Headlight Reel (The)

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HEADLIGHT REEL, THE. American, Reel. D Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. The composition is credited to a "T. Densmore" in Ryan/Coles. Michael McKernan believes this refers to a member of a musical family from Chelsea, Vermont, (he was perhaps the brother of O. Densmore, a bandleader who wrote the "Old Granite State Reel" in Ryan's/Cole's, and a relative of a C. Densmore, of Claremont, New Hampshire, who also led a band in the mid-1800's). The "Messrs. Densmore" were listed as playing at a Musician's Annual Ball in Lebanon, New Hampshire, in 1847.

"Headlight Reel" perhaps refers to the introduction of railroad engine headlights using the Fresnel lens, invented in 1823, developed originally for use in lighthouses. Early headlights were kerosene powered, with acetylene being introduced to power lamps in the late 188o's. Several 19th century newspapers or periodicals also used the word "Headlight" in their titles, presumably because they thought to illuminate.

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Cole (1000 Fiddle Tunes), 1940; p. 51. Ryan's Mammoth Collection, 1883; p. 79.

Recorded sources: A & M Records 79602 2000-2, Ashley MacIsaac - "Close to the Floor" (1992).




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