Southern Arizona Old Time Fiddlers Association

Southern Arizona Old Time Fiddlers, TMY 1993
Southern Arizona Old Time Fiddlers, TMY 1993


On February 19, 2003, the Southern Arizona Old Time Fiddlers performed at the UofA Bookstore opening ceremonies


After the performance, the band members were interviewed by Big Jim Griffith

The Southern Arizona Old Time Fiddlers Association performers, February 19, 2003.

Bill Straton, fiddle
Harlan Berno, fiddle
Floyd Eyler, mandolin
Jack Childs, guitar
Jim Griffith, banjo and harmonica
Bob Renney, bass fiddle

  1. Flop-eared Mule
  2. Wabash Cannonball
  3. Where the Soul Never Dies
  4. Soldier's Joy
  5. Under the Double Eagle
  6. Westfalia Waltz
  7. New Five Cents
  8. Sleepy Grass Rag
  9. Oh Dem Golden Slippers
  10. Charming Betsy
  11. Columbus Stockade Blues
  12. Chattanooga Shoeshine Boy
  13. Walkin' In My Sleep
  14. Where the Silvery Colorado Winds Its Way
  15. Arkansas Traveler

Tucson Meet Yourself Festival, October 8, 1993 TMY-1993/R-3-T

The Southern Arizona Old Time Fiddlers Association describes itself as dedicated "to represent and keep alive the old time tradition of fiddle playing way back from the Appalachians and some of these tunes even come across on the Mayflower."


Ragtime Annie
Whistling Rufus
Flop Eared Mule
Twelfth Street Rag
Down Yonder
Cowboy Sweetheart
Just Because
Westfalia Waltz
Golden Slippers
Boil Them Cabbage Down
Orange Blossom Special

The song "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers" was written in 1879 by James A. Bland. It was originally a minstrel mockery of a spiritual song sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, however Bland's version surpassed the Fisk song in popularity. Although the song sung by the Fisk Jubilee Singers was performed long before its publication in 1880, "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers" receives credit for being the first published and is thought to be the original by some."Golden Slippers"
Contributed by Steven Van
MUS 334 Professor Sturman
September 26, 2002

This popular American song was written after the Civil War, during the period of Reconstruction (Levene). Songs created during this period reflect the attitudes of the authors as well as the audience. James A. Bland was an African-American composer who lived through slavery and saw it outlawed following the Civil War (Congress). In his song, "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers," Bland does not reflect the emotions of a disgruntled person, rather, the lyrical content conveys joy and a time of celebration. Instead of harboring grudges from the past, Bland celebrates the end of slavery and hope for a better future.

  One important factor contributing to the song's existence also accounts for its early popularity. It was originally performed in the minstrel theatre as well as by traveling troupes of minstrel performers (Chase). These African-American troupes were often known as "Georgia Minstrels" and performed a variety of music in addition to the early minstrel tradition. "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers" was also introduced on the variety stage and became a vaudeville favorite. Theatrical plays became customary to the American lifestyle, giving rise to the popularity of many minstrel songs (Gill).

"Oh, Dem Golden Slippers" consists of three stanzas and a refrain. The instrumental composition is typically performed by piano (Foster). The melody leaps from low to high pitches and vice versa while the tempo of this melody is fast. The fabric of the music is homophonic with harmonic support. The lyrics are also simple, telling the story of a man who is absorbed in his prized possessions, including his long tailed coat, long white robe, banjo, and most importantly his golden slippers. The narrator talks about going to some place in his chariot, which is a conventional metaphor for escaping slavery. His destination is a question, but it could possibly be heaven or up north or simply off the plantation of slavery.

"Oh, Dem Golden Slippers" became notable in the late 1800's along with many other minstrel songs. Its contribution to American music has impacted the old tradition of minstrel musicals vaudeville favorites.


