This week's Scruggs-style tunetorial features an old and very popular fiddle tune, Leather Britches. It goes by other names as well, including "Leather Breeches" and "Old Leather Britches" (that's what Flatt & Scruggs called it).
Musicologists generally agree that Leather Britches is the American version of Lord Macdonald's Reel, a Scottish tune first published around 1790 and composed by Sir Alexander Macdonald.
According to the Fiddler Companion's massive writeup on Leather Britches, "the earliest version of “Leather Breeches” in print (under that title) appears in numerical tablature in Music for the Piano Dulcimer by R.J. Rudisill (of Missouri), published by Stedman (New York) & Milton (Kentucky) with a date of 1859, sold by L.S. & H. Wade. The volume, says Paul, was apparently written to accompany the dulcimers manufactured by the Wades in Chautaqua County, New York."
In Bell Wiley's book "The Life of Johnny Reb" he lists Leather Britches as one of the popular tunes played by the Confederate army.
Typically played in the key of G.
Learn the Tune:
Hear It using the GrooveShark playlist to the right.
Casey Henry has posted two lessons for this tune--one for the lead break, and one for backup. Lessons are only $6 thru the end of the week. Get them here >
Backing Tracks: Band in a Box tracks are included below at various speeds for your practicing pleasure.
Tabs: there are several tabs posted on the BHO. If Jack Baker has one I'll post it here soon!
I (and others) would love to hear (and see!) you play your version of this tune--post it in a reply below!
What a great pick, Eric, with amazing historic versions you've included. I've been fascinated with this tune for a long while. Here's my simple melodic take on it, but it takes more nimble fingers than mine to play as fast and smooth as Dave in the previous post!
Both Earl and John Hartford did wonderful versions of this backing the fiddle. One of the only tunes I tried to learn Earl's part note for note. I love Earl's descending chromatic run and, while I was still a Scruggs style player, I probably over used it... stuck it in everywhere I could.
The first two measures make a good "beginning of the end"; right before "Shave and a haircut."
Here's John Hartford backing Vassar Clements' fiddle playing. For some reason the picture chosen shows John and Mark O'Connor, but we're listening to Vassar from the Steam Powered Aereoplane (or Aereoplain or Areoplane*) album. youtube.com/watch?v=1qXaC1J-Alw
*It's spelled a couple of different ways on the album cover.