Liner Notes


VRCD 358

Fiddle Tunes of the Lewis and Clark Era is a selection of tunes popular during the period of exploration and early European settlement of the trans-Mississippi West. Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and the Corps of Discovery explored and mapped the lands acquired by President Thomas Jefferson's 1803 purchase of "Louisiana," which extended from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains. Other goals of the expedition were to establish trading relationships with the Indians, describe hitherto unknown plant and animal species, and find and map an overland route to the Pacific Northwest. The Corps of Discovery left St. Louis in the spring of 1804, heading up the Missouri River through what are today the states of Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and Montana. Captains Lewis and Clark, Sergeants Patrick Gass and John Ordway, and several others kept diaries on the great adventure.

Included in the expedition were two fiddlers, and they contributed much to maintaining the morale of the men and establishing good relations with the Indians. The principal fiddler was Peter (or Pierre) Cruzatte, half French and half Omaha Indian, one-eyed and near-sighted. He was an experienced Missouri River boatman who had already participated in the Indian trade as far as Nebraska, and he also acted as interpreter. The other fiddler was George Gibson, a seasoned soldier and carpenter born in Pennsylvania and recruited by Clark in Kentucky.

The expedition spent their first winter near the Mandan villages in what is now North Dakota. On New Years Day 1805, according to Ordway's journal, 15 of the party went up to the 1st village of Mandans to dance as it had been their request. carried with us a fiddle & a Tambereen & a Sounden horn.... a frenchman danced on his head and all danced round him for a Short time then went in to a lodge & danced a while, which pleased them verry much they then brought ... a quantity of corn & Some buffalow Robes which they made us a present off. So we danced in different lodges untill late in the afternoon.

In April they proceeded on up the river. The difficult portage around the Great Falls of the Missouri River took them almost a month. On June 25, 1805, after a long and fatiguing day of carrying equipment for the eighteen miles around the falls, Lewis wrote that such as were able to shake a foot amused themselves in dancing on the green to the music of the violin which Cruzatte plays extreemly well.

When they reached the Continental Divide they had to abandon their boats and negotiate with the Shoshone Indians to get horses and a guide. On August 26, 1805, Lewis wrote that matters being thus far arranged I directed the fiddle to be played and the party danced very merily much to the amusement and gratification of the natives, though I must confess that the state of my own mind at this moment did not well accord with the prevailing mirth as I somewhat feared that the caprice of the indians might suddenly induce them to withhold their horses from us. Negotiations were successful, however, with the help of Sacagawea, and the party crossed the Rocky Mountains in what is now Montana and Idaho. They built boats and floated down the Clearwater River in Idaho, the Snake River in Washington, and then down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean. They built Fort Clatsop on the Oregon side of the Columbia to spend the winter.

In the spring of 1806 they headed back to St. Louis. Almost out of trade goods, they had to resort to cutting brass buttons off of their coats and doctoring sick natives to barter for what they needed. When they got to the mountains they again successfully obtained horses with the help of "fiddle diplomacy." On April 28, 1806, near where the Walla Walla River flows into the Columbia, Clark wrote: a little before sun set the Chimnahpoms arrived; they were about 100 men and a few women; they joined the Wallahwallahs who were about 150 men and formed a half circle arround our camp where they waited very patiently to see our party dance. the fiddle was played and the men amused themselves with danceing about an hour. we then requested the Indians to dance which they very chearfully complyed with ... at 10 P M. the dance ended and the nativs retired; they were much gratified in seeing some of our party join them in their dance.

Although fiddling and dancing are mentioned often in the journals kept by members of the expedition, unfortunately no specific tunes are named. However, our research has identified many of the great number of tunes and songs familiar in that period. Fiddle music and dancing were staples of social life across America and Canada in communities grounded in old traditions stemming from deep roots in Britain and Europe, and the violin was the most common stringed instrument in the era.

