Last Shot Got Him (2) (The)

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X:1 T:Last Shot Got Him [2] M:2/4 L:1/16 R:Reel S:W.C. Chenoweth & Chenotweth's Cornfield Symphony Orchestra N:OKeh (1926) Z:AK/Fiddler's Companion K:F A,B,|CB,CF AGFG|FEFd c4|fgag f2A2|B8| BcBA GAGF|EFED C4|e2d2 c2d2|c6 A,B,| CB,CF AGFG|FEFd c4|agfe fA3|B8| gagf ed3|cdcB AGFD|CB,CF AGFE|F6EF|| K:C GFGc edcB|cBca g3g|a2g2 (f/g/f)e2|d8 | GABA GAGF|DEDB, G,4|b2a2 g2a2|g8| GFGc edcB|cBca g3g|a2g2 (f/g/f)e2|d8 | GABc dcdg|b2a2 g2e2|GFGc edcB|c6EF|| GFGc edcB|c2G2 F2E2|DCDE FEFG|A8| GFGA BABd|g2f2 e2Bc|d2c2 B2A2|G6EF| GFGc edcB|c2G2 F2E2|DCDE FEFG|A8| GFGA BABd|g2f2 e2Bc|e2d2B2G2|c6|| K:F |:A,B,|C2A,C A2EG|F2DF C2 fg|a2e2 fA3|B8| GAGF EFED|CDCB, A, cd|e2d2c2d2|c6 A,B,| C=B,CF AGFE|FEFd c2 fg|a2e2f2A2|B8| gagf ed3|cdcB AGFD|CB,CF AGFE|F8:|]



LAST SHOT GOT HIM [2], THE. American, Reel (cut time). The tune was recorded by fiddler William B. Chenoweth (1858-1946, born on a farm in Dallas, Dallas County, Texas), and his group Chenoweth's Cornfield Symphony Orchestra, which consisted of family members. They were the very first country music band to be recorded (previous recordings were of single fiddlers, or fiddle duets), when OKeh records sent a portable recording studio in a truck to Dallas, in 1924. Chenoweth also recorded under the name The Texas Fiddlin' Wampus Cat and His Kittens.

Although he died a pauper, Chenoweth led a colorful life. In addition to his musical talents, he was an inventor and holder of some 17 patents for items such as an internal combustion engine, electrical appliances, a wind-generator, and a flying machine. The 2010 reminiscence [1] by his grandson, Joseph Thomas Chenoweth, makes for fascinating reading, and is reproduced below in its entirety (courtesy of Joe Chenoweth and the Chenoweth Family Website).

William Benjamin Chenoweth 1868-1946
Inventor & Musican: the Legacy of W. B. Chenoweth


by Joseph Thomas Chenoweth [July 2010]


My grandfather, William Benjamin Chenoweth, the oldest of Joseph & Rebecca Ann Crawford Chenoweth’s children who lived, was born on a farm in Dallas Co., Texas in 1868. Like most farm kids he grew up learning how to make do with what you had – and if something had to be built or something broke you had to fix it with whatever you had around the place – because town was too far away and there wasn’t enough money to buy whatever you needed anyway. Bill Chenoweth was a little more advanced in that regard, as he inherited mechanical aptitude at the genius level. Though he never made it out of high school, his initial profession was that of a mechanical draftsman, then a locomotive designer, and then an inventor. He married Anne Elvira Crenshaw in Nevada, Collin Co, TX in 1889.


1st 6-Cylinder Automobile Engine:
While working for the International & Great Northern Railroad in East Texas the idea for the 1st 6-cylinder automobile engine hit him in 1899. He realized that engines broke down more through vibration than from the work they did. The current one and two cylinder engines of the time were subject to terrific vibration, so, reducing the vibration would require more and smaller cylinders. His calculations showed, theoretically, that three explosions per revolution produced negligible vibration. So in a four cycle engine, that would require six cylinders. His idea was to put his new engine in an open-air 14 passenger “bus” which he predicted would go 25 mph on a good road (of which there were almost none in Texas). So he drew up detailed plans of the engine and the bus and started trying to get financing for his idea. However, since the fastest car around only went about 10 mph and 25mph was a good speed for a passenger train at the time, everyone thought him just a little bit crazy! Someone suggested he get the opinion of other engineers as to the practicality of his idea.


