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Apr 26, 2024 - 3:30:11 AM
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2604 posts since 12/16/2007

  Henry Reed's tunes came into my life when, in 1972, I moved from Denver, CO to Charlottesville, VA. At the time I only played guitar and clarinet (and other simple winds). Having been raised around folk music, I knew I was in an area rich in old time music, and so switched from my eight years playing jug band and ragtime to old time (at least while I was in Charlottesville). I began playing with musicians I met at the Prism Coffeehouse, first Mark Campbell and then Armin Barnett and his then wife Connie. Influences from Alan Jabbour and the Fuzzy Mountain String Band, led to many, many tunes collected from Henry Reed in circulation among us young folks, the Red Fox being one of them. Alan eventually donated his entire Henry Reed collection to the Library of Congress, where it still resides today.

Fiddle Tunes of the Old Frontier: The Henry Reed Collection


Alan Jabbour notes from Library of Congress

Red Fox [AFS 13035a41] "Red Fox" is an unusual, and so far untraceable, tune in Henry Reed's repertory. It may be that some of these fiddle tunes of the old frontier began life as jigs and were converted to the prevailing reel-breakdown meter in the Upper South. Compare, for example, Longman & Broderip's Fifth Selection of the Most Admired Dances, Reels, Minuets & Cottilons (1780), p. 11 "The Welsh Jig"; Riley's Flute Melodies (ca. 1814), p. 6 "The Priest in His Boots"; One Thousand Fiddle Tunes, p. 52 "The Priest in His Boots--Jig," p. 60 "Tivoli--Jig." The oscillation between tonal centers in D (most of the first strain) and G (the second strain) is known in British tradition but less familiar in the Upper South.

Henry Reed

  Musician Henry Reed (April 28, 1884-June 16, 1968) was a legendary West Virginia fiddler whose repertory contributed to the old-time music revival in the last half of the 20th century.

  There's a bit more to read in this link.

  James Henry Neel Reed, known as Henry Reed, was born on April 28, 1884, in Monroe County, West Virginia, a rural county lying along the Virginia border in the Appalachian Mountains of southeastern West Virginia. His parents were John Marion Reed and Sophia Catherine Underwood Reed. Family connections on his father's side lead back to Ireland, from which his grandfather came to Virginia in the mid-nineteenth century, bringing his father as a child. The family name apparently was originally spelled Reid. On his mother's side are connections to Floyd and Franklin Counties, flanking the Blue Ridge in what Henry Reed and others of his generation called East Virginia. His grandmother was at least part Indian, according to his own account and that of his children.

  There's much more about Henry's life in the link above.


Red Fox is a bit of an unusual G tune in that the first part starts on a D chord and goes back and forth between D and G chords until it resolves to G at the end of the part. The second part is pretty straightforward. There a few solo banjo versions on the internet. Below are some of my favorites and my solo version in old G, gDGde and my friend Doug's version in gDGbd.


One final subject I’d like to address, redundancy. I love that many of the tunes I play have alternate ways of playing the same note. In my version (gDGde), not only do I use the 5th string as a melody note, in the first part, but in some of my drop thumb phrases, I prefer the 4th fret on the 2nd string rather than a hammer to the 2nd fret on the 1st string. Just experiment until what you have in your head comes satisfactorily back to your ear.


Lyle Konigsberg in gEAde

Tom MacKenzie in what I'm guessing gDGbd

Gerhard Saller in standard G, gDGbd


Not to forget links to a couple of fiddle versions.

Henry Reed

Alan Jabbour


Edited by - carlb on 04/26/2024 12:43:37

Apr 30, 2024 - 11:20:55 AM
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7149 posts since 6/27/2009

Great little tune, thanks Carl! The tuning gCGCE worked best for me.

Here's a bit of my thought process, in case anyone wonders, as this is a playing style forum, and at the risk of boring or losing you, here goes. Once deciding on a tuning that didn't make my left hand work too hard up-the-neck (7th fret), the next trick I wanted was to use other strings on the "ty" of bum-dit-ty when the usual 5th string sounded discordant or redundant to me. That's one of the problems I have with my melodic playing style. Every note becomes an issue, rather than playing through it without being bogged down by these things.

If you look on the tab, this happens on the first measure (where it's not a discordant 5th string -- it was just the same note as the previous one); the 8th measure (where I play an octave up for the last note of the measure rather than the 5th string note I didn't want); the 9th measure where I drop thumb a skipped note to the middle string, 2nd fret; the 10th measure where I do the drop thumb syncopated note on the open fourth string; the 11th measure uses a pull-off to the open note of the second string; the 12th measure uses the thumb on the open second string; the 13th measure uses the drop thumb on the 2nd fret of the third string; the 16th measure plays a note on the second string on the "dit" rhythm and leaves out a "ty", which, if using the 5th string, would have sounded discordant. On the 17th measure I decided to use a chord to end it.

Goodness! that's a lot of tech talk, but perhaps someone will study it with the tab and understand my thought process that goes on when arranging a piece.

Jun 1, 2024 - 7:33:14 AM

1729 posts since 4/29/2013

A little late, but a nice tune, Carl. I picked it up quite quickly on fiddle. 

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