Play Me Something Quick and Devilish
Old-Time Fiddlers in Missouri
University of Missouri Press 2012
What’s the difference between a fiddle and a violin? What about the difference between a hornpipe and a reel, a hoedown and a breakdown? The answer to the former, of course, is that you don’t spill beer on a violin. For answers to the latter, I point you to Play Me Something Quick and Devilish: Old-Time Fiddlers in Missouri (University of Missouri Press, 2012) where Howard Wight Marshall details the history and intricacies of a style of music that has endured 200 or so years of cultural migrations, regionalisms, taverns, schools, and contests. Marshall tracks the music as it came to America in colonial times with the French, Scottish, and Irish, but was also played by Germans, African-Americans, and Native Americans. He shows the prevalence of the violin among brigades on both sides of the American Civil War, the influence of musical literacy on the upkeep of the fiddling, and the assimilation of fiddle playing with ragtime and jazz in the early 20th century. All-in-all, Marshall’s text offers a comprehensive look at a music that most of us know of, but not about; a music that, though not given its rightful due, can still be heard both in its “pure” form, and also as a component of much contemporary popular music.
Howard Wight Marshall is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Art History and Archaeology at the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is the author or editor of several other books including Barns of Missouri.