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 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 06/13/2014: Indian Ate a Woodchuck

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aeroweenie - Posted - 06/13/2014:  09:15:37

The tune this week is “Indian Ate a Woodchuck” or “Indian Ate the Woodchuck”.  I first heard this tune a few years ago on one of the WDVX (online radio) Sunday Old Time music shows.  I really liked the tune but didn’t learn the name of it until a few months ago.  I decided to learn it and discovered there are at least two common versions of the tune, one a three part tune in the key of D and the other a two part tune in the key of C.  One of the parts is similar between the two versions but otherwise they sound unrelated to me.  I like both versions so I’ll cover both.

Fiddlers Companion notes that the two part C tune was played by John Salyer and other Kentucky fiddlers.  Ed Haley of West Virginia is usually given as the source of the three part D tune, though I don’t know if he originated it.  The complete Fiddlers Companion entry is here:

I wish I could find out more of the history of the tune(s), and how there came to be two such different versions, but I haven’t found anything more than what was in Fiddlers Companion.  I’m hoping BHO members can provide more information.

There are LOTS of recordings available, here are a few.

Three part D tune:

Solo fiddle, a fine version by Rafe Stefanini

Clifftop jam, Grace Forrest.  I love her fiddling, nicely complimented by the tasteful banjo playing of Nick Stillman.

Solo banjo version by Nancy Sluys

And one by Blaise Schulten


Two part C tune:

John Salyer’s version

Really nice version by Greg Canote, I find it hypnotic to play along with.

Great version by Chance McCoy and the Appalachian String Band.  Played quite a bit faster than the other recordings, I think it has a different feel to it.

Nice solo banjo version by Curt Alsobrook (Frailer5 on BHO)


Here are my takes on the two versions of the tune:

Indian Ate a Woodchuck (C)

Indian Ate a Woodchuck (D)

banjukebox - Posted - 06/13/2014:  09:26:36

Great choice. I am immediately putting this on my "to learn" list. Unfortunately, the list gets longer and longer...

etparadox - Posted - 06/13/2014:  12:08:59

What a great tune! I love tunes like this that split into different versions. On my to learn list marked ASAP!

JanetB - Posted - 06/15/2014:  14:10:22

This is a great tune--I get some visual imagery of this Indian in the woods.  Nice job on both your versions, aeroweenie!  Coincidentally, I had my May lesson with Adam Hurt and this is the Ed Haley tune he gave me to work on.  I feel the elegance of this tune in his arrangement. This week's choice is a good excuse for me to work on Indian Ate the Woodchuck some more.  Here's the original recording in 1942 of Ed Haley, included in Jeff Titon's book Old Time Fiddle Tune of  I found two notated versions in Samuel Bayard's book, Dance to the Fiddle and March to the Fife recorded in the 1930's called Injun Et a Woodchuck.

Edited by - JanetB on 06/15/2014 14:24:31

VIDEO: Indian Ate the Woodchuck
(click to view)


Brooklynbanjoboy - Posted - 06/15/2014:  14:58:36


Thanks for a fine TOTW (OT) choice.  You selected some really fine examples, and I appreciate the work that went into laying out the two versions.

I intended to try and get at the tune using Grace Forrest’s Youtube video as a guide, but when I unsheathed the banjo and tuned it up, out popped an artifact of some playing experience with the tune from the deep recesses of what’s left of my brain.  It’s very different from the examples you offered, and I can’t for the life of me recall what fiddler I might have been following here – although I’m almost certain I never heard the tune come out of Diller’s banjo (or fiddle). 

In the end, I decided to throw this one up on the TOTW (OT) thread instead of trying to park closer to the way the tune is sorted out in the fine examples you gave.

And once again, I’m posting after the hardest act to follow, JanetB, whose light yet certain touch always produces the most lyrical versions of these great old tunes.

Here’s my a priori stab at the tune:



Play hard,



aeroweenie - Posted - 06/18/2014:  08:43:14

Janet - very nice rendition, Adam must enjoy having you as a student!  Lew, that is an interesting variation, I too would like to hear the fiddling it is intended for.   This is one of the things I love about OT fiddle tunes, most have many variations, including names, keys, number of parts, etc..

BrendanD - Posted - 06/19/2014:  04:08:17

I play both of these versions of "Indian Eat The Woodchuck" (as well as one other from the repertoire of David R. and Williamson Hamblen, whose music was recently discussed on the BHO). Ed Haley's D version, in particular the elusive B part with its many subtle variations, is always a work in progress for me. Janet, of all the banjo versions presented here, I think you've come closest to Haley's melody, and nailed some bits that have eluded me for years! I'm going to have to listen again closely to what you're doing here.

Of the fiddle versions here, Grace captures more of Ed Haley's subtleties and variations than maybe any fiddler I've ever heard play this tune - and I've heard a lot! In fact, she actually worked out a good bit of it in my living room. :-)  Lucky me - now I'll just have to get her to play it with me enough to work out those difficult bits myself!

Here's a (kind of rough) recording of my band the Cliffhangers playing Haley's D version (filtered through the inventive mind and fingers of our fiddler Mark Simos) while warming up for the Clifftop band contest in 2004 (though we didn't end up playing this in the contest). I apologize for the funky sound quality; a friend happened by and recorded some of our warmup on his Minidisc player with its limiter switched on, which makes the sound "pump" with the banjo's dynamics. Jody Platt (on tenor guitar) and I (on banjo) play the melody together here in a way that makes it hard for me to know exactly which notes each of us are playing, which is one of the pleasures of playing in this band for me! Our (ten-year-old) rendition is certainly not as close to Haley's version as either Grace Forrest's or Janet's, but I hope you like it.

Indian Eat The Woodchuck

oldwoodchuckb - Posted - 06/19/2014:  22:13:16


I am shocked - SHOCKED I TELL YOU!  that the management of this forum would allow such blatantly species-ist propaganda to remain up on the page where innocent and impressionable youths (like my young friends Dan Gibson, Banjo Brad, R.D. Lunceford, and The Beaver) can see them. 

I represent a vast organization of woodchucks and we are both unanimous is condemning this horrible practice. Write your congressman, or your pastor. Have your congressman write your pastor. Write to the Nigerian billionaires. Write anyone! Save our woodchucks before it is too late. Be part of the solution instead of the problem.



Please help us stamp out groundhog abuse!



We must save our endangered and threatened whistlepigs. Put an end to the madness.

Send your boxtops to:

Box 8B WongSide Station

Willery, Ohio




Peaceful demonstration tomorrow at noon. Come to the old spot by the river right well known to thee and me. Bring sharpened incisors and snacks.





Edited by - oldwoodchuckb on 06/19/2014 22:28:25

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