Twinkle Little Star – Fiddle Tune a Day – Day 263

The first time I heard Twinkle Little Star I was just a kid at a fiddle contest. I remember an older guy (adult) announce that he was going to play Twinkle Little Star. I was a little amused thinking that he was going to play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star as an adult at a fiddle contest.

At that point in my life I didn’t have the understanding that adults could be beginners too, but aside from that lack of understanding, this guy played this really cool swingy tune that was WAY fancier than Twinkle Twinkle. Needless to say, I was impressed.

I didn’t learn Twinkle Little Star until years later, but that first time I heard it sure made an impact.



Twinkle Little Star according to Fiddler’s Companion

TWINKLE LITTLE STAR [1]. AKA – “Little Star.” Texas Style, Old Time; Breakdown. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). One part (Beisswenger/McCann): AB (Phillips). A popular tune with older fiddlers throughout the South, apparently derived from a schottische, perhaps from the banjo repertoire. Vivian Williams reports that she found the melody in a dusty manuscript with hand-written banjo arrangements of c. 1890-1905 popular dance tunes, marches, songs, etc.; included is a piece called “Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars Schottische,” in the key of A, complete with introduction (the melody in the manuscript does not jump to a higher octave in the second part). There was a popular song called “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star or Meet Me at the Bars” composed in 1879 by Fred MacEvoy. John Hartford remembers lyrics that went, “Twinkle twinkle little star or meet me out behind the bars;” bars being a reference to an old rail fence. However, many of the “Twinkle Little Star” versions in traditional fiddle repertoire differ from MacEvoy’s song air (although some are close, see “Twinkle Little Star [3]”). “Twinkle Little Star” was recorded several times during the 78 RPM era, including a “Little Star” by Willie Narmour & S.W. Smith (1928) and Tennessee’s Fiddlin’ Arthur Smith. Other early recordings were by Smith’s Garage Fiddle Band (1928), North Carolina’s Charlie Poole & Roy Harvey (1930), and Texas fiddler Bob Wills (1938). Sometimes these recordings retained the original feel of the schottische, as does the Texas group Smith’s Garage Band, other times the tune has been reworked and can seem fairly distanced from the original, as does north Georgia fiddler Earl Johnson’s version, recorded in 1927. Another 78 RPM has the tune under title “Mormon Schottische.” Source for notated version: Jim Herd (1919-2002, originally from Eastview, Mo.) [Beisswenger & McCann]. Beisswenger & McCann (Ozarks Fiddle Music), 2008; p. 59. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 2, 1995; p. 156. Cassette C-7625, Wilson Douglas – “Back Porch Symphony.” Document (DOCD-8038), Smith’s Garage Band – “Texas Fiddle Bands” (reissue). Rounder 0437, Jim Herd  – “Traditional Fiddle Music of the Ozarks, vol. 3: Down in the Border Counties” (2000. Various artists). Voyager 309, Benny & Jerry Thomasson – “The Weiser Reunion” (1993).

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