Liberty (1)

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LIBERTY [1]. AKA and see "Reel de Tí-Jean" (Canadian), "Tipsy Parson (1)," "Raccoon and the Possum (The)," "Spanish Polka," "Liberty Two-Step," "Liberty Hornpipe." Old-Time, Bluegrass; Breakdown. USA, Widely known. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB (Silberberg): AABB (most versions). The first recording of the tune was by Texas fiddler Bob Wills in 1947 for Columbia records, and although there is no information on where he may have obtained the tune. He is known to have had some of his repertoire from his father, but it is only speculation that the tune was in the Wills family prior to Bob. It was quickly and widely disseminated in North America following Wills' recording. Tommy Jackson;s 1954 recording of "Liberty" for Dot Records may have helped popularize the tune among American fiddlers, and Don Messer's 1953 recording ("Liberty Two-Step") and Bob Hills & his Canadian Playboys ("Reel de Tí-Jean", 1955) were influential in Canada. Although assertions have been made for further antiquity, there is no evidence that has come to light for earlier origins. [Bob Wills signed with Liberty Records in 1959, but the tune in his recorded repertoire long predates this as being a source for the title].

Paul Tyler notes that "Liberty" seems to be the "hoedown" of choice among Cajun fiddlers, when asked to play one. "Liberty" is one of '100 essential Missouri tunes' listed by Missouri fiddler Charlie Walden. The reel is very popular among Ozarks fiddlers, according to Beisswegner & McCann, where it is often an introductory tune for beginning fiddlers (in simplified version), although the authors suspect it is a relatively recent addition to Ozarks fiddle repertoire. Indeed, "Liberty" has for some decades been an introductory tune for beginning old-time style fiddlers. In Martin Scorcese's period film The Gangs of New York (2002), a dulcimer player is briefly shown and heard playing the melody. Early 78 RPM recordings of tunes called "Liberty" by Georgia's Fiddlin' John Carson (1925), Gid Tanner & His Skillet Lickers (1928, "Liberty off a Corn Liquor Still"), the Tweedy Brothers and Herschel Brown (1928), are different melodies.

The French-Canadian Reel "Reel de Tí-Jean" as recorded by Bob Hill and his band is the same as "Liberty (1)," although the version of "Reel de Tí-Jean" printed by Miller & Perron (New England Fiddler's Repertory, 1983) differs in the second strain.

Sources for notated versions: Jack Harris (East Texas) [Christeson]; Roger Fountain (b. 1948, Pineville, Ark.) [Beisswenger & McCann]; Marcus Martin (N.C.) [Milliner & Koken].

Printed sources: Beisswenger & McCann (Ozarks Fiddle Music), 2008; p. 34. Brody (Fiddler's Fakebook), 1983; p. 168. Carlin (English Concertina), 1977; p. 23. Christeson (Old Time Fiddler's Repertory, vol. 1), 1973; p. 61. "Byron Berline: The Fiddle," Frets Magazine, December 1986; p. 56. S. Johnson (Kitchen Musician No. 4: Fine Tunes), 1983 (revised 1991, 2001); p. 4. Milliner & Koken (Milliner-Koken Collection of American Fiddle Tunes), 2011; p. 382. Phillips (Fiddle Case Tunebook: Old Time Southern), 1989; p. 28. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; p. 140. Reiner (Anthology of Fiddle Styles), 1979; p. 78. Sanella (Balance and Swing), 1982. Silberberg (Fiddle Tunes I Learned at the Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 90. Welling (Hartford Tunebook), 1976; p. 4.

Recorded sources: Apex AL 1613, "The Best of Don Messer and his Islanders, Vol. 6" (1953. Appears as "Liberty Two-Step"). BACM-294-CD, "Tommy Jackson: The Legendary Session Fiddler." Columbia 37926 (78 RPM), Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys (1947). Dot 1217 (78 RPM), Tommy Jackson (1954). Front Hall 010, Fennigs All Stars – "The Hammered Dulcimer Strikes Again." Heritage 048, Golden River Grass – "Georgia Fiddle Bands" (Brandywine, 1982). Kicking Mule, Art Rosenbaum – "Five String Banjo." Missouri State Old Time Fiddlers Association 001, Pete McMahan – "Ozark Mountain Waltz." Rounder 0016, Vasser Clements – "Crossing the Catskills."

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear Marcus Martin's recording at Slippery Hill [2]
See/hear a 1951 film short of Bob Wills and Joe Holley playing "Liberty" in a fiddle duet [3] ("Liberty" is heard as the last tune)
See/hear a film short of Tommy Jackson playing "Liberty" on youtube.com [4]
Hear Bob Wills' Columbia recording on youtube.com []




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