Maple Sugar

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MAPLE SUGAR. Canadian (originally), American; Two-Step or Reel. Canada; Ontario, Maritimes. USA; northern New York, Pa., Missouri. A Major ('A' part) & E Major ('B' {or 'C'} part) {Bain, Beisswenger & McCann, Bohrer, Phillips, Silberberg}: G Major ('A' part) & D Major ('B' part) {Bayard}: D Major {Perlman}. Standard tuning. AA'B (Perlman): ABB' (Bayard): AA'BB' (Bain, Beisswenger & McCann): ABAC (Bohrer/Kibler): AA'BB'CC'BB' (Phillips): AA'BB'AA'CC' (Silberberg). Composed in 1956 by Ontario fiddler Ward Allen (1924-1965), a professional fiddler who won contest after contest in Canada the 1950's and had a successful career playing on the radio. Allen played with Montana Slim, Wilf Carter ("the father of Canadian country music"), appeared on the Grand Ole Opry, and had a radio show on Frank Ryan's station CFRA in Ottawa, Canada. "Maple Sugar" was released by Sparton Records in 1956 as the 'B' side to the Canadian "Back Up and Push (2)", which was expected to be the stronger tune. However, "Maple Sugar" was to become a hit in Canada, and received some airplay in the United States as well.

Ward Allen

It is also a tune which has varied considerably in the vicissitudes of the 'folk process' and has even acquired a set of words. In addition to being a staple of 'down east' Canadian fiddling, it has been popular in northern New York and northern New England; as Vic Kibler (Hamilton County, New York) said, "At every fiddle contest they all played it." It was in repertory of Buffalo Valley, Pa., region dance fiddler Harry Daddario. Shetland fiddler Aly Bain's version (which he calls "traditional Canadian") is much superior to that collected by Bayard (which is really one strain which is modulated to another key), who thought it a strain of a song air transformed into a dance tune. Most Canadian fiddlers play the tune in the keys of 'A' and 'E' (as did Missouri fiddler Lonnie Robertson), though in other parts of North America the tune is rendered throughout in the keys of 'A' or 'D' Major with no key change in the second part. Lonnie Robertson was a fiddler skilful enough to float a successful career as a performer on the radio and sundry other gigs, and employed "Maple Sugar" as the opening theme for one of his programs, thus popularizing it in the Mid-west.

Sources for notated versions: Bradley Grimshaw (northern New York, 1958) [Bayard]; Vic Kibler learned it from Fort Ann, New York fiddler Jimmy Hamblin [Bohrer]; Pete Sutherland (Vt.) [Phillips]; Sidney Baglole (b. 1912, Southwest Lot 16, West Prince County, Prince Edward Island; now resident of Freetown) [Perlman]; Lonnie Robertson (1908-1981, Springfield, Mo.) [Beisswenger & McCann].

Printed sources: Bain (50 Fiddle Solos), 1989; p. 46. Bayard (Dance to the Fiddle), 1981; No. 365, p. 358. Beisswenger & McCann (Ozarks Fiddle Music), 2008; p. 122. Bohrer (Vic Kibler: Adirondack Fiddler), 1992; No. 12, p. 12. Perlman (The Fiddle Music of Prince Edward Island), 1996; p. 162. Phillips (Traditional American Fiddle Tunes), vol. 2, 1995; p. 83. Silberberg (Tunes I Learned at Tractor Tavern), 2002; p. 94.

Recorded sources: Birchmount ‎– BM 503, Earl Mitton and the Valley Rhythm Boys ‎– "Down East Fiddle Favourites" (1958). Caney Mountain CLP-233, Lonnie Robertson - "Fiddle Tunes, Oaark Style, vol. 2" (c. 1978). Condor 977-1489, "Graham & Eleanor Townsend Live at Barre, Vermont." F&W Records 6, Fireside String Band - "Square Dance Tunes for a Yankee Caller." GRT Records SP 203, "Ward Allen Presents Maple Leaf Hoedown, vol. 1" (reissue). GRT Records 9230-1031, "Best of Ward Allen" (1973). John Edwards Memorial Foundation JEMF-105, Duane Perry - "New England Traditional Fiddling" (1978). Rodeo Records RLPCD 8045, Ward Allen - "It's a Saturday Night Barn Dance" (c. 1996, compilation).

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear Ward Allen's recording on youtube.com [2]
Hear Earl Mitton's recording at the Internet Archive [3]




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