Tune of the Month
I hadn’t heard Money Musk for quite some time so was delighted when first Lynn Graves and later Vivian Williams pulled it out at recent jam sessions. I’ve played at it for years, combining some parts from the Cole book with snippets from here and there. Sheila (Wright) Everts plays a real nice version of it. John Norton from Toledo, WA used to play it quite a bit back in the day. He was born in 1905 and learned a lot of tunes from his older brother. Their dad was a steamboat captain on the Columbia River and their mother sang and played the accordion. John recalled dances at a road house overlooking the Cowlitz River where this tune was played.
Money Musk goes back a ways. Daniel Dow of Edinburgh is credited with composing it in 1775 as ‘Sir Archibald Grant of Monemusk's Reel.’ The Scots also played it as a strathspey. The poor wee thing only had two parts though, so as it spread into Ireland and across Canada and the northern states of the U.S. the kindly fiddlers took pity and bequeathed it a few more. Besides the four shown here there are two more in the Cole book and another that Jean Carignan plays. Several of the parts climb pretty high up the fiddle neck and are pretty challenging, but fun.
The ‘Killie Krankie’ was the dance associated with this tune in its earlier incarnation and it was this that Abe Lincoln danced at his inaugural ball. The tune was also coopted for a contra dance called ‘Money Musk’ which was originally 32 bars but got squeezed down to 24 (3 parts of the tune). You can go to www.youtube and see it danced and or played in numerous ways, including one by Vivian and Phil Williams. Another of my favorite versions was put together by David Millstone and danced by lovely yellow and blue Origami cranes, http://vimeo.com/4062404. (Thanks to Anne Fuller of Juneau, AK for finding this after I lost it.) Laura Ingalls Wilder mentions it as one of Pa’s tunes in Little House on the Prairie and it crops up as one played in pioneer times in the Northwest.
What we have here for you today is a real nice four parter as it was played by Phil Cook, a Mohawk Indian from upstate New York who worked at Hanford in the 1970s (see The Evergreen Fiddler Vol. II). If I can get to it I’ll post my version as well. Thanks to the Williamses and to The Fiddlers Companion (www.ceolas.org/tunes/fc/).
Please contact me if you have questions or requests.
Stuart Williams, Music Editor
June 6, 2011, revised text November 14, 2011