Chase, Gilbert (1987). America's Music. Chicago: University of Illinois Press.
Pgs. 330-331.
Foster, Stephen. "Oh! Dem Golden Slippers!" Midi-Collection of Popular American Songs. <>
Gill, Linda. "Oh, Dem Golden Slippers." Hymns, Gospel Songs, and Spirituals. <>
Levene, Donna B. "Using Sheet Music to Investigate the Reconstruction Period in American History." The Source. June 2002 <>
The Library of Congress. "Music for the Nation: American Sheet Music, 1870-1885." American Memory. September 23, 2002. <>

"Orange Blossom Special"
Lauren Brody and Travis Sparks
Music 334 Professor Sturman
October 14, 2002

The song "Orange Blossom Special" is about traveling on the premier diesel and steam train bearing that name during the era when trains were the primary way to travel long distance. Ervin T. Rouse and his brother are credited with composing the song, while Chubby Wise claims co-ownership. It was first made famous by William Smith "Bill" Monroe who recorded the song in 1941. He is now known as the "Father of Bluegrass", which was a predecessor to country music. Monroe's work with the Grand Ole Opry and his recordings deeply influenced American music.

The song's fame continued when Johnny Cash put out an album titled Orange Blossom Special in 1965. The first song on the album is his rendition of the song. Cash and Rouse actually met at a performance in Miami where Rouse explained that the song was inspired by personal experiences traveling up and down the eastern seaboard.

The "Orange Blossoms Special" was originally written without lyrics. Fiddlers who performed it employed special techniques in order to imitate the sound of the train. To hear an instrumental version of the song and view the lyrics as performed by Cash go to the website

"Orange Blossom Special" continues to be a popular performance piece today. Tucson has a longstanding fiddle tradition and hosts the "the longest-running old-time fiddle contest" each year, which is a wonderful environment to hear "Orange Blossom Special." In order to get up to date information about the next contest visit the Arizona Old Time Fiddlers Association's website at

It is interesting to compare the Old Time Fiddler's version of "Orange Blossom Special" to the one performed by another group in Tucson, the Tortolita Gut-Pluckers, a Bluegrass band that has been together for over 25 years. Their album Wanted: Road Kill Stew includes the "Orange Blossom Special," and the instruments heard their version include the fiddle, mandolin, mandola, acoustic guitar, rhythm-acoustic guitar, wash tub bass, banjo, and harmonies along with vocals.



"Twelfth Street Rag"
Contributed by Molly Dean and Jason Centers
Music 334 Professor Sturman
October 14, 2002

The rhythm of Ragtime music is characterized by strong syncopation in the melody with a regularly accented accompaniment. Developed between 1890 and 1910, ragtime music was usually played on the piano, featured a simple melody, and was originally intended for dance. It combined the folk and popular urban music of the time and was a precursor to jazz music.

Kansas City, considered to be a major hub for performers and publishers of ragtime music, was the inspiration for Euday Bowman's "Twelfth Street Rag." According to Bowman, the song's three-over-four pattern was modeled after the pawn shops on 12th Street in Kansas City, Missouri, whose storefronts commonly displayed three balls as an identifier for those walking the streets.

The rag was published for the first time in 1914, but those who wished to perform this version were met with a challenge when they discovered that the piano part was impossible to play with only two hands. Bowman produced a new arrangement of the song and sold the rights to J.W. Jenkins Sons Music Company in 1919 for $50.00. From there, "Twelfth Street Rag" went on to become one of the two most famous rags published by a Kansas City company. Jenkins Sons continued to draw recognition and royalties for performances of the "Twelfth Street Rag" until 1942, when Bowman repurchased the copyright to the song.

Ragtime music eventually died out, like most musical trends; however ragtime had a revival in the 1940's and 1950's and again in the 1970's, in part due to the movie The Sting (1973). Many jazz artists found inspiration in ragtime incorporated it into their music. "Twelfth Street Rag" itself gained further popularity when Bowman authorized the recording of his song by Walter "Pee Wee" Hunt, trombonist from New York, in 1948. Hunt rerecorded the "Twelfth Street Rag," which became an immediate success and was played on the radio for years to come. Although "Twelfth Street Rag" was at the height of its popularity, Bowman could not enjoy it for too long as he passed away in 1949 of pneumonia. However, this resurgence of ragtime brought about memories for people and it became an interesting and popular form of music for many. The "Twelfth Street Rag" has a fun and upbeat tune that makes it a perfect example of ragtime music, and there is a jig or dance that specifically accompanies certain versions of the song
To hear a sample of "Twelfth Street Rag" visit

Internet Sources:

Digital Sheet Music Collection. Univeristy of Colorado at Boulder.

Kansas City Jazz History.

Schafer, William. The Art of Ragtime Kingsport Press: Tennessee. 1973.

