Thursday, July 23, 2015

"Over the Waterfall," an old-time fiddle tune in D (mixolydian?) for our next session at Clayville Historic Stagecoach Stop

Our next slow jam and song learning session of the Clayville Pioneer Academy of Music is from 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, Aug. 1, in the barn at Clayville Historic Site, Ill. 125, Pleasant Plains. One tune I want to feature is "Over the Waterfall." We used to play it, but we haven't been lately. It's too good a tune to lose, though, so I want to start Saturday's session by refreshing our memory -- and introducing it for the folks who have joined us recently.

"Over the Waterfall" is in Stephen Siefert's Join the Jam, with a lead sheet in standard musical notation, backup chords and tab for a dulcimer tuned in DAD ... all the more reason to go ahead and get Steve's book. You can order it on his website at (click on "Physical Store" in the ribbon at the left of his start page, and follow the links).

If you don't have Steve's book and want to play the melody on a mountain dulcimer, there's tab available on the Three Rivers Dulcimer Society website in Washington state at:

... but it doesn't indicate the chord changes.

However, there's a chord chart at

You also need to take a look at this on the Kitchen Musician website.

I think the tune Mixolydian, but I've been accused of going overboard on the modes. Most people say D major. There's a C natural toward the end of the A part that gives the tune a slightly darker Mixolydian feel, just for a moment there, but the folks on the Session website, whom I consider authoritative on questions like this, classify the tune as D major.

A couple of YouTube clips:

  • Uploaded by YouTube user Jim Pankey, who writes: "Christie Burns, Jim Pankey and Roy Curry playing tunes on the porch! :)" I don't know who these people are, but I like the way they swing this tune!

  • A more traditional old-time string band arrangement by Redwing, of Eugene, Oregon. "Redwing is a five-piece string band, based in Eugene, Oregon. They play old time and Celtic tunes. This was filmed at Belknap Hot Springs Resort, on the McKenzie River in Oregon."

Andrew Kuntz has the following in Fiddlers Companion at (scroll down directory to "Over the Waterfall"):

OVER THE WATERFALL. AKA and see "The Fellow/Feller That Looks Like Me," "Punkin Head." Old‑Time, Breakdown. USA, Virginia. D Major. Standard tuning. AB (Silberberg): AABB (most versions). Originally from fiddler Henry Reed of Glen Lyn, Virginia, it was learned from directly from Reed and popularized in modern times by folklorist and fiddler Alan Jabbour. Reed himself may have learned it from hearing it emanating from a steam-driven calliope. "Over the Waterfall" is a melody that is fairly wide-spread throughout the British Isles and North America, explains Jabbour, and was used both for a well-known British-American song sometimes called "Eggs and Marrowbones" (AKA “Old Woman from Wexford,” “Old Woman in Dover,” “Wily Auld Carle” etc.) and as an instrumental tune. Comparison with “The Dark Girl Dressed in Blue [2]” in O’Neill’s Music of Ireland (1903) reveals a striking similarity between the two, and it is possible “Over the Waterfall” was adapted from an Irish source. Others have suggested that it may originally have been a composed piece from the turn of the century that was spread by travelling‑circus and riverboat musicians.


The earliest recorded version was by Al Hopkins and the Bucklebusters in the very last years of the 1920’s, who recorded it on a 78 RPM as “The Fellow that Looks Like Me” (Brunswick 184). “The Fellow that Looks Like Me” that was in the repertoire of Virginia fiddler Stuart Lundy (son of Galax fiddler Emmett Lundy) under that title, as well as the aforementioned Bucklebusters. Lundy died in the late 1970’s. The Hopkins family (Al is referenced above) was also originally from Galax. The Reed version of “Over the Waterfall” has become very common among old‑time fiddlers (indeed, it has become hackneyed), though is now usually regarded as a beginner's tune. Kentucky fiddler J.P. Fraley plays the tune, learned from the fiddling of his father, a somewhat more melodically complicated version. ...

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