Arkansas Traveler is another of those songs that everyone is supposed to know, and I decided to blog on it so that I would for sure learn to play it! Although Old Time musicians are pretty good at playing songs that they don't actually know, this particular song has a lot of rapid chord changes, and so you really have to know it in order to play it well.
I remember learning this song in music class in about the 5th grade. It has also been used several times in cartoons from Warner Brothers, so if that doesn't qualify it as an American institution, I don't know what is.
Arkansas Traveler was written in the 1800s by Colonel Sanford C. "Sandy" Faulkner.
Rick Good, Sharon Leahy, Ben Cooper (all regulars at the Trolley Stop) play in this version along with Janden Gladstone on the fiddle and Nick Dauphinais on guitar. (thanks Yaffstone, whoever you are, for uploading this on youtube).
Here is a version by Tommy Jarrell, a superstar fiddler from way back when who was still a tremendous fiddler into his 80s, with Aly Bain, from a 1980's TV series called Down Home. There are a few high quality youtube videos out there that feature Tommy, so I would encourage any fan of Old Time fiddling to check them out. It's the closest thing you can get to having a time machine.
A PART D-G- D--- A--- A---
D-G- D--- D-G- A-D-
D-G- D-A- D-A- D-A-
D-G- D-A- D-G- A-D-
Oh, once upon a time in Arkansas, An old man sat in his little cabin door And fiddled at a tune that he liked to hear, A jolly old tune that he played by ear. It was raining hard, but the fiddler didn't care, He sawed away at the popular air, Tho' his rooftree leaked like a waterfall, That didn't seem to bother the man at all. A traveler was riding by that day, And stopped to hear him a-practicing away; The cabin was a-float and his feet were wet, But still the old man didn't seem to fret. So the stranger said "Now the way it seems to me," You'd better mend your roof," said he. But the old man said as he played away, "I couldn't mend it now, it's a rainy day." The traveler replied, "That's all quite true, But this, I think, is the thing to do; Get busy on a day that is fair and bright, Then patch the old roof till it's good and tight." But the old man kept on a-playing at his reel, And tapped the ground with his leathery heel. "Get along," said he, "for you give me a pain; cabin never leaks when it doesn't rain."