Original fiddler version from Wm. H. Stepp
Key of D – aDADE
In this, Tunetorial number 21, Dan "Clawdan" Levenson teaches the tune Wm. H. Stepp’s Bonaparte’s Retreat. Many folks know this melody both from Aaron Copeland’s “Hoe Down” and as the “Beef – It’s what’s for dinner” commercials.
What is not as well known is that while Aaron Copeland composed, copyrighted then premiered his piece around 1942 the tune had been recorded and collected by Ruth Seeger and the Library of Congress in 1937 as Bonaparte's Retreat played on fiddle by William H. Stepp. Copeland took the transcription of Stepp's playing note for note to start his composition.
The original recording is still available today for you to hear for yourself. It is available as part of the American Fiddle Tunes collection (Rounder 18964-1518-2) and online here where you can hear and download his recording. I love it when you can hear someone say, "And this here's the bony part" right on the recording! Of course, today you may just her someone say, "Where's the beef?"
Dan plays the tune and break down sections on the fly. There are some seemingly tricky parts that once you see and hear really come pretty easily. Especially if you focus on the special part here on left hand usage and another drop thumb highlight.
This tune is tabbed out in Dan's book (tune 7 in) Old Time Favorites for Clawhammer Banjo (MB 30224).
'Rare Whyte Laydie banjos ' 15 min