This was an interesting time, when various repertoires and styles were coming in contact with each other. Fiddle music, as it percolates down through time, rarely does so on paper. Rather, it comes to us through the ancient channels of apprenticeship, informal learning, and imitation of respected masters. Fiddle music operates by unwritten laws in informal codes of oral and aural tradition based in families, communities, ethnic groups, geographic regions. It is unusual to find notated sheet music from the 18th and early 19th centuries containing what we now call "old time fiddle tunes," and, when we do find that rare manuscript, remember that it represents only one specific writing down of music that is fluid, dynamic, and ever-changing from one generation to the next and from one individual fiddler to the next.

In Fiddle Tunes of the Lewis and Clark Era we have a rich array of dance tunes lovingly handed down through the generations. Many of the tunes on this CD are still played today by fiddlers all over the U.S. and Canada - like Soldier's Joy and Durang's Hornpipe. Some are so well-known that most people instantly recognize them - Pop Goes the Weasel and Yankee Doodle. Other tunes such as The White Cockade and Sir Roger de Coverly thrive only in some regions of the country.

Private Cruzatte is mentioned most often in the journals as providing the fiddle music for the expedition and various tribal peoples. While today's research can propose much of how British-American fiddling might have sounded in 1803, less is known of how the early French would have sounded.

We may assume that George Gibson and Peter Cruzatte played tunes together, with whatever rhythm and accompaniment might be provided by other members of the Corps. The journals mention violins, jews harps, tambourines and sounding horn. By tambourine they may have meant a frame drum similar to what the native Americans had, rather than the jingling instrument we usually associate with that term. The sounding horn was a metal horn with a metal reed, often used by boats for signaling on the American canals, which sounded only one note when blown.

Whether Cruzatte played any distinctly French music, or whether Gibson played old British or Germanic tunes remembered from his youth in Pennsylvania and Maryland, is not known. The sound of the two violins together would likely involve one musician playing what is called "second fiddle." This is the chording and rhythmic accent on the second violin, and it is not the same thing as what today in country music is called "twin fiddle" (where the second instrument plays close harmony with the lead fiddler).

By 1800 an assortment of musical instruments was being enjoyed on the frontier. The instrumentation on this recording consists of instruments used in that time - one, two, and sometimes three violins, banjo, and percussion instruments (wood block, skin drum), along with mandolin, guitar, and harpsichord on several tunes. However, this 2002 recording is not exactly "how it sounded," since we play more modern musical instruments and employ modern strings and pitch. Furthermore, in the time before sound recording devices, no one can be certain how the music would have sounded. What is offered on this project, therefore, is a logical and accessible interpretation of history based on careful research and study.

1. Yankee Doodle (Vivian, violin). Originally a Dutch folk song, this tune was used for dancing in Colonial times.. The words were written by Dr. Richard Shuckburgh, an Englishman, around 1755 to make fun of the colonials who helped the British regulars in the French and Indian Wars. By 1775 the piece was being played by British fifers and drummers to taunt the colonials. A British Army band played the tune near a church during religious services to annoy the congregation. After the American victories at Lexington and Concord the Colonials appropriated the tune to tease the British. Under the terms of the surrender agreement at Yorktown in 1782, the British were banned from playing the tune. When they turned insultingly away from the Colonials at the surrender ceremony, General Lafayette instructed the French bands to play Yankee Doodle as a display of solidarity with the Americans.

2. Believe Me if All Those Endearing Young Charms (Howard, lead violin). This air was published in England in 1775 in "Vocal Music, or the Songster's Companion" under the title of "My Lodging It Is on the Cold Ground," and is sometimes printed as a jig in 19th century collections. It is a favorite waltz of fiddlers all over Great Britain as well as Canada and the US today.

3. En Passant par la Lorraine/AuprPs de ma Blonde/Malbrough s'en va-t-en guerre (Vivian, lead violin). These three tunes are French songs played by 18th century French fife and drum corps in the New World. "Malbrough" is well known today in several versions, including "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow," "The Bear Went Over the Mountain," "We Won't Go Home Until Morning," and a Danish folk dance called "Malebrok."

