Charleston No. 1

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X:1 T:Charleston No. 1 C:Willie Narmour M:C| L:1/8 R:Reel D:OKeh Records 45317 (78 RPM), W.T. Narmour & S.W. Smith (1929) F:https://www.slippery-hill.com/recording/charleston-1 Z:Transcribed by Andrew Kuntz K:C cd|ecGE CDEF|GAcA a2g2|c'age aged|edcA c2c2| ecGE CDEF|GAcA a2g2|c'age aged|edcA c2c2|| +slide+[e4e4][e4e4]|[M:2/4][e2e2]a2|[M:C|] gedc AGED |EA2B A2G2 |ECDC A,C3| +slide+[C_E]-[C3=E3] C4|+slide+[C_E]-[C3=E3] DCA,B,|C2c2 AGED|ECDC A,C3| +slide+[C_E]-[C3=E3]C4|+slide+[C_E]-[C3=E3] DCA,B,|C2c2 AGED|[M:6/4]ECDC A,C3 C2||



CHARLESTON NO. 1. American, Reel (cut time). USA; Missouri, Mississippi. C Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB (Christeson, Phillips): AA'BB'C. The melody (which is related to "Done Gone (2);" similar primarily in the first part) was composed by William T. 'Willie' Narmour (1889-1961, Carroll County, Mississippi), and became a hit in 1929 (it was the flip side of "Carroll County Blues," also a hit). English authority Tony Russell suggests: "The several 'Charleston's' they (Narmour and his playing partner, S.W. "Shellie" Smith) recorded are essentially hornpipes; their roots seem to lie in North Britain." Charles Wolfe explains that this tune had nothing to do with the dance craze of the 1920's, but rather refers to an area in Mississippi, Charleston being a town in Tallahatchie County, near where Narmour lived. Christeson credits only "old 78's" for his version, which could be Narmour's, Doc Roberts', or another version. In fact, the Doc Roberts Trio version (1933) is a cover of Narmour's popular composition, and the story goes that Roberts' recording company, Gennett, gave him a copy of Narmour's recording and told him to learn it for his next recording session. Narmour and Smith re-recorded the tune in 1934[1], with different accompaniment, calling it "New Charleston No. 1." Narmour's younger contemporary, Mississippi fiddler Hoyt Ming (1902-1985, who issued "Charleston No. 2" in imitation), opined:

I believe the best piece [Narmour] put out was "Charleston No. 1." I can play it, but I can't play it like he played it. It's hard to beat. And I know everybody that I've heard that talked about his playing, they'll mention that "Charleston No. 1.[2]


Additional notes

Sources for notated versions: - Doc Roberts (Ky.) [Phillips]; Willy Bilyeu (1902-1973, Taney County, Mo.) [Beisswenger & McCann].

Printed sources : - Beisswenger & McCann (Ozarks Fiddle Music), 2008; p. 171. Christeson (Old Time Fiddlers Repertory, vol. 2), 1984; No. 46, p. 33. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes, vol. 1), 1994; p. 46.

Recorded sources: -Conqueror 8104 (78 RPM), Doc Roberts (1933). County 412, Fiddling Doc Roberts - "Old Time Tunes" (1983). County 529, Narmour & Smith - "Traditional Fiddle Music of Mississippi, vol. 2." Document Records DOCD-8065, "Narmour & Smith - vol. 1: Complete Recorded Works 1928-1930 (2013). Gennet GE 16640 (78 RPM) Tweedy Brothers (W.Va.: Harry, George, and Charles played twin fiddles and the piano), 1930. Okeh Records 45317 (78 RPM), Narmour & Smith (1929). Rounder Records RO-0388, Gene Goforth - "Eminence Breakdown" (1997).

See also listings at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear Narmour & Smith's 1929 recording at the Internet Archive [2], Slippery Hill [3], and youtube.com [4]
Hear Rockcastle County, east-central Kentucky, fiddler Walter McNew (1912-1998), recorded by Bruce Greene, summer 1989 at Berea Sound Archives [5].



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  1. Sixteen of their best selling tunes were re-recorded in 1934 when Narmour and Smith signed with Victor, due to the demise of their original label, OKeh Records. Victor released the new recordings on their subsidiary label, Bluebird Records.
  2. quoted in Tony Russell, Legends of the Lost, 2007, p. 119.