Reel Roarer

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X:1 T:Reel Roarer N:A close version of “Walker Street”/”Traveller (1) (The)”. The third strain is N:marked "minor" in the ms., with no key change indicated from the 1 sharp N:at the beginning of the tune. It is perhaps meant to be played in D minor. M:2/4 L:1/8 R:Reel S:Isaac Homan manuscript (mid-19th century, Bellport, S:Long Island, NY, Book 4, p. 56) Z:AK/Fiddler’s Companion K:G D|GB/G/ d/G/B/G/|A/B/c/d/ c/B/A/G/|B/d/ g/>d/ e/g/d/B/|c/B/A/G/ F/A/D/F/| GB/G/ d/G/B/G/|A/B/c/d/ c/B/A/G/|B/d/ g/>d/ e/g/d/B/|z/[D2F2d2] ^c/A/ G|| (e/f/)|{f}g(d/g/) B/g/d/g/|g/a/b/g/ a/g/e/f/|{f}g(d/g/) B/g/d/g/ c/B/A/G/ F/A/ D/f/| {f}g(d/g/) B/g/ d/g/|g/a/b/g/ a/g/e/f/|g/f/g/a/ g/f/e/d/|e/g/f/a/ g/f/e/d/!D.C.!|| P:D minor {B}A/^G/A/c/ e/^d/e/g/|f/d/e/c/ d/e/f/g/|b/a/f/b/ a/f/e/a/|f/e/d/f/ e/c/A| A/^G/A/c/ e/^d/e/g/|f/d/e/c/ d/e/f/g/|b2a2 (f/g/)(e/f/)|d2!D.C.!||

REEL ROARER. American, Reel (2/4 time). G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABBC. "Reel Roarer" was included in the mid-19th century music manuscript collection of Bellport, Long Island, ship-builder and fiddler Isaac Homan. The tune is an early version of the popular "Walker Street" AKA "Traveller (1) (The)" that has numerous variants in North America, however, it almost universally appears as a two-part tune, and Homan includes a minor-key variant. Homan may have obtained the tune from blackface minstrelsy, a genre represented by a number of tunes in his ms. The title "Reel Roarer" may also be a play on words. The phrase "real roarer" can be dated to the first half of the 19th century in the United States where it meant "a stentorian braggart", or a unabashed self-promoter (related to 'rip-roaring' or 'ring-tailed roarer'). For example, the Massachusetts Spy, an item in the Buffalo Journal of Jan., 10, 1827, mentions:

The Albany beau drinks brandy and talks politics, and is in fact what he styles himself, "a real roarer".

Similarly the Yale Literary Magazine (ii. 80.) gives:

[He was] considerably like what we now-a-days imagine a Kentuckian to be, — “a real roarer." [1]

Additional notes

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  1. Richard R. Thornton, An American Glossery, 1912, p. 741,