4. Miss McLeod's Reel (Howard, lead violin). "Did You Ever See the Devil Uncle Joe?" is the title familiar to old-time fiddlers in the Missouri valley, while "McLeod's Reel" is favored among Irish and northern musicians. Other titles include "Enterprise and Boxer," and "Hop High Ladies." The tune was known in America and Ireland in the late 18th century, and was first printed in 1809 in Scotland. Howard's version comes from his mentors Taylor McBaine and Pete McMahan of Columbia, Missouri.

5. The Country Courtship/Jefferson and Liberty (Vivian, lead violin). "The Country Courtship" is a 1688 English version of the well known "Irish Washerwoman." "Jefferson and Liberty" is an old British Isles tune also known as "The Gobby-O" or "Bay of Bantry." It was published in an 18th century American manuscript, and served as Thomas Jefferson's campaign song in the presidential campaign of 1800. It is often played for contra dancing today.

6. Durang's Hornpipe (Howard, lead violin). A German dwarf named Hoffmaster composed this tune in 1785 for popular stage performer John Durang (1768 - 1821), who was sometimes called "the first American dancer." Durang claimed to have danced a hornpipe on thirteen eggs blindfolded without breaking one. Howard learned this rendition from the legendary central Missouri fiddler Jake Hockemeyer in the 1980's.

7. Road to Boston (Vivian, lead violin). In 1853, 93-year-old Benjamin Smith of Needham, Massachusetts identified this as one of the most popular American army tunes of the Revolutionary War -- that is, until their musicians learned "Yankee Doodle" and "The White Cockade" from hearing the British playing them. It was danced to in America in the 1790's, and is still well known in Canada and New England.

8. Rye Whiskey (Howard, lead violin). This is a variant of the 17th century Irish tune "Bacah Buidhe" of which there are several 18th century British variants. Southern style fiddlers often play it in cross-tuned A; here Howard plays it in G in standard tuning. Many 20th century commercial recordings were made of the tune as a popular song; in fact Howard learned it as a child listening to the singing of Tex Ritter on 78 rpm records.

9. New Rigged Ship (Vivian, violin). This dance tune was known in America by 1790 and fiddlers continue to play it for contra dances today.

10. My Love is but a Lassie. As "Miss Farqharson's Reel" this tune first appeared in print in "Bremner's Scots Reels" of 1757, and it became better known as "My Love Is But A Lassie" because of the song Robert Burns composed to it. It is well known in Scotland, England, Ireland, and all over North America, and was known in America in Colonial days. The tune was printed under the title "Richmond Blues" in George P. Knauff's "Virginia Reels," Baltimore, 1839. Over the years it has accumulated many more names, including "Buffalo Nickel," "Chinky Pin" (or "Chinquapin,") "Crumb Creek Posey," "Darling Child," "The Duke of York," "Farmer Had a Dog," "Fourth of July," "Hair in the Butter," "I'm My Momma's Darling," "Jackson's Fancy," "Lead Out," "Leesil," "Love Somebody Yes I Do," "Midnight Serenade," "Old Kingdom," "Soapsuds Over the Fence," "Sweet Sixteen," "Ten Nights in a Bar Room," "Too Young to Marry," "Raymondville," and "Yellow Eyed Cat."

11. College Hornpipe (Vivian, violin). In the 18th century, American dancer John Durang popularized the nautical-style hornpipe dance called the "Sailor's Hornpipe." This dance was so often performed to the tune "College Hornpipe" that the tune itself became known as the "Sailor's Hornpipe." It is one of the tunes played by the barrel organ (a mechanical instrument cranked by a handle to operate the bellows and rotate a cylinder from which pins project to play the tune) which English Navy Captain George Vancouver had on his ship when he explored the Northwest coast in 1792. Captain Vancouver presented his barrel organ to the friars at San Diego, and it ended up at Mission San Juan Bautista, where it can by seen to this day.

