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fiddle tunes 'Waggoner' and 'Gray Eagle'

Lighter 17 Aug 18 - 03:44 PM
Rex 20 Aug 18 - 11:05 AM
Lighter 20 Aug 18 - 12:17 PM
nigelgatherer 20 Aug 18 - 05:58 PM
Lighter 20 Aug 18 - 06:17 PM
Lighter 20 Aug 18 - 10:22 PM
leeneia 21 Aug 18 - 12:27 PM
Brian Peters 23 Aug 18 - 07:41 AM
Lighter 23 Aug 18 - 09:42 AM
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Subject: 'Waggoner' and 'Gray Eagle'
From: Lighter
Date: 17 Aug 18 - 03:44 PM

These two fiddle tunes are widely known. The Dallas Morning News of April 8, 1900 explained their origin:

"Mr. Matthews of Sherman played 'Waggoner.' This is a Tennessee tune, a companion piece to the Kentucky tune, 'Gray Eagle.' Fifty years ago they were the favorite airs of the country west of the Alleghanies.

"They were named for two horses, Waggoner and Gray Eagle. The former was a Tennessee horse and the latter a Kentucky horse. They were pitted against each other, and the States bet all they had on the result. That day Kentucky dropped more tears and money than it had ever done before or has done since. Many a Kentuckian who is now working for newspapers and other menial employment would have been rich today had their grandfathers not attended that race and had confidence in Gray Eagle.

"Mr. Matthews played it so well that he created the impression that he was born in Tennessee."

***
True American (N.O., La.) (May 31, 1839):

"Louisville Races. - They take place on the 4th of June on the Oakland Course. Mary Vaughn, Kavanaugh,...and Wagner have arrived. Gray Eagle, Troilus, Ralph,...and Dr. Dudley, all crack horses, are expected."


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Subject: RE: 'Waggoner' and 'Gray Eagle'
From: Rex
Date: 20 Aug 18 - 11:05 AM

Mighty happy to have this.
Thank you Lighter.


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Subject: RE: 'Waggoner' and 'Gray Eagle'
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Aug 18 - 12:17 PM

You're welcome!

> Many a Kentuckian who is now working for newspapers and other menial employment would have been rich today....

I wonder if the writer is referring to himself.


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Subject: RE: 'Waggoner' and 'Gray Eagle'
From: nigelgatherer
Date: 20 Aug 18 - 05:58 PM

Just as an aside, "Gray Eagle" has its origins in an old Scots tune, "The Miller of Drone" composed by Nathaniel Gow.


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Subject: RE: 'Waggoner' and 'Gray Eagle'
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Aug 18 - 06:17 PM

Thanks, Nigel.

I could have saved us all a lot of trouble, if I'd checked the "Traditional Tune Archive" first:

'John Hartford ("The Devil's Box") found that the "Grey Eagle" title for the melody known as "Miller of Drone (1) (The)" became attached to the tune in America following this famous late 1830's race between horses known as "Grey Eagle" and "Wagner." The race has been documented and took place in the Oakland Racetrack in Louisville in 1838. Soon afterwards a tune folio celebrating both racehorses appeared (a copy of which is in the possession of the Center for Popular Music at Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro) with both "Wagner" and "Grey Eagle" as well as the now-obscure "Oakland Racetrack." In fact, the ancestral melody "Miller of Drone (1) (The)" melody gave rise to a tune called "Gray Eagle Cotillions" by William C. Peters, published in 1840, named for the horse in the race in Louisville.'

On the other hand, the year of the race referred to was 1839, not "1838" as the TTA asserts.


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Subject: RE: 'Waggoner' and 'Gray Eagle'
From: Lighter
Date: 20 Aug 18 - 10:22 PM

It looks as though *the* big race between Gray Eagle and Wagner (the correct spelling) took place on Sept. 30, 1839, rather than in June.

A detailed, several thousand-word account appeared in the paper "Spirit of the Times" (Jan. 4, 1840). The four-year-old Gray Eagle represented Kentucky, but Wagner, five years old. was from Louisiana, not Tennessee as folklore would have it. Both were among the finest racehorses in America. The race had been widely promoted for months, betting was extremely heavy, and the huge crowd included Kentucky Gov. Poindexter and Sen. Henry Clay, along with other regional luminaries.

Two other horses also competed, but were left in the dust.

According to the Spirit of the Times:

"By the most extraordinary exertions, Wagner got up neck and neck with the gallant gray, as they swung round the turn in the quarter stretch. The feelings of the assembled thousands were wrought up to a pitch absolutely painful. Silence the most profound reigned over that vast assembly as these noble animals sped on as if life and death called forth their utmost energies. ...Gray Eagle, for the first hundred yards, was clearly gaining; but, in another instant, Wagner was even with him....It was any body's race yet; now Wagner, now Gray Eagle has the advantage. It will be a dead-heat! ‘See, Gray Eagle’s got him!’ ‘No—Wagner’s ahead!’ A moment ensues—the people shout—hearts throb—ladies faint—a thrill of emotion, and the race is over! Wagner wins by a neck in 7.44, the best race ever run south of the Potomac; while Kentucky’s gallant champion demonstrates his claim to that proud title by a performance which throws into the shade the most brilliant ever made in his native State.”


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Subject: RE: fiddle tunes 'Waggoner' and 'Gray Eagle'
From: leeneia
Date: 21 Aug 18 - 12:27 PM

Tunes called Wagner and Grey Eagle can be found at abcnotation.com

I searched and got sidetracked to a tune called "Wagner's Walzer." It looks like a good waltz for closing a country dance.

I've been to the horse races a couple time, and I advise anybody not to bet more on a horse than they can afford to lose. You can study a horse's record all you want, but you can't predict what the animal will decide to do when it comes time to race.


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Subject: RE: fiddle tunes 'Waggoner' and 'Gray Eagle'
From: Brian Peters
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 07:41 AM

Fascinating!


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Subject: RE: fiddle tunes 'Waggoner' and 'Gray Eagle'
From: Lighter
Date: 23 Aug 18 - 09:42 AM

Hi, Brian.

History makes music come alive.


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