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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 03/06/2015 -- Piedmont

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:

vrteach - Posted - 03/06/2015:  07:17:42

OK, for this week I'm submitting a fairly obscure Missouri D-tune called Piedmont. I think it deserves to be a bit less obscure.

The tune comes from the great Missouri fiddler Art Galbraith. I learned it from Billy Mathews, really just a few weeks ago. I first heard it on his 500 tunes project, on the first volume released in 2008. I've had those tunes on my mp3 player in rotation since then, and every time Piedmont came by I thought, "oh yeah, Piedmont. I should give that a try." But I never did. Then in early February I attended one of Billy's fiddle workshops in Mountain View, AR. Billy played Piedmont at the Friday night jam, and by the third time through I figured out enough of the A part to realize that it's a really fun tune on the banjo. The A part just bounces around alot.

So I decided to use Piedmont for my upcoming TOTW, and started researching it. That's when I found out that it is a fairly obscure tune. I also found that it is not easy to search for a fiddle tune called Piedmont--those terms return LOTS of hits.

Here is the Fiddlers Companion entry:

PIEDMONT. Old‑Time, Breakdown. D Major. Standard tuning. AABB. The title appears in a list of traditional Ozark Mountain fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954. Source Galbraith thought it might have been a tune from Scotland. Source for notated version: Art Galbraith (1909-1993, near Springfield, Mo.), learned from his Uncle Tobe [Beisswenger & McCann, Phillips]. Beisswenger & McCann (Ozark Fiddle Music), 2008; pg. 40. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 1, 1994; pg. 184. Rounder 0157, Art Galbraith - "Simple Pleasures" (1983).  

There could be alot written about Art Galbraith. There is a short autobiographical article available online, and here is n excerpt from the Spring 1982 issue of "Bittersweet (you can follow the link for the full text):"

Art Galbraith and Gordon McCann:

I've been trying to play the fiddle since I was approximately ten years old. I grew up in a family who played. An uncle lived with me who played and he taught me a lot. He had a finger off. When my dad and he were little boys, he was holding corn cobs and he stuck his finger out too far and my dad chopped his finger off with a hatchet. But it got well all right. He always thought it would grow back but it never did! So then he just played the fiddle with three fingers. He was pretty good. I learned a lot of tunes from him. That was Uncle Mark.

Uncle Tobe was an older uncle who played very well and played a lot of tunes. I got most of my tunes from him. My dad bought me a fiddle when I was about nine years old, I guess. I've tried on my own to play and I just picked it up more or less. I heard it and I liked it.

Gordon McCann has donated his large collection of home recorded cassette tapes, and his notebooks, to the archives at Missouri State University. In the Inventory of the collection (guides.library.missouristate.e...ollection) there are bits of transcribed discussions about Art's uncle Tobe, for example:

"...Art Tells about  his Uncle Tobe, he played a lot sitting by himself, Aunt Ellie, his wife, he'd say "Ellie, how does that part in such-and-such go?"  And she'd whistle it perfectly."

..“Uncle Tobe’s wife, Aunt Ellie, she was a big old comfortable fat woman would do some kind of hand work while he played, he’d say ‘Ellie, how does that tune go?’ and she’d whistle it” ...(like Shorty does for Glen Rickman)"

.."Art talks about Uncle Tobe ... says he played everything strickly the way he learned it..... then Clay or Fred would come in, Clay especially, and experiment with tunes.....  and he’d play something like Soldier’s Joy with a different twist. Says Uncle Tobe would say “Why, he’s ruined that”......"

.."Piedmont                        in  D            (.042)

    Art learned this tune from his Uncle Tobe who would have been

    126 years old, born in 1853, lived to be 80 years old....."


Piedmont has not been on many published recordings. The first was a Rounder album by Art Galbraith titled "Simple Pleasures" released in 1983. That's out of print and I couldn't find any digitized version. After Art passed away in 1993 there was another Rounder album released, but again it's not available and I could not find any digitized versions. So, I can't provide a version by Galbraith. That may change, because in doing the research for this TOTW I wrote to Drew Beisswenger to see if he had a digitized copy I could use, and he gave the contact of the person in charge of the McCann collection at Missouri State, and she wrote back saying that I had good timing because they where in the process of putting the collection up on YouTube, and she could move one of the sessions containing "Piedmont" up the queue, and which of the 33 version would I be most interested in! So hopefully that will be available before this topic goes into archive.

