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 Playing Advice: Clawhammer and Old-Time Styles
 ARCHIVED TOPIC: TOTW 06/26/2015 Buck Mountain

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 - 06/26/2015:  19:38:16

This weeks tune is Buck Mountain, generally a D tune. Although it doesn't seem to be recorded often, I think it is not obscure.

If I were a more accomplished TOTW'er, I would have continued the theme of the last two. But I had already planned for this tune; including a hope to record a version with the guy I learned it from. Plus, I don't play the two tunes I thought of to continue the theme: John Dye and Root Hog, or Die.

However, when Bret told me that one of his open dates coincided with when I planned to be at the Indiana Fiddlers Gathering (commonly called Battle Ground), I decided to do Buck Mountain. This is because I knew that Lee Mysliwiec would be there. Lee is a BHO & FHO member, a fine fiddler and banjoist and also makes great banjos. We see each other twice a year, and I think the first year we played together he played Buck Mountain. Over the next 2 years I would only play the tune when he was around--and finally by the third year I learned it. But by that time it seemed as though the tune had become "old hat" for the Bloomington, Indiana crowd--and my Central Illinois were not picking it up from me. So, I don't get to play it as much as I like.

To the history! The Traditional Tune Archive has the following:

BUCK MOUNTAIN. Old-Time, Breakdown. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB' (Phillips, Silberberg): AA'BB (Songer). Buck Mountain is in northwestern Albermarle County, Virginia, the only peak in its vicinity and a fairly prominent local feature. The tune is sourced (by Pete Vigour) to a fiddler from Woodridge, in southern Albemarle County, Virginia, by the name of Napoleon Bonaparte "Uncle Nip" Chisholm, active in the 1930's. "Uncle Nip" derived his nickname from his drinking habits, says Vigour, and not from a shortening of his given name. The tune was popularized regionally by a group called the Virginia Vagabonds, formed in 1932, whose guitar player, Earl Smith, was related to Chisholm and learned the melody from him (the elderly fiddler was perhaps his great uncle). Remarkably, the Virginia Vagabonds survived as a band, with some original and near-original members, into the 21st century. Fiddler Armin Barnet, the source for the tune in The Portland Collection and who is credited with popularizing it among 'revival' fiddlers, went to graduate school in Charlottesville, N.C., in the early 1970's and picked up the tune from regional players. The Vagabonds, however, played the tune in the key of G Major with the parts reversed from the printed versions, and with a more old-fashioned feel, says Vigour.

I have not been able to find any recordings from the original Virginia Vagabonds, but maybe someone else knows of one. The tune (paired with Shoo Fly) is on a cd from Voyager Records titled EAT N' RUN: DRIVING ME CRAZY. The liner notes for this state:

4. Buck Mountain/Shoo Fly Howie learned Buck Mountain in the key of D at a jam at Weiser. It comes from "Uncle Nip" Chisholm of Woodridge, VA. Armin Barnett says Claudio Buchwald probably brought it out west--in its original key of G, where Armin prefers playing it--from Charlottesville, VA, in the 1970s. Shoo Fly was out and around in jam sessions in the ‘70s. It's probably a descendant of Clark Kessinger's 1920s recording.

EDIT: Here is the link to the Eat n' Run cd, which JanetB provides below:

Steven Rosen has a version (on which he plays all instruments) on his cd titled "Old-Timey Music,". It's track 2:

And, there is a cool fiddle & accordian version from the UK on youtube:

I now have two versions on BHO. The first I recorded in October of 2014. It was wierd. On the weekend I had gone down to Effingham, IL for the fiddle contest (I was provided back up for someone) and aftward I had a tune running through my head. As I walked toward a steakhouse afterward I must have been walking oddly because my fiddler friend shouted across the parking lot; "Oh look, he's got a tune running through his head!" ON the drive home I realized it was Buck Mountain, and it returned the next day at work. So I grabbed my work banjo and made a recording.

The second version was from today. Lee Mysliwiec and I recorded this sitting knee-to-knee under an "easy-up" at the very rainy Indiana Fiddlers Gathering. The rain makes for static like a scratchy old record. At the end you can hear Lee getting up to offer to help the young lady, whose shelter we had borrowed, to secure an extra tarp. The rain actually got MUCH heavier about 10 minutes later.

So, all I can add is that it is a heck of a lot of fun to play on banjo. Fun on fiddle, too.


Edited by - vrteach on 06/29/2015 08:08:45

Buck Mountain

Buck Mountain (Lee & Erich & rain)

Cyndy - Posted - 06/26/2015:  21:21:52

I've played that one! Probably with Lee? Now it will be running through my head. : ) Ah, to be at Battle Ground. Enjoy!

JanetB - Posted - 06/27/2015:  11:04:35

A fine dance tune, Erich.  Your fiddle duet under the rainy tent sounds great.  Here's a link with Buck Mountain, Track 4, for one of the sources you cited:   It's a catchy dance tune I enjoyed learning and can picture the fun you had at that festival.

I think I live on Buck Mountain in California.


Chuck and Corky

Buck Mountain (CH) tab

LyleK - Posted - 06/29/2015:  05:57:36

Nice one!

The sad part for me is that I grew up 15 miles SE of Buck Mountain (in the aforementioned Charlottesville, VA) and never realized that the tune was a reference to said geographic feature.  On the other hand, mountains were a dime a dozen there, unlike some flat corn and bean infested places, like... I dunno'... east central Illinois?

Lee Mysliwiec - Posted - 06/29/2015:  08:09:16

Someone had mentioned that the rain on the EZ up, sounded like applause... Well, I'm here to tell you that that rain sound was the only 'applause' we got !!! (Cyndy, we missed you at Battleground)...Nice job on the tune Eric.

vrteach - Posted - 06/29/2015:  08:20:27

Thanks for helping out, Lee.

As always, I like your version, Janet, and I've added the link to the Eat n' Run cd to my discussion above.

Lyle, I agree that it is hard to get excited about central Illinois.

After Lee and I did that recording, we returned to the other campsite. While there the rain REALLY began to fall. Hard enough that playing stopped because we could not quite hear each other. During that pause I looked at my tuner and saw that my banjo was resonating with the rain. The tuner reported that the rain was falling in F#.

Lee Mysliwiec - Posted - 06/29/2015:  09:13:32

Hey!!! F# is how I tune my 5th string when playing in D.... That would have sounded amazing...!

mtmncobb - Posted - 07/04/2015:  22:50:54

I have always kind of liked this tune. I enjoyed the versions. Here is mine.

Buck Mountain


vrteach - Posted - 07/06/2015:  09:08:30

LIKE! Thanks.

JanetB - Posted - 07/09/2015:  21:53:45

Hi Erich.  I had to delete my first recording and re-upload my Buck Mountain MP3.  Something happened to the first and it wouldn't play any more.  It's a great tune and I hope bumping this to the top gives it additional exposure.  blush  

Mtmncobb definitely had a catchy version.  It sounds like he's played all his life.

Buck Mountain (TOTW)


Kernel - Posted - 08/20/2015:  13:54:55

A little late, but I thought I'd go ahead and add these. Here's a simple banjo tab and a fiddle transcription. They are from a workshop by Geff Crawford and Masha Goodman Crawford that was taught at the CBA Music camp a couple of summers ago.


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