Arkansas Traveler - The Henry Reed Collection

Collector: Jabbour, Alan
Performer: Reed, Henry
Instrument: fiddle
Created/Published: October 28, 1967 - Reed family home, Glen Lyn, Virginia (Giles County)

"Arkansas Traveler" seems to be American in origin and appeared in many nineteenth-century publications, both as a tune and in association with a comic skit popular on the stage, in which the lost traveler in Arkansas encounters a squatter playing half a tune and exchanges one-liners of stage banter ("You seem pretty stupid, fellow." "Well, I ain't lost.") before finally supplying the other half of the tune and gaining a full welcome.

Arkansas Traveler - The Henry Reed Collection

  Listen -- MP3

Key: D
Meter: 4/4
Strains: 3 (high-low-higher octave)
Rendition: 1r-2r-1r-3-2-(break)-1-3-1
Phrase Structure: ABAC QRQC UVUC (abcd abef qrss' uvwx uvef)
Compass: 15

Oh, once upon a time in Arkansas,
An old man sat in his little cabin door
And fiddled at a tune that he liked to hear, 
A jolly old tune that he played by ear. 
It was raining hard, but the fiddler didn't care,
He sawed away at the popular air, 
Tho' his rooftree leaked like a waterfall, 
That didn't seem to bother the man at all.

A traveler was riding by that day, 
And stopped to hear him a-practicing away; 
The cabin was a-float and his feet were wet, 
But still the old man didn't seem to fret. 
So the stranger said Now the way it seems to me, 
You'd better mend your roof, said he. 
But the old man said as he played away, 
I couldn't mend it now, it's a rainy day. 

The traveler replied, That's all quite true, 
But this, I think, is the thing to do; 
Get busy on a day that is fair and bright, 
Then patch the old roof till it's good and tight. 
But the old man kept on a-playing at his reel, 
And tapped the ground with his leathery heel. 
Get along, said he, for you give me a pain; 
My cabin never leaks when it doesn't rain. 

Version Two: On a lonely road quite long ago, 
A trav'ler trod with fiddle and a bow; 
While rambling thru the country rich and grand, 
He quickly sensed the magic and the beauty of the land. 

For the wonder state we'll sing a song, 
And lift our voices loud and long. 
For the wonder state we'll shout hurrah! 
And praise the opportunities we find in Arkansas. 

Many years have passed, the trav'lers gay, 
Repeat the tune along the highway; 
And every voice that sings the glad refrain 
Re-echoes from the mountains to the fields of growing grain. 

Repeat Chorus 

Credit for some: Library of Congress, Music Division.