Readers are all familiar with the melody “Arkansas Traveler,” right?
Well, how about the tune that, back when you were in grade school or even earlier, you sung these words to:
I’m bringin’ home a baby bumblebee
Won’t my mommy be so proud of me
What brought the tune to mind was an Associated Press headline, “The Latest: Zika case detected in Arkansas traveler.”
And once we saw those last two words, we were promptly infected by an earworm.
So we figured the only way to exorcise the affliction was a post, so that even if the cure fails we can live with the sympathetic understanding that at least one of you, gentle readers, will share our travail.
We begin with one of the earliest flat disk recordings of the tune, a 1923 rendition by the first fiddler to record Country Music commercially, via Ranch Radio:
Eck Robertson – Arkansas Traveler
Eck Robertson – Arkansas Traveler Eck Robertson is famous as the first person to record a commercial country music record. This he did, in company with fellow fiddler Henry C. Gilliland, on June 30 and July 1,1922, for the Victor Talking Machine Company in their New York studios. Eck and Gilliland, a Civil War veteran from Altus, Oklahoma, after entertaining veterans at the 1922 Old Confederate Soldiers’ Reunion in Richmond, Virginia, decided to go to New York for the express purpose of making records. Gilliland, a former justice of the peace, knew an influential lawyer there named Martin W. Littleton. After their first night in New York, the two men stayed with Littleton who provided them with grand tours of the city, including a visit to the Steinway piano factory, a visit Eck remembered fondly forty years later. The image of Gilliland and Eck touring New York, attired respectively in full dress Confederate uniform and flashy western “regalia” (satin fuchsia shirt with pearl studs, wide-brimmed black hat, leather cuffs and pants tucked into high-topped boots) and undoubtedly carrying fiddle cases, would be striking even today. Eck and Gilliland recorded “Arkansas Traveler”and “Turkey in the Straw’‘on June 30th,with Gilliland playing the melody and Eck a high harmony. The next day Eck returned alone, this time recording “Sallie Gooden” and “Ragtime Annie” solo, and two additional tunes accompanied by a studio piano player. Two tunes from these sessions, “Sallie Gooden” and “Arkansas Traveler,” were released in April, 1923, thus becoming the first commercial record ever released by a country musician. Eck stayed in New York ten days, finally returning home to Vernon, Texas, full of memories and stories
Next up, a rendition by one of the greatest guitarists of all time recirded during a Grand Old Opry broadcast, via Arnescountry:
Chet Atkins Arkansas Traveler
Next, a rendition played on the instrument esnl most associates with the tune, performed with humorous commentary by the late, great Pete Seeger, via thewhitestripes93:
Arkansas Traveler by Pete Seeger
Pete Seeger’s version of “Arkansas Traveler”, with lyrics so you can sing along! The purpose of this video is to share the wealth of music Pete Seeger gave the world. It is to be preserved and that’s my goal. I do not own any part of this song. The song, among others, are at archive.org.
For our next version, we turn to a traditional Southern setting, the string band, via Duelingbanjos123:
2nd South Carolina String Band – The Arkansas Traveler
2nd South Carolina String Band – The Arkansas Traveler
Album, Southern Soldier
Our next selection features a collection of the greatest fiddlers of Country music, including the late, great Johnny Gimble [in the blue shirt], who played with them all, from Bob Wills to Johnny Cash. Via Mark O’Connor:
“Arkansas Traveler” by O’Connor, Daniels, Kershaw, Gimble, Clements, Spicher, Texas Short
“Arkansas Traveler” by Mark O’Connor, Charlie Daniels, Doug Kershaw, Johnny Gimble, Vassar Clements, Buddy Spicher and James Chancellor “Texas Shorty”
Celebrating the release of the Mark O’Connor Warner Bros. album, “Heroes.”
Music Director: Mark O’Connor – TNN
American Music Shop Band Mark O’Connor; violin, bandleader and music director Jerry Douglas; Dobro, Lap Steel Brent Mason/Brent Rowan; Guitars John Jarvis/Matt Rollings; Keyboards; Glen Worf; Bass Harry Stinson; Drums, Background Vocals
Producer; Rusty Wilcoxen
Director; Dennis Globe
Sound Mixer; Kim Raymer
Executive Producer, Show Creator; Brian O’Neill
American Music Shop on TNN in Nashville featured Mark O’Connor as bandleader accompanying various musical guests each week. (1990-1993)
Next, a rendition on an instrument never associated with the song, via dbherring:
Arkansas Traveler Doug Yeo England
Here is one of Doug Yeo’s (Bass Trombonist Boston Symphony) performances of my piece for Bass Trombone and brass band “Theme and Variations on Arkansas Traveler” He is playing with the Natural State Brass Band on their European tour summer 2010
And another rendition on another instrument never associated with the venerable melody, the Japanese shamisen, via shamikami:
Bluegrass Shamisen -Arkansas Traveler!
Monsters of SHAMISEN. on tour on hokkaido japan. A bluegrass tune called Arkansas Traveler. Special thanks to Kyle and the Abbots for teaching us this tune!
Finally, given that the tune has appeared in countless films, here’s a performance by Marvin Hatley [not a player piano] as a setting for two of the greatest comedians of the last century, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, in their 1932 short film The Music Box, via Kanaal van westfriesland:
Marvin Hatley featuring Laurel & Hardy – The Arkansas traveler-I wish I was in Dixie (US, 1932)