Sourwood Mountain

14 Apr

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[gDGBD tuning]

Sourwood Mountain is another one of those old songs that stretch back to an unknown source and was one of the earliest song/dance pieces collected in the beginning of the last century. The location of the Sourwood Mountain in the song is disputed, but there appear to be a peak in Jefferson County, TN and a ridge in Russel County, VA of the same name. Most people who keep track of this stuff note that it’s possible that the tune (and attached song) come from Sourwood Mountain, Massachusetts. Either way, the earliest recording comes from Tennessee fiddler Uncle Am Stuart (1853-1927), who at the age of 71 put it down for Vocalion Records during their frantic attempts to get a slice of the hillbilly pie after the huge success of Fiddlin’ John Carson’s recordings for Okeh a year earlier. The tune was also recorded by Dave Macon, The Skillet Lickers, The Hill Billies, Wade Mainer, Melvin Wine, Tommy Jarrell and a few dozen other notable characters from the Ozarks to the Blue Ridge.

From the Bluegrass Picker’s Songbook: “The tune was mentioned by William Byrne who described a chance encounter with West Virginia fiddler ‘Old Sol’ Nelson during a fishing trip on the Elk River. The year was around 1880, and Sol, whom Byrne said was famous for his playing ‘throughout the Eld Valley from Clay Courthouse to Sutton as…the Fiddler of the Wilderness,’ had brought out his fiddle after supper to entertain.”

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One Response to “Sourwood Mountain”

  1. Dick W. 05/28/2012 at 3:27 pm #

    As a beginner, I chose Sourwood Mountain as my second song to learn. Some technique challenges for a rank beginner, but should be very doable. Thanks for the arrangement and the site. Hope you have time to keep on adding to it.

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