So he wrote to the National Engineering Laboratory in Philadelphia explaining his idea with the detailed plans for engine and bus. Their reply, dated October 18, 1899 stated “beg to say you must have been kicked in the head by a mule as a small boy which left you laboring under the hallucination or delusion that ice could be frozen on a red hot stove by thinking of driving a self-propelled vehicle over a public road at 25 mph. In our opinion it’s an idle dream of a feeble minded person especially so with a gasoline engine.” That shut him up for about a year, but the idea wouldn’t die. Over the next couple of years he wrote to many engine manufactures, looking for one who would build his engine, or sell him one of theirs, but was not happy with any of their responses. So he decided to build it himself. He got the Western Motor Co. of Logansport, IN to build two 6-cylinder motors to his exact specifications and ship them to St. Louis, Missouri where, with the help of C.H. Miles (inventor of the triple sealed piston ring), he set out to manufacture the first two “buses.” The first one was completed in October 1907 and shipped by rail to Colorado City, TX. The idea was to run the bus line between that city and Snyder, a distance of 28 miles. Now mufflers had not been invented yet, so when Bill Chenoweth started the thing up it sounded like a machine gun! Can you imagine the havoc wreaked by such a thing in West Texas in 1907? Preachers warned against riding on the evil thing and the bus was often met at the edge of town by a horseback sheriff armed with a Winchester 30-30, warning him not to come into town. Consequently they had to keep moving their route. About the time people started getting gentle enough to ride the thing, some enterprising Westerner would buy a few 2-cylinder vehicles, which were much quieter and safer, and go into competition. After being put out of business like that the 3rd time, he sold one of the buses to the Alto Vista Dairy Farm in Fort Worth, Texas to be used as a truck. So a truck body was built for it and the first load to town was 52 bales of hay. This was the first truck in Fort Worth and it did the work of four teams & wagons – but the dairyman’s driver forgot that it needed oil and water every once in a while, resulting in burning out all the bearings and freezing the pistons in the cylinders. Thus ended the life of the first 6-cylinder automobile engine in the country, and the first bus, and first truck in Texas. In 1921 the American Society of Automotive Engineers adopted the six cylinder engine motor as the most practical motor for automobiles. Were it not for the fact that “Dad” Chenoweth’s thinking was 20 years ahead of the times, we could all be driving Chenoweths!

1st Wind Motor:
In 1920 he invented a wind motor (not a windmill) that would operate at fairly constant velocity regardless of wind speed. He figured a way to hook it to storage batteries so they could have electric lights on the farm in Arlington, TX before they had them in town. In fact he even figured how to have all the blades turn into the wind when the wind got above 15mph to keep from burning up the storage batteries – then when the wind subsided, the blades would start turning again. He patented this invention in 1922. Then he figured that he could hook the storage batteries to the hot plate of the wood stove and cook with electricity. That obviously wasn’t too efficient a heat source because the next thing you knew he figured out how to use the wind motor to pump air through kerosene and run that pipe to the stove and cook with gas. At that point the whole family decided he was going to blow the house up with that thing and gave him the ultimatum that he unhook that pipe or they were leaving! That idea of wind energy was only 50 years ahead of its time because it wasn’t until the 1970s when learned people started the talk of using wind as an alternate energy source.


