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Tune of the Month: Texas Quickstep

"Texas Quickstep" - Carthy Sisco

I understand we are celebrating the 90th birthday of our favorite Arkansas/Gig Harbor fiddler, Carthy Sisco, this summer. Always up for a jam session and with a whole pile of interesting tunes highlighting his old style Arkansas square dance fiddling, he has been a bright light and an inspiration to many an up and coming younger fiddler. In my own case, besides learning a batch of great tunes from him and a whole lot of Arkansas tinged style, I got a much better sense of how when a fiddler adapts tunes from anywhere into his or her own home style something entirely new emerges: Canadian jigs and reels, bluegrass favorites, schottisches and waltzes all converted to Carthy style tunes. Great stuff!

Carthy was born and raised in Carroll County, Arkansas where his family grew tomatoes for cash and played lots and lots of music for fun. His father played clawhammer banjo and many of his ten brothers and sisters played instruments. Carthy started in on banjo at the age of seven and a few years later switched to fiddle. Moving to Bremerton in 1947 he supported his family as a sheet metal worker and attended square dances. Putting fiddle music on the back burner for a while he reconnected in the early 1970s through the Washington Old Time Fiddlers Association community – Henry Mitchell and Joe Hanson in particular.

The way I’ve played Texas Quickstep (aka Rachel) it’s in D with a different 2nd part (see Evergreen Fiddler Volume I, Joe King’s Hornpipe), but I really like Carthy’s C tune that you see here. It’s unmanageably cumbersome to try and notate the subtleties of Carthy’s ornaments and cross string shuffles, so just give a good listen, steal what you can and make up the rest – the way Carthy would.

Happy Birthday Carthy.

Tune Transcription - Click Here

Listen to the Tune - Click Here

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Stuart Williams, Music Editor

Updated August 4, 2011

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