EDIT: here is a link to a YouTube version of Galbraith & McCann from August, 23, 1979. Recorded at Galbraith's house.

The next recording was on hammered dulcimer by Cathy Barton on an album titled "On a Day Like Today" released in 1986. It's in a medley, and I think all three tunes are Art Galbrath/Uncle Tobe tunes.

Cathy Barton & Dave Para playing Shamus O'Brien/Piedmont/Wideman's Quickstep

(Piedmont begins at around 2:54 mark)

Billy Mathews, 500 Fiddle Tune Project, 2008-2011. and the tune is attached to this topic below. Billy learned the tune from Jim Lansford, who probably learned it from Art Galbraith.

James Bryan and Carl Jones, Cricket's Lullaby 2011. Excerpt available on CDbaby: (It's track 14).

The tune is probably named for Piedmont, Missouri. A town of about 2,000 people at the eastern edge of the Ozarks:

So here's the tune, give it a try. It's good in Double-D. The A part mostly has bouncing pull-offs on the first & third strings. The B part has a first string pull off from the 7th fret to the open string. When I first played it I was doing pull-off from 7th to 5th as I do for a number of other tunes, and it wasn't until I tried it on mandolin that I realized that it goes to the open E string there. I think it the tune has more room for syncopation than what I do.


Edited by - vrteach on 03/10/2015 10:07:49

Piedmont - Billy Mathews


VIDEO: Piedmont
(click to view)

banjukebox - Posted - 03/06/2015:  10:33:23

That's a great tune that I hadn't heard before. And I never new that Cathy Barton played hammer dulcimer - I thought she just wailed on the banjo.

I had to give it a shot. Thanks for posting.

Here's my attempt:

vrteach - Posted - 03/06/2015:  16:29:55

Very nice! Thanks for posting your version. We may have doubled the number of banjo players who play Piedmont. Certainly on Youtube.

I expect Cathy plays other instruments--I've seen her play piano backup for fiddle tunes (by ear). She plays a perhaps 40-year-old hammered dulcimer. It's huge.


Edited by - vrteach on 03/06/2015 16:30:29

JanetB - Posted - 03/07/2015:  13:36:06

You selected a beautiful little tune, Erich.  All of the recordings are nice and I'll be glad to learn more about Billy Mathews.  I gather he plays both fiddle and banjo.

Since James Bryan is my favorite fiddle player, that's the version mine is coming from.  He says that he got a recording of Art Galbraith from their mutual friend, Gordon McCann.  James puts in an extra half-measure in the B part, as does the musical notation in the Ozarks Fiddle Music book, co-written by Drew Beisswenger and Gordon McCann.

In the book there's some biographical information about Art.  He was born in 1909 east of Springfield, MO and died in 1993.  He taught school for four years, but during the Depression took a job with the Post Office until 1966.  He played for years every Saturday evening at Emanuel Wood's old store in Ozark where he met Gordon McCann in 1976 and found him to be the most satisfactory friend to play and tour around with together.  "Often called the James River fiddler, Galbraith was known for his elegant clean-but-not-flashy style of playing.  He enjoyed music parties, avoided performing in contests but judged many, and encouraged young fiddlers to allow their individual personalities to guide their fiddling."  Personally I found that all interesting to know and am glad I have the book (though I wish it had an accompanying CD).  The photo shows them together in 1982.


Piedmont (TOTW)

Piedmont tab

vrteach - Posted - 03/07/2015:  17:38:22

Thanks Janet, lovely and elegant as usual.

At the moment I'm at Breaking Up Winter in Tennessee. As it happens Christine Breen (Strokestyle here on the hangout) and her husband won the cabin lottery, and they have Billy with them along with some others. So I joined them this evening and they agreed to record an ensemble version of Piedmont. The group consists of Billy Mathews (Fiddle), Suzi Vaus (Fiddle), Christeen Breen (Banjo), Paul Breen (Guitar), and Erich Schroeder (Banjo).

Piedmont (group)


Zischkale - Posted - 03/09/2015:  09:41:33


Originally posted by vrteach

She plays a perhaps 40-year-old hammered dulcimer. It's huge.