Somehow Dad Chenoweth wound up living in Chicago in the 30s and invented his flying machine. Although it was not a helicopter, it could take off vertically, fly straight and land vertically (does that make anyone think Osprey?). That invention had a short life as well, because he actually flew it over Chicago around “rush hour” one day and caused such a traffic jamb that he was arrested when he finally landed and told not to EVER fly that thing in Chicago again. That also ended his inventing “career.” He never mad a dime from any of his inventions, and he reportedly had 17 patents.


In between inventing things that were too far ahead of their time and going broke he somehow found enough family time to make sure everyone played some kind of musical instrument. He himself was a champion fiddle player, daughter, Frances, could play anything with strings, daughter Vivian played 5 or 6 instruments, my Dad, Thomas, played guitar and youngest son, Joe was an excellent banjo player. “Dad” Chenoweth used family members as musicians to form “The Cornfield Symphony Orchestra” and played in all kinds of venues, on WFAA radio in Dallas and WLS radio in Chicago. His Cornfield Symphony Orchestra helped make music history in Dallas by being one of the first two bands to have their music recorded in Dallas, when Okeh Records brought a portable sound truck there in 1924. My Dad and his two sisters played on vaudeville stages for several years as adults as a result of the training they received by their father. Later, Vivian played the mandocello with the Westchester Mandolin Orchestra in New York.

Frances’ and Vivian’s Banjos:
My Aunt Frances and Aunt Vivian accompanied by Vivian’s husband, Ed Hayes, had a group called Ed Hayes and His Banjo Girls. Sometime during the 1930s Vivian and Frances had the Gibson Banjo Company make them a matched pair of tenor banjos with Mother of Pearl inlaid into the fret boards, beautiful maple and rosewood marquetry inlaid into the walnut backs of the resonators, and corded electric lights inside – very rare for the time. After the two sisters died, Frances’ banjo went to her daughter, Fran Roberts in New York and Vivian’s went to her son, Ed Hayes in Texas. Since the Gibson Banjo Company was located in Ed Hayes sales territory, he dropped in on their museum one day in the 1990s with his mother’s banjo and asked what they could tell him about it. The museum director left for a few minutes and returned with some yellowed old papers, and immediately asked, “Where is the other one?” He showed Ed the original order for both banjos and told him every thing about each of them. The museum director said they had never had such a unique order before or since and that they would surely like to have both of them for their museum. The museum was willing to purchase both banjos and make a permanent display for them so everyone touring the museum would see them. So Ed contacted Fran about the exciting prospects of their offer. Fran thought that if one museum wanted them that maybe a more prominent museum would want them as well. So she contacted The Smithsonian Institution about the banjos. The Smithsonian wanted the family to donate the instruments and made no promises about ever displaying them. So a quiet duel between the two cousins ensued - Ed’s argument was for the permanence of the display and Fran’s was, “but its The Smithsonian.” After several months Ed gave in, and both banjos reside somewhere in The Smithsonian Institution’s archives, possibly never to be seen by the public.

William B. Chenoweth died a pauper in Terrell State Hospital in 1946 – but the character that he was still lives on.

WILLIAM BENJAMIN6 CHENOWETH (JOSEPH5, BENJAMIN FRANKLIN4, THOMAS3, THOMAS2, JOHN1) was born December 10, 1868 in Dallas, Dallas Co., TX, and died April 01, 1946 in Terrell, Kaufman Co., TX. He married ANNIE ELVIRA CRENSHAW November 10, 1889 in Nevada, Collin Co., TX, daughter of JOHN CRENSHAW and MARY NORRIS. She was born February 12, 1873 in Sparta, Bienville Parish, LA, and died May 14, 1929 in Dallas, Dallas Co., TX.


Additional notes

Source for notated version: -

Printed sources : -

Recorded sources: -Musical Traditions MTCD103, "Yearlings in the Canebreak: Texas fiddle music 1924-30." OKeh 40246, Chenoweth's Cornfield Symphony Orchestra (1924).

See also listing at:
Hear the 1924 recording by Chenoweth's Cornfield Symphony Orchestra [2]
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [3]



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