This morning, I had the opportunity to support KRFC – Fort Collins Public Radio by playing on the Air with Steve Eulberg (together we are known as Fiddle Whamdiddle). Since I had someone else to play with, I thought it was a perfect opportunity to play my fiddle tune a day. Steve suggested we play Peekaboo Waltz, and then we decided that we should do something more upbeat to finish on, but… the DJ, Joann Hedelston, insisted that we play Peekaboo Waltz, so we did. 🙂
Peekaboo Waltz according to Fiddler’s Companion
PEEK-A-BOO WALTZ. American, Canadian; Waltz. USA; Arizona, Arkansas, Missouri, Alabama, Tenn., Virginia, New York. Canada, Prince Edward Island. D Major (most versions): G Major (Howard Marshall). Standard tuning. AB (Silberberg): AABB (Phillips): AA’BB’(Perlman). Some have ascribed Swedish origins for this waltz which became popular in the United States in the early part of the 20th century, though Paul Gifford thinks this is unlikely and suspects it was in fact a 19th‑century American composition. He believes that the similarity of “Peek-a-Boo” to a genuine Scandinavian tune, “Life in the Finnish Woods” (well-known to the Scandinavian population of the mid-west), is the reason for the confusion, but maintains this is a coincidence and that the tunes are not derivative or cognate. The waltz has been attributed to William J. Scanlon (1856-1898), who published it in 1881. Scanlon was a singer who began his career as a child, and by his early teens was accompanying lectures at temperance meetings to sing hymns and provide a musical interlude between sermons. He toured the New England temperance circuit for seven years, until, at the age of 20, the bright lights and big city called him. Forming a team with an Irish comedian by the name of William Cronin, he performed on the early vaudeville stage, until finally he made it to Broadway. Scanlon was performing in the show Mavourneen (which opened Sept. 28, 1891 in New York’s 14th Street Theater) when he began to show signs of mental instability, a condition which worsened through the autumn of that year, even though he continued to perform. His final break came on Christmas Day of that year, and on January 7th, 1892, he was institutionalized for reasons of insanity at the Bloomingdale Asylum in White Plains, New York, where he remained until his death six years later. Seattle fiddler Vivian Williams believes the title “Peek-a-boo Waltz” may have derived from the popular song “Peekaboo, I See You,” written in the mid-19th century.
The melody was recorded by Uncle Dave Macon, and by fiddler J.C. Glasscock of Steppvile, Alabama, for Gennett Records in 1927, though the side was not issued. The title appears in a list of traditional Ozark Mountain fiddle tunes compiled by musicologist/folklorist Vance Randolph, published in 1954. The waltz was in the repertoire of Galax, Virginia, old time fiddler Luther Davis. The song appears in Ira Ford’s Traditional Music in America (1940). See also the closely related “Svensk Anna’s Waltz.” Sources for notated versions: Attwood O’Connor (b. 1923, Milltown Cross, South Kings County, Prince Edward Island) [Perlman]; Glenn Berry [Silberberg]. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; pg. 173. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), Vol. 2, 1995; pg. 294. Ruth (Pioneer Western Folk Tunes), 1948; No. 136, pg. 48. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; pg. 116. Front Hall FHR‑021, John McCutcheon ‑ “Barefoot Boy with Boots On” (1981. Learned from hammered dulcimer player Paul Van Arsdale, Tonawanda, N.Y., who had it from his grandfather). GRT Records 9230-1031, “The Best of Ward Allen” (1973). Sparton Records, SP210, “Ward Allen Presents Maple Leaf Hoedown, Vol. 2.” Voyager VRCD 344, Howard Marshall & John Williams – “Fiddling Missouri” (1999. Appears as “Art Galbraith’s Peekaboo Waltz,” learned from Art Galbraith in kitchen sessions in the 1960’s). CD, Alan Jabbour, James Reed, Bertram Levy – “A Henry Reed Reunion” (2002).