12. Rakes of Mallow (Vivian, violin). This British Isles tune dates from the mid 18th century and was popular in America. The title may refer to roguish young men from the village of Mallow in County Cork, Ireland, or perhaps to rose mallow, a wildflower from which an herbal tea can be made.

13. Haste to the Wedding (Howard, Vivian, and John, violins). This popular British Isles jig was first introduced in a pantomime in 1767, published in America in 1777, and was used as a quickstep for pre-war militia units in the colonies. In the Missouri Valley today it is one of the few jigs still being played on an everyday basis.

14. Devils Dream. The Scottish reel "The De'il Among the Tailors," composed around 1790, was the original for this tune. It appears in the Scottish Kerr collection as "Devil's Dream," and has been commonly known in America since that time. This tune spans all sorts of fiddling, from the young Suzuki student to the Broadway stage musical to the barn dance and the old time fiddlers' contest.

15. Old Molly Hare (Howard, lead violin). This is an American version of "Fairy Dance," written by Scottish composer Neil Gow, published around 1802, and known in Colonial days. Howard recalls a set of risque words to the tune (not repeated here) that he learned from champion fiddler Lena Hughes of north Missouri.

16. Life Let Us Cherish (Vivian, lead violin). The melody was written by Hans Georg Nägeli, a Swiss music educator and publisher, in 1796. The original German title is "Freut euch des Lebens," and several versions were published in the US around 1800 with various English translations of the words. In the 19th century it became a favorite waltz in the Midwest, probably due to German immigration, and it is still important at old time dances in the German-speaking communities near St. Louis.

17. MacDonald's Reel/Leather Breeches (Howard, John, and Vivian, violins). Sir Alexander Macdonald composed this tune, which quickly became popular in Scotland. In 1790 it was published in America, and in the 19th century it was often used for the Virginia Reel. It was one of tunes on explorer and fur trader David Thompson's barrel organ, listed in his journal from 1817. "Leather Breeches" is its American descendant. The title may refer to green beans dried in the pod and cooked, in addition to the more obvious reference to the kind of frontier garb worn by Lewis and Clark and other members of the Corps of Discovery.

18. Sir Roger de Coverley (Vivian, lead violin). "Roger of Coverly" was published in Playford's "Division Violin" in 1685, in the "Dancing Master" in 1696, and in many ballad operas popular in England in the 18th century. Charles Dickens describes the dance in "A Christmas Carol," and it is performed in the old movie version starring Alistair Sims. During George Washington's lifetime the dances held at Mt. Vernon always closed with this tune, which was his favorite. The 9/8 time signature was formerly much more common than it is now.

The dance "Sir Roger de Coverley" is the same as the Virginia Reel, still well known all over America although the tune is no longer used. English dance forms and terminology went out of fashion in America during the war of 1812, except in New England where many had opposed the war because of strong trade ties to England. The Virginia Reel was the only English style longways dance to survive in America outside of New England. It may have already been re-named by 1812, or perhaps in spite of its English style the dance was so popular that it was re-named, just as many Americans found it convenient to re-name sauerkraut "Liberty Cabbage" because of anti-German feeling in World War I. From the mid 19th century on many different tunes were used for the Virginia Reel, most often "Macdonald's Reel" or the "Irish Washerwoman."

19. Ricketts Hornpipe (Howard, lead violin). John Bill Ricketts was a Scots immigrant who came to America from England in 1792 and promoted circuses in America until 1799. He danced hornpipes on the backs of galloping horses and toward the end of his career, Ricketts hired another famous American hornpipe dancer, John Durang, to produce pantomimes for his popular shows.

20. Columbus Cotillion. "The Drunken Sailor" is another title for this English country dance tune, published in America around 1792 and popular in the early 19th century. It has been used for numerous songs, play party tunes and ditties, including "Ten Little Indians" and "The Monkey's Wedding," and is also a well known French Canadian square dance tune.

21. Molly Put the Kettle On. This tune of Irish origin, still a common hoedown in the Southern and Midwestern USA., was a common country dance and nursery song in the 18th century. In the late 18th century a set of pianoforte variations was published in America. It was played by Joe Politte and Charlie Pashia of the Old Mines French community south of St. Louis, Missouri in the mid 20th century.

