Unlike most old-time fiddle tunes that are commonly played for dances, “Bonaparte’s Retreat” is a showpiece made just for listening. Doubly ridiculous!). That's the end of the essay-proper, but—having listed to far too many versions whilst researching this—I have to share my personal least- and most-liked. Have you heard the Skillet Lickers’ version. Also, there seemed, to me, to be hints of John Henry in there. Gussie L. Davis – Tin Pan Alley/Bluegrass Songwriter. On top of that, he was a politician who served a whopping fourteen terms in the U.S. Congress from 1923 until his death in 1949. I have to say that I was similarly bemused by the foghorn. For more information about my instruction and songbooks for banjo, mandolin, fiddle, guitar, dulcimer and ukulele, visit Native Ground website. Required fields are marked *, © 2020 Hudson Valley Bluegrass Association. Henry Jason, I see what you mean, but no, I’ve not heard/read anyone make the connection. Very odd version! For anyone who missed it (Sunday on BBC1), can I just say that it was magnificent, and far exceeded all expectations? Your email address will not be published. At one time, there were, quite possibly, two or more versions of, for instance, The Eagle's Whistle, which, to the casual listener, bore little resemblance to one another but, to the dedicated historian of music, might have had obvious similarites. FNIMN: Oh! I'm not particularly fond of Starr's version, but Gene Krupa made a blinder, so here's that instead: (The vocalist on Krupa's version, Bobby Soots, was a sometime hillbilly singer who Krupa had hired to sing big-band jazz versons of hillbilly/country songs. ( Log Out /  The origins of the tune known as Bonaparte's Retreat are somewhat hazy, which is often the way with traditional folk, country and blues songs. My only explanation is that Spike Jones must have been involved! —Daz. A. It dates back to 1893 when Sol Bloom, the entertainment director of the Chicago World’s Fair, composed it on the piano for an attraction called “A Street in Cairo,” which featured snake charmers, camel rides and a seductive dancer known as Little Egypt. It's why I consider the evolution of the song a little strange—though not in a bad way. The part in the higher register bears some resemblance to the Gray and Strong versions, but you need some imagination to make the connection. What an interesting development. Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email. If Bloom had done nothing more than compose this tune, he might only be remembered in a footnote in an obscure songbook. He was also a member of the American delegation in San Francisco that helped to create the United Nations in 1945. And that, Gentle Reader, is evolution in action. In 1944, the folklorist Samuel Bayard insisted the tune evolved from an ancient Irish march known as “The Eagle’s Whistle” or “The Eagle’s Tune.” In America, it has been played under the title “Bumble Bee in the Pumpkin Patch” and “Bonaparte Crossing the Rocky Mountains.” When it was pointed out to an old fiddler that Bonaparte never saw the Rocky Mountains, he reportedly replied, “historians differ on that.”, In 1949, the country musician and Grand Ole Opry star Pee Wee King (composer of “The Tennessee Waltz”) wrote new lyrics to “Bonaparte’s Retreat” that had everything to do with romance and dancing and nothing to do with Napoleon Bonaparte’s disastrous retreat from Russia in 1812. The first version to be recorded, though, is known. You can view the first episode here if you missed it: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p039wd0f/war-and-peace-episode-1. Dim Lights, Thick Smoke And Hillbilly Music, Note To Ken Ham: Jesus Wasn’t An American Either, http://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2013/11/bill-stepp-aaron-copland-and-bonapartes-retreat/, http://www.violinist.com/blog/moconnor/20117/12491/. Ridiculous! Had so much fun listening to all the versions you posted. Instead of having numbers on the lines to represent the fret that you play, this tab uses the name of the note. (http://blogs.loc.gov/folklife/2013/11/bill-stepp-aaron-copland-and-bonapartes-retreat/), (http://www.violinist.com/blog/moconnor/20117/12491/). Originally from California, he now makes his home in Asheville, North Carolina. My understanding is that Stepp grew up in his early years living in a cave, which illustrates that musical genius can be found in some of the most humble among us. We should have come full-circle, but we're definitely not back where we started. It might be worth mentioning the version by William Stepp (1875-1957), recorded by the Lomaxes in Salyersville, KY in 1937, titled “Bonaparte’s Retreat Across the Rocky Mountains.” It is essentially the same tune given an original rendition by Stepp, who turned the somber piece into a reel. By the time