"Boil Them Cabbage Down"
Contributed by Stephanie Stelljes and Julie Williams
MUS 334 Professor Sturman
September 30, 2002

The old folk tune "Boil Them Cabbage Down" also known as "Bile Dem Cabbage Down" or "Bake Them Hoecakes Down" is a classic American folksong with unclear origins. Many historians have studied its roots, however the origin remains unknown. In The Fiddle Book, Marion Thede asserts that the melody to another folksong, "'Possum Pie," was altered to better accommodate the fiddler and the resulting work was "Boil Them Cabbage Down." Ethel Richardson disagrees with this notion and in her book, American Mountain Songs, writes that "The tune was derived from 'Oh Susanna'," and another music historian attributes the tune to a 1765 English country dance, "Smiling Polly." Perhaps the most compelling theory comes from Alan Lomax, who asserts that "Boil Them Cabbage Down" has roots reaching all the way to the African slaves that were brought to the southern part of the United States. Africans in Niger played various primitive instruments that resembled the fiddle, guitar, and banjo, so when the Africans were brought to the United States, they found the fiddle to be a familiar instrument. African fiddlers would play with great percussive effects, bowing heavily, which led to the development of the rough and rhythmic style that is still popular in the South. Although the origins of this fiddle tune remain a controversy, what is clear is that "Boil Them Cabbage Down" is deeply rooted in American society and is commonly found today in beginning fiddle books.

Clayton McMichen, a fiddler from Georgia, and the legendary Tennessee banjoist Uncle Dave Macon, performed the first recorded versions of this song in 1924. Additionally, "Boil Them Cabbage Down" was known to be one of McMichen's favorite tunes for competition and he wrote a variation of the song specifically for such fiddle competitions. "Boil Them Cabbage Down" is a folksong and fiddle piece that, like many other such songs, can be found performed throughout the country in many variations and with different sets of lyrics. Perhaps folklorist Alan Lomax best summed up the song's integration into American society when he wrote, "["Bile Dem Cabbage Down"] is a Negro reel tune which has become universally popular among white square dance musicians."

Many versions of this song can be heard today, and it is particularly common in children's tunes to see the third line of the chorus changed to "Craziest song I ever heard." This may reflect how the song was perceived upon hearing it from the generation before them. In addition to changing the words, they also changed the tune to match their own feelings at the time.

Although the example heard on the Southwest Music Site is purely instrumental, one set of lyrics can be found on the "Old Songs What Else!" website and is given below. Regardless of the instrumentation of this folksong, it is still played in a rough and rhythmic style that is very easy to tap your foot to!

Bile Dem Cabbage Down
Went up on the mountain
Just to give my horn a blow
Thought I heard my true love say
Yonder comes my beau

Bile dem cabbage down
Turn dem hoecakes round
The only song that I can sing
Is bile dem cabbage down

Took my gal to the blacksmith shop
To have her mouth made small
She turned around a time or two
And swallowed shop and all

Possum in a 'simmon tree
Raccoon on the ground
Raccoon says you son-of-a-gun
Shake some 'simmions down

Someone stole my old 'coon dog
Wish they'd bring him back
He chased the big hogs through the fence
And the little ones through the crack

Met a possum in the road
Blind as he could be
Jumped the fence and whipped my dog
And bristled up at me

Once I had an old gray mule
His name was Simon Slick
He'd roll his eyes and back his ears
And how that mule would kick

How that mule would kick
He kicked with his dying breath
He shoved his hind feet down his throat
And kicked himself to death

Raccoon has a bushy tail,
Possum's tail is bare,
Rabbit's got no tail at all
But a little bunch of hair

Raccoon and the possum
Rackin' cross the prairie
Raccoon ax the possum
Did she want to marry?

Possum is a cunning thing
He travels in the dark,
And never thinks to curl his tail
Till he hears old Rover bark


1. Old Songs What Else! <>.Accessed 9/20/02.

2. The Blue Grass Messengers. <>. Accessed 9/20/02.

3. Bayard, Samuel P. Dance to the Fiddle, March to the Fife. The Pennsylvania State University, 1982.

4. Lomax, Alan. The Folk Songs of North America. Doubleday and Company, Inc. New York: 1960, p. 506-507, 4934-94.

5. Thede, Marion. The Fiddle Book. Oak Publications, Inc. NY: 1967.

Part of which site