The first time I heard the name of this tune, it was with reference to Alan Jabbour. I have been told that he was the person who reintroduced Over the Waterfall to popular culture in the 1960′s.
I met Alan a few years back when I was judging the Indiana State Fair Fiddle Contest. Alan was the featured entertainment for the lunch hour, and he didn’t have someone set to accompany him.
So, I had the honor of getting to play music with this wonderful man and fiddling legend. I enjoyed every minute of it and I hope that he did too.
It seems that the Fiddler’s Companion agrees with the story I heard about Alan being responsible for popularizing this tune.
Over the Waterfall according to Fiddler’s Companion
OVER THE WATERFALL. AKA and see “The Fellow/Feller That Looks Like Me,” “Punkin Head.” Old‑Time, Breakdown. USA, Virginia. D Major. Standard tuning. AB (Silberberg): AABB (most versions). Originally from fiddler Henry Reed of Glen Lyn, Virginia, it was learned from directly from Reed and popularized in modern times by folklorist and fiddler Alan Jabbour. Reed himself may have learned it from hearing it emanating from a steam-driven calliope. “Over the Waterfall” is a melody that is fairly wide-spread throughout the British Isles and North America, explains Jabbour, and was used both for a well-known British-American song sometimes called “Eggs and Marrowbones” (AKA “Old Woman from Wexford,” “Old Woman in Dover,” “Wily Auld Carle” etc.) and as an instrumental tune. Comparison with “The Dark Girl Dressed in Blue ” in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903) reveals a striking similarity between the two, and it is possible “Over the Waterfall” was adapted from an Irish source. Others have suggested that it may originally have been a composed piece from the turn of the century that was spread by travelling‑circus and riverboat musicians.
The earliest recorded version was by Al Hopkins and the Bucklebusters in the very last years of the 1920’s, who recorded it on a 78 RPM as “The Fellow that Looks Like Me” (Brunswick 184). “The Fellow that Looks Like Me” that was in the repertoire of Virginia fiddler Stuart Lundy (son of Galax fiddler Emmett Lundy) under that title, as well as the aforementioned Bucklebusters. Lundy died in the late 1970’s. The Hopkins family (Al is referenced above) was also originally from Galax. The Reed version of “Over the Waterfall” has become very common among old‑time fiddlers (indeed, it has become hackneyed), though is now usually regarded as a beginner’s tune. Kentucky fiddler J.P. Fraley plays the tune, learned from the fiddling of his father, a somewhat more melodically complicated version. Source for notated version: Fennigs All Stars (N.Y.) [Brody]. Brody (Fiddler’s Fakebook), 1983; pg. 211. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 1, 1994; pg. 177. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; pg. 114. Sing Out, 198‑; pg. 76. Welling (Welling’s Hartford Tunebook), 1976; pg. 4. CCF2, Cape Cod Fiddlers – “Concert Collection II” (1999). Document 8041, Al Hopkins and His Bucklebusters (reissue). Front Hall 01, Fennigs All Stars‑ “The Hammered Dulcimer.” Kicking Mule 202, John Burke‑ “Fancy Pickin’ and Plain Singing.” Rounder 0122, Norman Blake‑ “Rising Fawn String Ensemble.”