.

Noah Cline - Posted - 10/25/2013:  18:13:11


Originally posted by Noah Cline


This is my take of Rebel Raid based off of Adam Hurt's playing from "Insite."

gEADE tuning

Oops...I just realized I spelled "Insight" wrong. My bad...

whyteman - Posted - 10/25/2013:  19:25:02

You made this tricky little tune work as a stand alone banjo piece!

JanetB - Posted - 10/25/2013:  20:31:25

Thanks for posting yours, Noah. I think you're playing it in Adam's SRB tuning.  So am I.

And thanks for all the encouragement.  If that was a pat on the back I'm glad to still be standing.

I'm researching more the historic background of this tune.  It's interesting to ponder where it originated, how it got passed around, and how William Stepp fits in.


russtul - Posted - 10/26/2013:  00:39:41

Wonderful Effort!! Will spend the weekend immersed trying to learn this tune and decipher the Adam Hurt tuning

Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 10/26/2013:  04:10:20

Here's my crack at the tune:



Have a great weekend.
Play hard,

dbrooks - Posted - 10/26/2013:  07:41:59

This is a fine tune with a great history.  And the audio contributions have been very enjoyable.  John Hunt Morgan came through my part of Kentucky.  I grew up in Bardstown with relatives in Springfield and high-school friends in Lebanon.  I first heard this tune from Adam Hurt's recording, so it is interesting to get the additional background.  Thank you, Janet.

A few years ago, I tabbed out what I heard in Adam's arrangement and have attached that here.  This arrangement is probably better suited to a moderate tempo with all of the hammer-ons and pull-offs.  I tabbed the tune in 3 parts.  Some have the B section played 3 times, and I heard a little different variation on the 3rd repeat, so I tabbed it differently.  Maybe someone will find it helpful.

David Brooks

Clawhammer tab eBooks for Kindle


Rebel Raid


JanetB - Posted - 10/26/2013:  10:09:40

Glad to see your video, Lew.  Thanks for the tab, David.  I hope to hear more recordings soon.

I've been in email contact with Don Borchelt who did research on Rebels Raid a while back.  He has a great link to an actual written history of Morgan's Cavalry published in 1866.  It's quite detailed and lengthy with maps included.  Don remembers reading in Jeff Titon's book Old Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes that Titon referred to an 1864 raid by Morgan, as opposed to the more famous one of 1863.  Morgan's men actually went through Licking Springs which later became Salyersville, as Don discovered through further research.  William Stepp had located there in 1900 and most like learned the tune then.  Don proposes that the locals were sufficiently impressed with Confederate soldiers going through their town  to commemorate it with a fiddle tune, still widely played in our old-time circles.

The more moderate tempo of Rebels Raid is a popular version and after trying to emulate William Stepp's intricate fiddling, here's the way I played it as I tabbed his notes and learned the tune.



Rebels Raid (slower)


Noah Cline - Posted - 10/26/2013:  10:33:25

There is a little variation of the way Adam plays the B part and the way I play it. I guess it was just the way I heard it from Adam's cd.  

Marc Nerenberg - Posted - 10/26/2013:  11:00:27

This is a really great and interesing Tune of the Week presentation. "Thorough" doesn't even come close to describing it - I'd call it "thoroughly thorough"!

mbuk06 - Posted - 10/27/2013:  03:21:48


Originally posted by JanetB


The more moderate tempo of Rebels Raid is a popular version and after trying to emulate William Stepp's intricate fiddling, here's the way I played it as I tabbed his notes and learned the tune.


Really interesting TOTW Janet, and the two versions you have posted are delightful. BTW the tone of the banjo you play them on is something else too. Gorgeous.

Paul Roberts - Posted - 10/27/2013:  11:14:20

The slower version is very nice, Janet. I like a slow, sweet raid.

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 10/27/2013:  11:31:13

BANJOJUDY - Posted - 10/27/2013:  11:33:03

I also prefer the slower pace - maybe it has something to do with age and doing a lot of things slower these days , but I find I prefer to play most tunes slower to get a better feel.

Great job, once again, Janet.

JanetB - Posted - 10/27/2013:  13:47:53

Thanks for the positive feedback!   I find that the more moderate tempo is appealing, too.  But I can see how Tom's slide show wanted a faster, more vigorous pace.  It gives the raid its more emotional impact and matches the 1863 raid from Kentucky through Indiana and Ohio.  I still hope to hear more versions here this week.