You ain't kidding. She needs Deep Purple's roadie for this thing


vrteach - Posted - 03/09/2015:  13:46:44

I got back a note from the Missouri State archives, and they have posted one entry which has Art Galbraith playing Piedmont. It is the second tune, but the full hour is worth listening to....

They may post a version with clearer title text. When they do so I'll include it in the first posting, as that will likely be the permanent link.

Here is the associated text.

Part of the Gordon McCann Ozarks Fiddle Music Collection at Missouri State University's Special Collections and Archives.

Compilation of various fiddle music recordings from 1979. Includes:

1. Art Galbraith playing "Lady's Fancy" (in the key of D), "Piedmont" (in D), "Dubuque's Hornpipe" (in D), "Prettiest Little Gal in the County-O" (in D), "Rocky Mountain Hornpipe" (in D), "Whisky Before Breakfast" (in D), "Coming Up the Pike" (in C), "Billy in the Low Ground" (in C), "Doc Jessup's Schottische" (in G), "McCraw's Ford" (in G), "Flowers of Edinburg" (in G), "Shamos O'Brien" (in G), "Weaverly" (in G), and "Catillion" (in A & D).

2. Carol Haskel playing "Beaty's Tune" (in D; made from her record "Spotted Pony).

3. Lonnie Robertson (with Gordon McCann playing on Lonnie's 1934 D-18 Martin guitar) playing "Adrian's Reel" (in G), "Angus Campbell (in A), "Countryman's Reel" (in B flat), "Lonnie's Hornpipe" (in B flat & F), and "Thunderbolt Hornpipe (in B flat).

4. Ed Richmond in Tulsa, Oklahoma, playing "Dusty Miller" (? in G) and "Rose of Ava Moore" (in A).

5. Herman Johnson in Shawnee, Oklahoma, playing "Cuckoo's Nest" (in D) and "Uncle Herman's Hornpipe" (in D).

6. H.K. Trawick in Arkansas playing "Off to California" (in G) and "Rights of Man Hornpipe" (in F).

6. Elmo Boswell in Springfield, Missouri, playing on his Dobro mandolin an unnamed tune he learned from his mother (in G).

7. Alton Jones in Theodosia, Missouri, playing "Lantern in the Ditch" (in D).

8. Lonnie Robertson playing "Mahonee's Reel" (in A).

9. Lonnie Robertson playing "Grannie Will Your Dog Bite" (in G).

10. Art Galbraith playing "White Water Jig" (in A & D) and "Dixie Blossoms" (in G).

11. Glen Rickman in Crane, Missouri, playing "The Old Stillhouse is a'Burnin' Down" (in C) and "Big Muddy" (in D).

12. Art Galbraith playing "Down Home Waltz" (in D), "Snow Shoe" (in D), and "Schottische in G" (in G).

These recordings are made available for research purposes. The views expressed in the recordings are those of the individuals speaking and do not necessarily represent the views of Missouri State University.

Some of this material may be protected by copyright law. Permission of the copyright holders is required for commercial use, reproduction, or anything beyond what is allowed by fair use.

Galbraith, McCann, Robertson, Richmond, Rickman--no date.mp3

vrteach - Posted - 03/09/2015:  14:05:42

Errg. The way that I embedded the video it starts farther in. Piedmont is the second tune, beginning about 1:17.

JanetB - Posted - 03/09/2015:  16:16:38

Clear and lovely.  Thanks for a successful outreach to provide a new resource, Erich. 

kenelk - Posted - 03/10/2015:  08:25:21

Well... this tune captured me yesterday as i was questing for new material... like the renditions from Pat, Erich's fine fiddling and Janet... so decided to jump in. and put my own spin on it.


VIDEO: PIEDMONT (clawhammer)
(click to view)


vrteach - Posted - 03/10/2015:  09:18:22

Very nice, thanks. One correction, the fiddling was not mine (rats) but rather Billy Mathews. I'm currently in a phase where I hate my fiddling. I also have to make another correction to one of my previous posts, I spelled Suzi Vause's name wrong (left off the "e").

