X:1 T:Bitter Creek N:From the playing of Oscar & Doc Harper (Texas) N:Fiddle Oscar Harper was born in 1888, probably in Ashdown, Ark., close to the N:Texas border, but grew up in Texas northeast of Dallas and died in that city N:in 1952. Doc Harper played guitar. M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel Q:"Fast" D:OKeh 45485 (78 RPM), Oscar & Doc Harper (1929) D:County CD 3525, Oscar & Doc Harper - "Old Time Texas String Bands, vol. 2" D:https://www.slippery-hill.com/content/bitter-creek-1 Z:Andrew Kuntz K:G ([Bg]||Sb)gdg edBe|dBGB AGEG|DB,DF GABe|dBAG A2g-a| bgdg edBe|dBGB AGEG|DB,DF GABe|dBAF [G2B2][G2B2]|| |:DB,DB, DFGF|ECEC EFGE|DB,DG EFGA|BdAF GFGE| DB,DB, DFGF|ECEC EFGE|DB,DG EFGA|1BGAF [G2B2][G2B2]:|2BGAF [G2B2]DG-|| G2g2 dedc|BGAG [E3A3]G|DB,DF GABe|dBAG A2 G2- G2g2 dedc|BGAG EFGE|DB,DF GABe |dBAF G2g2-| gage dged|gded Bcd2|gage dged|BGAF EG-Gg-| gage dged|gded Bd-dg-|gage dged|BGAF G2gaS||
BITTER CREEK. AKA – "Bitter Creek Breakdown." American, Reel (cut time). USA; Texas, Kentucky. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (Brody, Phillips): ABB'C (Harper): ABCDD (Devil's Box): AABBCCDD (Christeson). The tune was recorded in Dallas, Texas, for OKeh Records at the end of November, 1929, by Texas fiddler Oscar Harper (1888-1952), accompanied by guitar player Doc Harper. In 1942 Harper was recorded playing "Bitter Creek" by John Lomax for the Library of Congress.
Although (according to collector R.P. Christeson) "Bitter Creek" was a local Texas tune, it was popularized by fiddler Tommy Jackson and quickly became widely disseminated. Texas fiddler Benny Thomasson, whose heyday was in the mid-20th century, also had an influential version, albeit played in five parts. He told Gus Garelick that he himself had metaphorically "crossed many a-bitter creek in my life," but maintained there actually was a Bitter Creek in Texas. Bitter Creek, Nolan County, Texas, is a ghost town and no longer exists, although it is thought to have been located south of present Sweetwater. In 1923 oil was discovered there, leading to its brief existence; by the 1950's only five residents remained.
Joel Shimberg notes the similarity with this tune and French-Canadian fiddler Henri Landry's "Carnival Reel."
- The 1942 "Bitter Creek" recording was of Harper playing fiddle, with Harmon Clem (gtr.), Homer Peters (ban.), Ray Hanby (bass), with Bob McClary calling dance figures.