For those of us who want the historical background, I got in contact with Jeff Todd Titon, author of Old-Time Kentucky Fiddle Tunes who has Rebels Raid as one of the 170 tunes in the book, as well as a "capsule biography" of William Stepp.  I'm curious to know why he states that the latter 1864 raid is the subject of the tune.  However, Jeff wrote back that his research notes weren't currently available, but if I can quote Don Borchelt's email he gives compelling reasons to think that Rebels Raid was written for Morgan's last raid in 1864 which ended as a retreat.

"There were two battles at Cynthiana; it was the second, in June 1864, which was a defeat for Morgan,and forced him to retreat in disarray back to western Virginia, his home base.  Here is a history Of Morgan's Cavalry, written in 1867:

Click down to Chapter XVI, and you will find a map of the fourth raid, along with a detailed narrative.  The southern line, I believe, is the route in, the northern line is the route of retreat.  Note where he goes from West Liberty through Licking Station to Paintsville, and then turns almost directly south through Prestonberg.  He is following what appears to be the modern Rt. 460.  Licking Station was an earlier name for Salyersville, something I just uncovered through Wikipedia, so Morgan apparently did retreat directly through Salyersville.  The name was changed in 1860, so the name Licking Station on the map was actually obsolete when the book was written seven years later.  The author probably used an older map that had not been amended, something we all did before the days of Mapquest and Google maps.  So where I thought he had gone near Salyersville, he appears to have gone directly through it.  Anyway, Stepp was from Salyersville (as was John Salyer), and the memory of Morgans tired and beaten men, riding through town, would have been fresh in the memory of many of his kin and neighbors, who must have told hm stories about it.  I suspect this is why Titon assumed it was the fourth raid, and not the great raid north in 1863, that Stepp's tune was named after."

 I can't refute Don's logic, so I think it's important to bring this out while we're discussing this TOTW.

Tamarack - Posted - 10/27/2013:  19:13:28

Wonderful tune and fascinating story -- I had never heard of Morgan's Raid before.

Tronik808 - Posted - 10/29/2013:  12:50:52

Great tune and history lesson thanks Janet :)

Edited by - Tronik808 on 10/29/2013 12:53:29

aeroweenie - Posted - 10/29/2013:  21:37:58

Janet, really nice pick for TOTW, interesting versions presented and interesting history!  I think I prefer your faster rendition.  I've been fooling around with Rebels Raid for the past few days and came up with a version I like.   I'm sure it will morph as I play it more, especially if I get the chance to play along with a fiddler.

Rebels Raid


JanetB - Posted - 10/30/2013:  06:29:10

Glad you learned it, too, Paul.  I like that slide toward the end of the A part.  It sounds like Myra's tab in open G tuning.  You left off the C note from her C chord at the end of the first half of the A part, which correctly (IMO) lets it have an Em minor sound.  Smart picking!

Don Borchelt - Posted - 10/30/2013:  06:40:26

A fine presentation and a fine job of picking by Janet.  I also enjoyed the versions put up by Tom, Brendan, Noah, Lew and Paul, there is no end to the fine pickers here on the Hangout.  I first got excited about this tune when I heard Adam Hurt and Beth Hartness play it last May at an intimate concert at the Real School of Music in Andover, Massachusetts. The fine part sounds almost identical to the fine part of Katy Hill, another G tune.  I am playing my 1964 Ode Model 42, in standard G tuning.  


VIDEO: Rebels Raid
(click to view)


JanetB - Posted - 10/31/2013:  05:53:18

Well Don, it's sure great to see and hear you on TOTW.  You've added tremendously  to the discussion with your historic interpretation of Morgan's Raid.  Though it was Jeff Titon who set you to pursue that perspective, he couldn't tell us nearly as much as the explanation you gave with a link to an authentic written history by someone who was there and worked under Gen. Morgan.  

Though Jeff Titon's notes weren't available, he did send a link to an essay on the banjo, which I'll throw in here, if for no other reason you'll see more of William Sydney Mount's paintings than you've ever seen.  They portray the South before the war and deserve another tune besides Morgan's Raid.  (Hey, Tom, now there's another project for us!)  The rest of the essay puts forth a thoroughly pedantic view of the banjo.   Here it is, though it probably deserves its own discussion thread:


To everyone who has read or contributed to this thread, thanks!

bhniko - Posted - 11/02/2013:  15:28:03

Ooooowwwwww. Almost missed this post. Have to give this one 10 banjo thumbs up. Aren't we glad to have Janet on this planet?

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