Harry of the West

Find traditional instrumental music
Jump to: navigation, search

Back to Harry of the West


HARRY OF THE WEST. American, Breakdown. USA, Texas. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. Steve Rice remarks that one of the nicknames of the early 19th century American politician Henry Clay was "Harry of the West," according to the biography by Robert V. Remini (Henry Clay, Statesman for the Union, 1991), so-called because Clay was from Kentucky, which was still considered the western frontier in his hey-day. Remini states: "...Clay was an accomplished performer with the violin and was sometimes known as 'the fiddler of the Hanover slashes' [referring to the area where he was raised in Virginia, near Richmond; a low, swampy area commonly known as the slashes; Clay moved to Kentucky in 1797 at the age of 20]. He resembled many other Kentucky politicians in that they 'owed not a little of their great personal popularity to the fact that they were skilful players on the fiddle.' At the end of one festive evening, enlivened by many bottles and much fiddle playing, Clay brought the merrymaking to a smashing end when he set aside his fiddle and engaged in 'a grand Terpsichorean performance...executing a pas seul from head to foot of a dining table, sixty feet in length ... to the crashing accompaniment of shivered glass and china' while his companions laughed and applauded and cheered him on." Rice believes that the "Harry of the West" tune Thomasson played very likely has some association with Henry Clay, and thinks it may have a mid-1800s vintage.

Source for notated version: transcribed by John Hartford from the playing of Texas-style fiddler Benny Thomasson [Fiddler Magazine].

Printed sources: Fiddler Magazine, vol. 5, No. 2 (Summer 1998); p. 37.

Recorded sources:

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]




Back to Harry of the West