I have another Youtube clip from Missouri State University. It begins at the beginning, but you can scroll to the 3:40 mark where Galbraith & McCann play Piedmont. I also edited the original post by adding a link which starts at the right place, and you can follow it here:

The recording is of two sessions (A & B sites of a cassette) and is a bit over 2 hours. Here is the tune list:

Published on Mar 9, 2015

Part of the Gordon McCann Ozarks Fiddle Music Collection at Missouri State University's Special Collections and Archives.

Includes two separate recording sessions:

First session recorded in Art Galbraith's kitchen at his home in Springfield, Missouri, on August 23, 1979. Recording done by Gordon McCann. Galbraith played fiddle, McCann played guitar.

Songs played:

1. "Sweet Betsy from Pike" (in the key of G)

2. "Flowers of Edinburg" (in G)

3. "Sunday Night Waltz" (in G)

4. "Rossi Waltz" (in G)

5. "Durang's Hornpipe" (in D)

6. "Durang's Hornpipe No. Two" (in D)

7. "Snow Shoe" (in D)

8. "Flowers of Edinburg" (in G)

9. "Billy in the Low Ground" (in C)

(Galbraith and McCann discuss Christeson's rules, "Hell Among the Yearlings," and "Fire on the Mountain")

10. "Coming Up the Pike" (in C)

11. "Tennessee Waltz" (in C, G, & D)

12. "Kentucky Waltz" (in C)

13. "Peek A Boo Waltz" (in G)

14. "Piedmont" (in D)

15. "Wideman's Quickstep" (in G & C)

16. "Golden Slippers" (in G)

17. "Down Yonder" (in C)

18. "Happy Days & Lonely Nights" (in C)

19. "Lonesome Moonlight Waltz" (in F)

20. "Leather Britches" (in G & D)

21. "Shamos O'Brien" (in G)

22. "Schottische in G" (in G)

23. "Doc Jessup's Schottische" (in G)

24. "Over the Water to Charlie's" (in D)

25. "Cotillion in A & D" (in A & D)

26. "Bill Cheethum" (in A)

27. "Dixie Hoedown" (in G)

Second session recorded in Rex Moses' living room at his home in Sparta, Missouri, on August 24, 1979. Recording done by Gordon McCann. Art Galbraith played fiddle; Tillford Jones, guitar; Gordon McCann, guitar; Rick Wilson, bass; Walt Pettus, fiddle; Linda Snider, piano; Jennie Wray, guitar; and Carl Campbell, guitar.

1. Galbraith on fiddle: "Down Home Waltz" (in the key of D) & "Durang's Hornpipe" (in D).

2. Pettus on fiddle: "Cricket on the Hearth" (in D), "Chinese Breakdown" (in D), & "Kiss Me Waltz" (in G & D).

3. Galbraith on fiddle: "Westphalia Waltz" (in G), "Blue Mule" (in G), "Red Apple Rag" (in G), "Bill Cheathum" (in A), & "Montana Waltz" (in A).

4. Pettus on fiddle: "Someday I'll Wander Back Again" (in G) & "Jimmy Murphy" (sung).

5. Galbraith on fiddle: "Daddy Blues" (in G).

6. Pettus on fiddle: "Redwing" (in G).

7. Galbraith on fiddle (with Dorothy Johnson dancing): "Chicken Reel" (in G), "Tennessee Wagoner" (in C), "Tennessee Waltz" (in C), & "Interlake Waltz" (in G).

8. Pettus on fiddle: "Arkansas Traveler" (in G).

9. Galbraith on fiddle: "Flock of Birds" (in G) & "Peek A Boo Waltz" (in G).

10. Pettus on fiddle: "Soldier's Joy" (in D) & "Turkey in the Straw" (in G).

11. Galbraith on fiddle: "Whiskey Before Breakfast" (in D) & "Ragtime Annie" (in D, with Dorothy dancing).

12. Pettus on fiddle: "Precious Jesus Hold My Hand" (in G).

13. Galbraith on fiddle: "Over the Waves" (in G).

Edited by - vrteach on 03/10/2015 09:27:44

vrteach - Posted - 03/10/2015:  15:51:10


Originally posted by vrteach

I have another Youtube clip from Missouri State University. It begins at the beginning, but you can scroll to the 3:40 mark where Galbraith & McCann play Piedmont. I also edited the original post by adding a link which starts at the right place, and you can follow it here:


 That number should be 36:40. Boy I miss the days when we could edit our posts.

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