of the American civil war, however, forty-five years after Waterloo, the tune—or at least a tune—going by the title Bonaparte's Retreat is noted as having been played on both sides of the Atlantic. I didn't really set out to make a point with this; rather I just wanted to share what I thought was a kind of interesting chain of changes. Both though, somewhat paradoxically, are indubitably Bonaparte's Retreat. The history of the origin of the third part of “Boneparte’s Retreat” is a fascinating story itself. Another places it with a Scottish piper who served at Waterloo, presumably celebrating the eponymous defeat, while yet another places it, played at a slower tempo, with Irish musicians bemoaning the same event. And you knew there had to be a rockabilly version somewhere, right? One theory is that it originates from an old Irish tune named The Eagle's Whistle. Bonaparte's Retreat may refer to: "Bonaparte's Retreat" (Pee Wee King song), a 1949 American country music song, based on a traditional tune "The Bonny Bunch of Roses", an English folk song also known as "Bonaparte's Retreat" The Chieftains 6: Bonaparte's Retreat, an album that includes this tune; One of the historical military defeats of the armies of Napoleon However the truth be told, he was a successful Chicago sheet music publisher as well as boxing promoter who staged prize fighting matches that featured “Gentleman Jim” Corbett. Change ), You are commenting using your Facebook account. https://youtu.be/q_vAbEYpQAk Check out his web site at http://www.nativeground.com/ or email or call for a FREE catalog: (828)299-7031 or banjo@nativeground.com, Your email address will not be published. Found this by searching “is Bonaparte’s Retreat a set dance tune.” LOL Little did I know what I was about to read! He has written thirty songbooks and instructions books for banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin. That understated swoop of the steel guitar in Pee Wee King's version, which forms no part of the tune the song is nominally based upon, has, in Krupa's (and Starr's), and almost any version thereafter, been brought forward in the mix, until instead of being a feature of the backing, it is now a major part of the tune itself. Nature’s noblest gift—my gray-goose quill! Post was not sent - check your email addresses! “The Saddest Words In The English Language”. This is what it's like when, seemingly, rescored for a bloody fog-horn. Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. ( Log Out /  Most important is the fact that Aaron Copland, using a transcription of the Lomax recording by Ruth Seeger in the Library of Congress, created his piece “Hoedown” for Agnes De Mille’s ballet “Rodeo,” orchestrating Stepp’s version almost note for note. Gray, from Tallapoosa, Georgia, recorded a version on Okeh in 1924: It was recorded several times during the pre-war years, with my favourite probably being Luther Strong's version, recorded for the Library of Congress's Archive of American Folk Song, by the great folklorist Alan Lomax: And then someone put words to it, and things, to my mind, got kind of strange…. Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com. It's all part of that repackaging thing I mentioned. Thanks. They go up on the end of each phrase and that makes it seem like a precursor to “Driving Nails In My Coffin”. Change ), You are commenting using your Google account. But I like it. ), fiddle tune was being played now and again by folk, bluegrass and mountain-music artists, it was pretty much unheard of by anyone outside those circles—but plenty knew the Pee Wee King song, or versions thereof, and instrumental versions of that begin to appear. Pee Wee is generally given credit for adding a third part of the tune that is commonly known as “The Hoochy Cootchy Dance,” “The Snake Charmer’s Song” or “The Girls in France.”. Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Wayne Erbsen has been teaching banjo, fiddle, guitar and mandolin since dinosaurs roamed the earth (really about fifty years). You’re most welcome, Rosy. For this arrangement of “Boneparte’s Retreat,” I’ve written it out both in standard musical notation and also in a tab system I created for several of my instruction books. For over a decade he was chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and worked closely with the White House both on the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan. Do you know of anyone else who has made this connection more concrete? It is normally played at a slow march tempo that suggests an army in retreat. My favourite, I think, is this 1961 version, by German trad-jazz band, the Spree City Stompers: So, we've started with an instrumental, carried on through a re-arrangement with lyrics, and ended with an instrumental.

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