Liner Notes

CD 373 Fiddling Down the Oregon Trail

The familiar tunes that he played upon the harmonica seemed to soften the groaning and creaking of the wagons and to shorten the long miles of the mountain road. Home Sweet Home...The Girl I Left Behind Me...One More River to Cross...seemed particularly appropriate and touched many a pensive heart. (Journal of Catherine Haun, 1849)

Music and dancing were an important part of life on the Oregon Trail. Unfortunately, it is rare to find a journal account that mentions what was done on the Trail for fun and recreation. The Williams here present some of the results of their many years of research on this subject. Many of the tunes which came to the Pacific Northwest over the Oregon Trail were tunes that they danced to as kids growing up in the Puget Sound region. These tunes are played in this region to this day for oldtime family dances. The fascinating stories behind the tunes, however, are not usually known by those who play them today.

Here the Williams play the tunes, read quotes about music on the Trail from journal accounts, and present the histories of the tunes and the dances done to them. This performance was recorded live at the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, on an Edirol recorder on the brim of a cowboy hat on the front of the stage.

Instruments used are a 19th century fiddle, a 1949 Martin D28 guitar, a very old gut strung, fretless banjo that likely came out over the Oregon Trail, and fiddlesticks.

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