Tune of the Month: White Horse Breakdown
White Horse Breakdown
Here’s yet another tune transformed from the bluegrass idiom into a fine old time square dance tune by Carthy Sisco of Gig Harbor, WA (and formerly of Fayetteville, Arkansas). I learned the White Horse Breakdown from Carthy some twenty years or so ago and have enjoyed playing it ever since. Carthy (see the August 2011 Tune of the Month – Texas Quickstep or the Washington Traditional Fiddlers’ Project: Volume I by Northwest Folklife) learned it from an LP by Kenny Baker, ‘Kenny Baker Country.’ Kenny’s version is not that different note wise, but does have a few phrases that are decidedly more bluegrassy. A good fiddler will take a tune from anywhere and personalize it to his or her own particular style and sub-sub genre.
Phil Williams filled in a little more detail for me the other day at a jam session. Bill Monroe wrote this tune while up at the Darrington Bluegrass Festival (one of the premier bluegrass events in the Northwest - www.darringtonbluegrass.com). He was wondering what to call it when someone looked up at the beautiful White Horse Mountain towering over them and suggested the name. There is quite a contingent of North Carolina (and surrounding states) ex pats up in that area and Bill had very much enjoyed playing with and listening to them. As Kenny Baker related it to Phil, Bill loaded up his band members in the bus on the Sunday morning following a concert in Bellingham and headed on over to a jam session in Darrington, putting on a free concert for the locals, something he had never done before, or likely since. See Phil’s article on bluegrass music in Washington on the Voyager Records web site for more details and a fascinating tour through the 1950s-60s bluegrass scene - www.voyagerrecords.com/arNWBG.htm.
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Stuart Williams, Music Editor
Updated August 5, 2013