The Old-Time Herald Volume 14, Number 9

Hounding the Hamblin Collection
By Christian Wig
Williamson Hamblen, from the Hamblen Collection

O ne day in the spring of 2007 my fiddle-and-banjo-playing friend Mark Ward was visiting for a weekend of fiddle tunes and luthier talk. As he opened the door of his truck, I heard the unmistakable sound of archaic fiddle tunes coming from the stereo system, yet the recording was too clean to be from old recordings. “What’s this I’m hearing?” I asked. Mark showed me the CD, which he had received from Kerry Blech. It contained recordings of fiddler Steve Green playing tunes from the early 1800s. Tune names included “Three Forks of Cumberland,” “Pride of America,” “Speckled Apron,” and many others. Some, like “Flowers of Edinburgh” and “Cotton-Eyed Joe” were familiar, but many were not.

These tunes, I learned, were from an unpublished manuscript at the Library of Congress, with the wordy title, “A Collection of Violin Tunes Popular During the Early 1800s as Played by David Russell Hamblen (1809-1893) and His Son Williamson (1846-1920). Arranged and Copied by A. Porter Hamblin (1895-195-) Son of Williamson. There follows a list of 39 tunes—24 from David, 14 from Williamson, and one from A. Porter himself. The introduction continues, “It is believed they were never published” but “were passed by ear from one local player to another and were composed by some local musician of that region.”

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