22. Pop Goes the Weasel. A weasel was a metal tool used by hat makers in England, and to "pop" it meant to pawn it. This English country dance and singing game may date back to the 17th century. This is a fairly simple tune to render, and was among the first tunes to be learned by previous generations of fiddlers in many parts of the U.S. It is often used for a "trick fiddle" exhibition in which the fiddler changes the position of his fiddle during the "pop," playing it behind his back, over his head, etc.

23. Soldiers Joy (Vivian, Howard, and John, violins). This is possibly the best known fiddle tune in history, found all over North America, Great Britain, and Europe in nearly every tradition, including Scandinavia, the French Alps, and Newfoundland. Early versions can be traced to Scotland as far back as 1781. In England it is also known as "The King's Head" and some old timers in Missouri call it "Payday in the Army." This rendition offers a chance to enjoy the old tradition of several fiddlers playing at once, without other accompaniment, playing bits of harmony and "seconding" for each other.

24. The White Cockade (Vivian, violin). First published in England in 1687, this tune was widely popular from the 18th century on. A cockade was a ribbon in the shape of a rosette used as a decoration on hats, and a white cockade was worn by people sympathetic to Jacobite rebels fighting against the English monarch in 1715 and 1745, in both Scotland and Ireland. American patriot soldiers adopted the white cockade as their symbol during the American Revolution. The tune was played by fifer Luther Blanchard and drummer Francis Barker at the North Bridge in Concord, Massachusetts, on the morning of April 19, 1775, at the opening battle of the Revolution. This is the version of the tune that Phil learned and danced to as a child in Olympia, Washington.

Our four musicians are living links in the chain of fiddling tradition from early times right down to today. At the eastern pole of the expedition, Howard "Rusty" Marshall is professor emeritus at the University of Missouri-Columbia. He is a fiddler and banjoist whose family came from Kentucky, Virginia, and North Carolina to central Missouri in the 1830s. Marshall has played this music since childhood and does fiddle history presentations in classes, festivals, and public programs. John Williams is a young champion fiddler from Madison, Missouri, and their family farms are only a few miles apart.

Near the western end of the trail, Phil and Vivian Williams are natives of the Seattle, Washington area and well known traditional musicians, record producers, and writers. They grew up with this music and are widely recognized experts in its style and history. Vivian has won several fiddle championships, including the Senior Division at the annual National Old Time Fiddlers Contest in Weiser, Idaho.

Violins: Howard Marshall, Vivian Williams, John Williams
Banjo (fretless and fretted): Howard Marshall
Mandolin and guitar: Phil Williams
Woodblock and barrel drum: John Williams
Mouth popping: Phil Williams
Frame drum, tambourine, sounding horn, jews harp, noisemakers: Vivian Williams

Lewis and Clark negotiating with Oto and Missouri tribesmen on the prairie, illustration by unknown artist from the 1810 edition of Sergeant Patrick Gass's journal.

Following page: oil painting by George Catlin of the Missouri River near the mouth of the Platte.

Recorded and mixed by Phil Williams, Voyager Recordings, Seattle WA, May 2002
Cover art: Shera Bray
Liner notes: Vivian Williams and Howard Marshall
Produced by Phil Williams, Vivian Williams, Howard Marshall

Suggested Readings and Sources:
Stephen Ambrose, Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West (New York, Simon and Schuster, 1996)
Bernard DeVoto (ed.) The Journals of Lewis and Clark (Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1953, 1997)
Andrew Kuntz, The Fiddlers Companion at
John Fitchburg Millar, Country Dances of Colonial America (Williams burg VA, Thirteen Colonies Press, 1990)
Public Broadcasting System web site, The Journey of the Corps of Discovery at
Thomas Schmidt, Guide to the Lewis and Clark Trail (Washington DC, National Geographic Society, 2002)
Daniel Slobber web site at

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