Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Cowboy Waltz - Bob Walters

Rusty's waltz wednesday presents: Cowboy Waltz, by Bob Walters

Bob Walters:

I first found out about Bob Walters from some old-time playing friends. I think someone shared his version of Melinda with me, and I took to his fiddling right away. Something about coming from a (mildly) classical violin background, and the precision of his bowing and fingering must have struck a chord. So I went out and bought a double-CD recording from a man at the Missouri Traditional Dance and Fiddle Network. The whole thing was very old-timey - we communicated through e-mail, and he personally mailed me the CD after I transfered the money through pay-pal.

Now, what I know about Bob Walters I gleamed from the extensive liner notes that came with the album: The Champion. Bob was born in 1889, and as it turns out, Bob Walters was not from Missouri as I had assumed, but from Nebraska - north and to the west of Missouri. Bob came from a fiddling family, but in those days, like many traditional musicians, music was not his main source of income. Mr. Walters tried farming at first, and then worked as a janitor when the farming didn't work out. A nice anecdote told by his wife Goldie:
He’d go out in the morning with his team and then he’d come home in the middle of the morning. She’d ask, “What’s the matter, Dad?” “Oh, I just thought of a tune” and he’d go in and play until noon. Then they’d have lunch and he’d go out in the field again. But about three o’clock in the afternoon or so, here he’d come in again and she’d want to know what’s wrong–“Oh, just thought of a tune.” But Goldie stuck with him and looked after him.
Bob played in and won many fiddle competitions, which helped him get into broadcasting his fiddle playing on radio shows in the 'thirties and 'fourties. I don't think those were recorded, but must have been a great treat to hear. Bob Walters died at age 70 in 1960, the day after Christmas.

The song:

"Dwight, we're gonna play your old favorite: cowboy waltz!" Like so many other midwestern tunes, the chords follow the I-IV-I-V-I pattern, in both melody sections. I guess I assumed Bob was from Missouri because people tend to call those the Missouri chord changes, and he plays so many of those tunes. In any case, the liner notes say that Cowboy Waltz was a common Missouri tune.

What I noticed upon re-close-listening to this tune is the syncopation that Bob plays with in the first section. For a good while, I probably played it too straight, and I really appreciate Bob's playing for those kinds of subtleties.

The second melody section is my favorite part of the tune. It has a real lonesome sound and has always sounded familiar to me, as if I'd heard it in Feivel Goes West when I was little, or some Ken Burns documentary. Maybe the effect comes from holding those high D notes for 3 beats, or maybe it's from the resolving part of the melody.

This is the first fiddle tune I've shared on waltz wednesday: blog format. I'm going to set up an email account soon if anyone wants to send suggestions for songs that they come across in waltz format - anyway, I'll post about that another time. Enjoy the tune!

Happy new year to one and all!

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