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Audio Recording Mississippi Sawyer

Mississippi Sawyer

About this Item


  • Mississippi Sawyer


  • Jabbour, Alan (Transcriber)
  • Jabbour, Alan (Collector)
  • Jabbour, Karen Singer (Collector)
  • Reed, Henry, 1884-1968 (Performer)

Created / Published

  • Reed family home, Glen Lyn, Giles County, Virginia, July 17, 1967


  • -  Instrumental music
  • -  Fiddle tunes
  • -  Folk music--Appalachian Region
  • -  Breakdowns
  • -  Reels
  • -  Ethnography
  • -  Music
  • -  Field recordings
  • -  United States -- Virginia -- Giles County -- Glen Lyn


  • Ethnography
  • Music
  • Field recordings


  • -  Key: D
  • -  Meter: 4/4
  • -  Compass: 12
  • -  Performed by Henry Reed, fiddle.
  • -  Duration: 1 minute, 37 seconds
  • -  Strains: 3 (high-low-lower octave, 4-4-4)
  • -  Rendition: 1r-2r-1r-2r-3r-2
  • -  Phrase Structure: ABCD QRQS (aa'bb' cdef qq'rr' qq'ef)
  • -  Stylistic features: Plays a strain an octave lower for variation. Henry Reed's comments about the fourth part indicate that after playing the first strain an octave lower (comprising the third strain), he should have gone on to play the second strain an octave lower as well,
  • -  Spoken: [before tune]/ALAN JABBOUR: Go ahead.[after tune]/ALAN JABBOUR: That's it./HENRY REED: I never got--never got that fourth part just like it ought to be. But you can get--you can finish that./ALAN JABBOUR: Oh yeah.
  • -  Recording chronology: 137
  • -  Related Tune(s): The Downfall of Paris
  • -  "Mississippi Sawyer" is one of the most widely distributed Southern fiddle tunes in America, being known today not just in the South but in all regions of the country. It appears in Knauff, Virginia Reels (1839), vol. 4, #4, entitled "Love from the Heart." Curiously, the same collection has the earliest appearance of the title "Mississippi Sawyer," but it is to a quite different tune. The title refers to a frightening phenomenon during floods on the Mississippi. Great trees would be wrenched from the bank by flood waters and would be dragged underwater in the raging torrent, only to impale themselves in the bottom and rise like monsters from the deep to threaten the paths of boats struggling to navigate the flood. This was the dread Mississippi sawyer. Folklorist Roger Welsch once suggested that the rocking of the fiddle bow required to play this tune simulated bobbing along in a Mississippi river flood.Sets of "Mississippi Sawyer" may be found in Ford, Traditional Music of America, p. 32; Brown, The Frank C. Brown Collection of North Carolina Folklore vol. 5, 413-414 "Mississippi Lawyer"; Adam, Old Time Fiddlers' Favorite Barn Dance Tunes #8; Ruth, Pioneer Western Folk Tunes, p. 13. A related tune is "Downfall of Paris," for which see O'Neill's Music of Ireland #1562, Thomas and Leeder, Singin' Gatherin', p. 59.


  • Audio tape

Call Number/Physical Location

  • AFC 1969/008: AFS 13705A42

Source Collection

  • Alan Jabbour duplication project, part 2


  • American Folklife Center

Digital Id

Online Format

  • audio

Rights & Access

The Library of Congress is not aware of any U.S. copyright protection (see Title 17, U.S.C.) or any other restrictions in the material in this collection, except as noted below. Users should keep in mind that the Library of Congress is providing access to these materials strictly for educational and research purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or other holders of rights (such as publicity and/or privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use of protected items beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. Responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of an item and securing any necessary permissions ultimately rests with persons desiring to use the item. See our Legal Notices for additional information and restrictions.

The Center asks that researchers approach the materials in this collection with respect for the culture and sensibilities of the people whose lives, ideas, and creativity are documented here. Researchers are also reminded that privacy and publicity rights may pertain to certain uses of this material.

Photographs in this collection produced by Carl Fleischhauer, Karen Singer Jabbour, and Kit Olson are reproduced here with their permission. Mr. Fleischhauer does not object to additional use of the photos he created provided he is credited as the photographer. Persons contemplating other kinds of uses or use of the other photographers' work should contact the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Credit line

Please cite the source collection title, collection number, and repository, for example:

Alan Jabbour duplication project, part 1 (AFC 1967/007), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Alan Jabbour duplication project, part 2 (AFC 1969/008), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Fiddle tunes of the old frontier: the Henry Reed collection online presentation (AFC 1999/016), American Folklife Center, Library of Congress

Cite This Item

Citations are generated automatically from bibliographic data as a convenience, and may not be complete or accurate.

Chicago citation style:

Jabbour, Alan, Alan Jabbour, Karen Singer Jabbour, and Henry Reed. Mississippi Sawyer. Reed family home, Glen Lyn, Giles County, Virginia, 1967. Audio.

APA citation style:

Jabbour, A., Jabbour, A., Jabbour, K. S. & Reed, H. (1967) Mississippi Sawyer. Reed family home, Glen Lyn, Giles County, Virginia. [Audio] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

MLA citation style:

Jabbour, Alan, et al. Mississippi Sawyer. Reed family home, Glen Lyn, Giles County, Virginia, 1967. Audio. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, <>.