Scott’s Return

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by Jim Taylor, from “The Civil War Collection”:

Scott’s Return

Solo fiddle playing is a tradition that was well established at the time of the Civil War. Contests were often held to determine the best fiddler in a brigade, regiment, or even down to the company level. Old issues of Confederate Veteran magazine are filled with stories of fiddle contests and the exploits of fiddle players. For example, an article appearing in an 1894 edition speaks of treasure trove of entertainment granted to the boys of General A.P. Hill’s signal corps while stationed on Clark’s Mountain in Orange County, VA. “Down by the river,” an old veteran of the corps recalled, “was the regiment of Barksdale’s Mississippians. In one company of ninety men, ‘seventy-five were good fiddlers.’ We cultivated these fellows and they cultivated us. We had a dance three nights out of the week, and went courting two out of the other four.” Years after the war, fiddle contests were held at veterans’ reunions.

At the 1916 United Confedertate Veterans’ reunion in Birmingham, Dr. Lauriston H. Hill, former surgeon for the 53rd North Carolina Regiment, organized such an event where “old vets and their children can contest.” He urged them to come prepared “to do your best” for “the championship of old-time fiddlers.” And, after they’d done their best, Dr. Hill added, “if you don’t mind, these old Tarheels will show you how they play and put ‘the tar on you.’” These contests were fierce and serious affairs with bragging rights awarded to the winner. Thus, Dr. Hill closed his announcement with a bit of bragging of his own: “I will say, lastly, that when allowed to play, I have won the first prize.”

Scott’s Return on this recording is a good example of a contest tune played by a master fiddler in the Old-time tradition. And, Bruce Greene is one of the finest there is. Bruce learned this version from Milo Biggers (born around 1890) of Glasgow, KY. Bruce adds: “Mr. Biggers got it from Henry Carver, a legendary fiddler of that area and patriarch of a musical family that included the Carver Boys (recorded in the 1920’s), Cousin Emmy, and Noble (Uncle Bozo) Carver. Milo said it was a Civil War piece, but all he knew about it was something about an old soldier coming back from the war.”

Bruce Greene plays “Scott’s Return”:

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