X:1 T:Black Bess M:6/4 L:1/8 N:”Longways for as many as will.” B:John Walsh – Complete Country Dancing-Master, Volume the Fourth B: (London, 1740, No. 134) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:F c2|(A2F2)A2 c4f2|(B2G2)d2 g4a2|(b2d2) g2 (e2c2)f2|f4e2 f4|| c'|(a2f2d2) b4a2|(g2e2c2) g4a2|(f2d2)g2 (e2c2)d2|(^BG2)^B2 c4_B2| A2F2A2 (c2f2)A2|(B2G2)B2 (d2g2)a2|(b2d2)g2 (e2c2)a2|f4e2 f4||
BLACK BESS. AKA - "Black Bass." English, Country Dance Tune and Jig (6/4 or 6/8 time). F Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AB. The tune and country dance directions were first published by London publisher Henry Playford in his Part II of the Dancing Master (supplement to the 9th edition), 1696. It was retained in the long-running Dancing Master series through the 18th and last edition of 1728 (then printed by John Young, heir to the Playford publishing concerns). The melody and dance were also printed by John Walsh in The Compleat Country Dancing Master (1718, and subsequent editions of 1731 and 1754).
The title could refer to a number of things, however, perhaps it influenced the well-known highwayman Dick Turpin (1705-1739), who gave the name Black Bess to his mare. She carried him on his famous 200-mile ride from London to York, in less than 24 hours. Boston music publisher Elias Howe printed the tune in the early 1880's as "Black Bass."