Under the Double Eagle

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UNDER THE DOUBLE EAGLE. AKA – “Double Eagle March," "Unter dem Doppeladler.” Old Time, March. C Major (modulates to ‘F’ in the second part). A multi-part march that found its way into the old time repertoire, where it has usually been known as a guitar piece. The melody was originally composed in 1893 by Franz Joseph Wagner {1856-1908} (as “Unter dem Doppeladler, Op. 159”) while he was bandmaster of the 47th Austrian Regiment. It was said to be, for a time, the national anthem of Germany {?}. It was a popular brass band piece in Europe, where the double eagle of the Habsburgs was featured on the Austro-Hungarian flag. “Under the Double Eagle” was particularly popular in Texas in the 1930’s and 1940’s, where it was perhaps introduced by German or Austrian immigrants. Bill Boyd’s Cowboy Ramblers’ 1935 version of the tune became the fourth best-selling country music record for that year, and the tune was often heard played by Allied bands in World War II. Later, a popular version was recorded by guitarist Doc Watson in the 1960’s. Several old-time versions do not change key in the second part. Taylor Kimble (Va.), for example, played the tune in D Major throughout. African-American fiddler Cuje Bertram (Ky.) played a march similar to “Double Eagle” on a home tape in 1970, made for his family.

West Virginia musicians knew “Under the Double Eagle”: the tune was recorded by Kanawha County fiddler Clark Kessinger, who recorded several marches as well as breakdown pieces. It was learned by itinerant West Virginia fiddler John Johnson (1916-1996), originally from Clay County, from fiddler Dorvel Hill who lived in a coal-mining town called Pigtown, not far from Clay, W.Va. Anecdotally, it was popular with Minnesota fiddlers in the early 20th century. North Carolina musicians The Red Fox Chasers recorded the tune in Richmond, Indiana, in April, 1928, as did North Carolina banjo player Charlie Poole a year later. Southern Indiana fiddler Lotus Dickey played a version in four parts (most rural versions are in two parts, according to Paul Tyler).

I was bashful back then and wouldn’t go in anybody’s house hardly. I’d sit on the railroad and listen to Dorvel play the fiddle at night. And I learned most all of Dorvel’s tunes. I just set down there and listened to all his tunes and then go home and play them. ... (Michael Kline, Mountains of Music, John Lilly ed. 1999).

Source for notated version:

Printed sources: Duncan (Advanced Fiddling).

Recorded sources: Recorded by Herbert Halpert for the Library of Congress (2739-A-2), 1939, from the playing of the Houston Bald Knob String Band (Franklin County, Va.). County 747, Clark Kessinger – “Sweet Bunch of Daisies.” Front Hall FHR 021, John McCutcheon – “Barefoot Boy with Boots On” (1981. Learned from Jimmy Cooper, Coatbridge, Scotland). Gennett 6461 (78 RPM), The Red Fox Chasers (1928). Paramount 3184 (78 RPM), 1929, Charlie Poole and the North Carolina Ramblers. Pinecastle Records, Chubby Wise – “Chubby Wise: An American Original, the ’94 Sessions.” Johnny Gimble – “Texas Fiddle Collection.” The Skirtlifters – “Wait for the Wagon.”

See also listing at:
Jane Keefer's Folk Music Index: An Index to Recorded Sources [1]
Hear the 1923 recording by the Sousa band at American Memory [2]
Hear Chet Atkins and Hank Snow play the tune on youtube.com [3]
Hear an 1899 Edison cylinder recording of the 71st Regiment Band playing the march [4]




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