Swamplake Breakdown (The)

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SWAMP LAKE BREAKDOWN, THE.AKA - "Swamp Lake Breakdown." AKA and see "Shoal Creek Breakdown," “Shull Creek.” Canadian, Breakdown. G Major. Standard tuning (fiddle). AABB. "Swamp Lake Breakdown" is a traditional tune popularized via radio and TV broadcasts by Maritime fiddler Don Messer and his band The Islanders. There is at least one reference to the tune coming from the shanty lumber camps of the Ontario/Huron region in the late 19th and early 20th centuries:

The Shanty songs tended to spread throughout this area of Ontario, but specific references often indentified certain areas. Kinmount had several songs composed about the community including the “Drowning Of Bill Dunbar”, “The Swamp Lake Breakdown” and “Turners Camp”. The songs were clearly composed by local residents, and bear witness that despite its “back township” reputation, there was an element of culture among the population[1]

Swamp Lake is a near Neebing, in the Thunder Bay District of Ontario. "Swamp Lake Breakdown" also appears as one of the instrumental tunes in folklorist Edith Fowke's listing of the total repertoire of each of her informants in Lumbering Songs from the Northern Woods; Traditional Singers and Songs from Ontario (1965)[2]. However, the tune has been widely disseminated and can be heard in fiddling repertory throughout Canada.

The melody was known to influential northwest Missouri fiddler Casey Jones (d. 1967), who called it “Shull Creek” AKA "Shoal Creek Breakdown."


Additional notes



Printed sources : - Messer (Anthology of Favorite Fiddle Tunes), 1980; No. 5, p. 6.

Recorded sources : - Augusta Heritage Recordings, Isreal Welch - "Tearin' down the Laurel" (1995). Silver Eagle SE4-10962, Graham Townsend - "100 Fiddle Hits: 35th Anniversary Collection" (1992). Springthyme Records SPRCD1037, Bill Black - "The Dawning." Celtic Kitchen Part - "Live from Iqaluit" (2018).




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  1. Kinmount Gazette, April 2015 Volume 7: Issue 6, p. 8.
  2. Edith Fowke, Lumbering Songs from the Northern Woods; Traditional Singers and Songs from Ontario, Hatboro, Pa.: Folklore Associates; Don Mills, Ont.: Burns and MacEachern Limited, 1965.